Far too often when it comes to working out people stick to the exercises they are good at and avoid the exercises that are hard. It tends to be the same with preferences of fitness styles. For example, if you like running you’re less likely to do strength training or if, like me, you love weight lifting you probably don’t do much mobility training and yoga.
I’m not saying that you should stop doing the exercises that you are good at and enjoy, but you should start incorporating exercises that you find challenging and take you out of your comfort zone.
In the professional world, those that are successful are usually passionate about what they do for a living but we all know you don’t work your way to the top by always taking the easy option and not pushing outside your comfort zone. Exactly the same applies to the gym and exercise. Avoiding the exercises that you find hard could be what is stopping you from making any progress.
If you don’t train your weakness it’s unlikely you’ll get the results you desire. The human body responds to overload and adapts very quickly to external stimulus. This means that if you want to see progress, you can’t always lift the same weight, do the same amount of reps and sets on the same exercises. Keep your programme fresh every 4-6 weeks and alternate the intensity and volume (load and reps). I find this keeps my client’s progressing, otherwise they will plateau.
Squats – It’s legs day! You try and think of any excuse not to train: ‘I’ve got a cold’, ‘my back feels stiff’, ‘the squat rack is being used’, ‘the planets are out of alignment’… If your goal is to burn fat and build muscle then doing a leg session twice a week is a must. Squats and deadlifts stimulate the release of human growth hormone (HGH), and for men, testosterone, more so than any isolated upper body exercise. You will also increase your daily calorie expenditure by performing squats and other lower body compound exercises.
Single Leg Work & Posterior Chain (lower back, glutes, hamstrings) – Single leg and posterior chain exercises are hard in nature as they address any muscular imbalances from your left to right, and work the muscles that tend to be under-trained. Regular lifters who love to do their heavy squats and deadlifts quite often don’t do a lot of single leg and posterior chain exercises. Incorporating these types of exercises into your programme will help you increase your personal best (PB) on your squats and deadlifts and help prevent injury.
Upper Back – Far too many of us live on the bench press working on their chest and neglect their upper backs. If have a desk job you need to be doing more pulling & rowing exercises (seated rows, cable pull downs, etc.) than pressing exercises (bench press, shoulder press, etc.). I recommend a ratio of 1:2 or even 1:3 for press:row exercises when programming. This will help with posture and any shoulder impingement you maybe experiencing. For those of you looking to build muscle mass, constantly hitting the bench press won’t cut it. You need to start working on your upper back muscles.
It is the muscles you can’t see in the mirror that need to be trained more often than the muscles you can see. Neglecting these body parts will cause injury and impede your progress and gains.
If you’re hypermobile and do yoga 5 days a week then this won’t apply to you, but it if you are a keen lifter and love to workout hard all the time then doing more mobility and soft tissue work is key. I learnt this the hard way. For the first 8 years of my lifting life I just lifted weights and barely did any stretching. Now because of a massive lack of upper body mobility and shoulder injuries I’ve spent the last 4 years taking 20-30 mins to warm up before each session so that I’m pain free when I lift. Don’t make the same mistake as me!
Hip and shoulder mobility are 2 areas that are good to focus on. Lack of mobility at the hip will most likely cause you pain in the knees and lower back, or with lack of shoulder mobility, you likely suffer from shoulder, and/or upper/lower back, and/or neck pain. Increasing your mobility will improve technique, effectiveness and efficiency. Spending 5-10 mins a day on stretching and mobility is all it needs. The more you train, the more you need to look after your body.
There are many other aspects to fitness that we all avoid. Next time you go to the gym work on whatever weakness you are aware of, whether that’s actually doing that leg session or working on certain exercises you’ve been struggling with.
If you need more help and advice on exercises, technique and programme design, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I provide online coaching and personalised programme design to take your training to a whole new level. You can also follow me on Instagram @tommanspt.