So you’re new in the gym and not progressing, what have you been doing wrong? You have lots of fancy cable exercises, supersets and weird single leg movements that you can’t seem to get the hang of? What is missing?
Looking around at the people in gyms I am now convinced people are making up their own exercises or at least copying someone else who made up their own exercise. It seems to be the blind leading the blind, Chinese whispers in effect regarding exercise selection and execution in gyms everywhere. People need to realise a few things, one being that what someone does now in regards to training is not what they have always done or was it probably the most optimal way to achieve what they wanted.
“Time and time again in gyms I see people wasting their time, trying to build “upper pecs” & “leg sweeps”. It hard to build those things when you have no chest or legs to begin with. At the other end of the scale we have people who are afraid of basic exercises due to unrealistic fears of injury.”
There are a few movements that almost any able bodied person should be able to implement into their training protocols, however some trainers seem to be moving away from the most basic of training that should be the core basics of every program. Be it bikini, powerlifitng, general strength/fitness or even bodybuilding, these are the basic barbell powerlifts.
If you are physically able and your training program does not include some form of proper barbell training you need to be asking the question why? Bullshit baffles brains, however it does not give the best results, some trainers choose to constantly change exercises around and add fancy obscure movements in an attempt to keep clients from feeling like they can do it alone, however that is not optimal for client progression.
YOU NEED TO BE PERFORMING BASIC COMPOUND LIFTS
These are the most basic movements and should be taught to every beginner looking to set foot into a gym and better themselves. Granted there are extremes in the population that may limit these exercises from being incorporated however that is not the context here.
YOU SHOULD BE DEADLIFTING
Whether you train with with dumbells, kettle bells or a shake weight at some stage even the most novice of gym members will probably be required to bend down and pick something up of the floor. Picking something up off the ground is one of the most basic movements you can do, so you best learn how to do it right without injury! If you are not deadlifting in the gym then there is a problem and you are being done a disservice. Even starting with the bar or a light kettle bell and gradually increasing weight is a start. Picking something up. What could be more functional then that?
Deadlifts are a basic compound exercise that work the hips,legs, back and core as well as a bunch of stabilising muscles.
“Picking something up off the ground, it’s one of the most basic movements you can do.”
YOU SHOULD BE SQUATTING
Granted once again you are able bodied as well as picking things up off the ground you should also be practising squatting. Squatting is basically the magical exercise of standing up and down, sometimes with weight.
We sit and stand multiple times every day we might as well learn how to do it efficiently. Squats are another compound exercise that like deadlifts almost do everything. Hips, legs and core all cop a beating from a proper squat workout.
Barbell squatting holds many benefits over cable exercises and smith machine pseudo-squats. The ability to stabilise your hips and core during a dynamic movement translates to a lot of functional activities. As we age, the ability to properly stand up and down also becomes extremely important to help prevent injuries and falls. Squatting properly and safely can effectively be done by all gym goers granted they are shown and taught proper lifting technique.
“Squatting is basically the magical exercise of standing up and down, sometimes with weight..”
YOU SHOULD BE PRESSING!
If you are chasing upper body strength and have been avoiding dumbells and barbells for cable and plate loaded machines then you have once again been missing out.
Overhead pressing such as a military press or bench press as pictured below are the pressing compound lifts of the upper body. They work multiple muscle groups and have the ability to build great upper body strength. Some alternates and proper technique may be required for people who are prone to shoulder injuries due to individual shoulder morphology however pressing should be worked into every upper body routine.
Incorporating the powerlifts into a properly designed training program has a multitude of benefits from increased power output for sport performance to greater muscular hypertrophy when looking to change your physique. Make no mistake these exercises although form a sport are not exclusive to powerlifitng itself.
Avoiding the powerlifts in the gym is rookie mistake number 1 and quite possibly going to result in suboptimal progression through your training cycle, especially when inadequate replacement exercises have been selected in their place for the search of ‘functional strength’. Nothing is more functional then being strong every where. Get back to the bar and improve your training for the new year.