Last week I detailed several exercises that were less than desirable for fitness acquisition. This week, I will highlight what exercises get overlooked and why they are worthy contenders for your fitness program. Lastly, I will highlight a few other exercises that are rather popular and why they should be staples in your training program. Here they are:
“No pain, no gain” right? We have become so obsessed with high intensity exercise over the past decade that we gloss over the realistic approach and the great benefits that walking provides.
Most people I’ve observed that regularly structure walking into their exercise routine are thin and healthy. I can’t say the same for people who consistently crush themselves. I admit I have a love/hate relationship with all forms of aerobic and anaerobic capacity training for my patrons, so pardon any inconsistencies on my behalf. If you want to be thin and lean, give walking the attention it deserves.
Lunges often live in the shadows of more popular leg exercises such as squats or leg presses. Some trainers contend it’s a worthless exercise because they are too easy and if you’re already squatting you don’t need lunges as well.
If you aren’t lunging, you should and here’s why. Lunges are so closely related to walking and the cross pattern of movement that is fundamental to all humans. This exercise puts minimal strain on your spine because of the short moment arm the weight operates through and the upright posture. The lunge sometimes identifies and corrects tight hips and weak rear ends.
If you think lunges are inferior to the squat, take a pair of dumbbells with the sum total equaling half your body weight, hold them at your sides and begin lunging for 100 meters. Report back to me.
The golfer’s squat is a tremendous movement that is underutilized in most settings. Sometimes called the one-legged deadlift as well, the golfer’s squat requires the trainee to balance on one leg while hinging at the hips to reach to the ground with the opposite hand “as if to pick up a golf ball after play.”
This exercise is so good because it poses virtually no risk to the joints, improves balance, strengthens the legs, core, and primes the body for a proper deadlift. It’s also great for a warm-up for intermediates through advanced trainees.
You knew this was coming. A few weeks ago I mentioned the quality control issues surrounding this exercise and the need for reformation. But I am not suggesting that everyone needs a double bodyweight deadlift as many trainers recommend. If you can bend over and touch your toes, I can position you to execute a deadlift. If you can’t touch your toes, correct this first before heavy deadlifting.
Squatting requires skill, the ability to execute a movement with a weight pre-loaded on your body and a great deal of mobility. Deadlifting allows you to get into an optimal position before you even put the external load on your body. You don’t lift until everything is lined up. Bend over, grab the bar and grind away. After a year, you won’t need to ask me what the goal of deadlifting is.
Kettlebells have gained so much popularity in the past decade and for great reasons. They ingrain proper movement patterns. They increase flexibility. They build strength and power. They improve aerobic and anaerobic work capacity.
Also, they don’t take up any space. They are affordable. You don’t need a gym membership. Have I missed anything?
There is nothing else you should be concerned about. If I could only have one fitness tool for the rest of my life, it would be the kettlebell. They don’t leave much to be desired. Especially the get-up. Performing a slow, grinding get-up and then walking around the room for a full minute with the weight secured overhead (the waiter’s walk) will cover everything.
This is a representation of my go-to list when a trainee, regardless of age and training status, has no limitations due to pain or doctor’s orders suggesting otherwise.
With that said, please understand that training injuries or other limitations can raise questions surrounding the efficacy of these exercises that I feel are worth pursuing. When in doubt, get medical clearance and then seek a qualified trainer to coach you through the motions.
Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at r2hp.com or 970-401-0720.