First, let me start off by saying that in the context of this article Tradition isn’t bad, it’s just an original way of how we were taught to perform something. A lot of people have heard me say over the years, “Don’t forget the basics.”; and, I still believe that to be true to a certain degree. However, humans evolve, seasons change, and life and athletics are chaotic and we should always be prepared for the unexpected. With that being said, I still believe in teaching the fundamentals, but I have to admit to all of you I’ve changed a lot in over 8 years as a human performance trainer with how I approach training with my clients and myself as well. The most dangerous saying I believe anyone in this space can utter is, “We do it this way, because that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Well, what if the way that we’ve always done it was wrong?
As I stated in the previous paragraph, tradition isn’t bad, it’s more or less our comfort zone. Honestly, I’m just as responsible for falling into this mindset as anyone of you reading this. There have been more times than I can count that I’ve chosen a training strategy because I was on autopilot, and that particular strategy was easy and convenient. I’m not saying that the strategy that I chose was bad, I just now know better that there are more optimal, more transferable, and more practical training strategies. I’m not one to say that there are bad exercises, however, I do believe that there are better choices. Come along with me and I’ll give all of you some real life visual examples:
1. This first example is quite possibly my favorite and has gotten me into some hot water with body builders and power lifters. The barbell back squat is the most traditional lower body exercise that mostly everyone is familiar with. However, I have a more practical exercise that transfers over better to the real world and athletics. I give to you all The Lunge Matrix:
The main reasons I believe The Lunge Matrix is a better choice than the barbell back squat is because the barbell back squat is too linear and vertical. Real life and athletics happen in the horizontal, lateral, and rotational directions of human movement. The Lunge Matrix combines all three of those elements and gives you a great bang for your buck exercise with high transfer over to the real world and athletics as well.
In my professional opinion the single leg RDL is the king of all exercises. Unlike the barbell deadlift which is performed on two feet you can only rely on just one leg with this exercise. Essentially, this means that you’re teaching your body to move in one plane of movement and stabilize in the other two planes of movement at the same time, which makes this exercise multidirectional. This has huge benefits when it comes to enhancing athleticism and injury resiliency.
Lets switch gears a little bit and go to the upper body to further drive home my point. When someone wants to injury proof or reduce their shoulder pain I’ve often have witnessed people just doing a bunch of dumbbell front and lateral raises. Not only is that going to make your shoulder pain and chances of injury increase, that’s not how the shoulder girdle is designed to operate. With those two exercises you’re essentially just training the arm to move in an isolated fashion. However, the arm along and the shoulder blade need to work in harmony for the shoulder girdle to function optimally. Because most of the shoulder’s stability is from the muscles of the back not the muscles on the side, nor the front of the shoulder. Here is my go to exercise for enhancing what should be a harmonious relationship between the arm and the shoulder blade:
The Bent Over Dumbbell Single Arm Row is like vitamins for your shoulder girdle. This is a great exercise to synergistically train all of the prime movers, synergists, and stabilizers of the shoulder. Whenever I’m training anyone, this exercise is a staple in my clients training program. I would highly recommend to anyone, no matter their goal’s or activity level, to make this exercise a consistent part of their training routine.
Now, let’s talk about upper body pressing for a second. It’s often been said that the best exercise to train upper body pressing is the barbell bench press. I respectfully disagree, I believe the push-up should be practiced and mastered before any other upper body pressing exercise:
Unlike the barbell bench press, the Push-up trains the entire body and doesn’t neglect the integration of the core. When your lying down on a bench, the bench takes the core out of the equation. I don’t believe this to be a very productive or efficient way of training. Because in the real world and athletic world, every movement pattern that is performed needs the integration of the core to anchor/support the movement. Also, the push-up has been shown to recruit/train your primary shoulder stabilizers better than the barbell bench press. If we don’t train ourselves to move this way, it all falls apart in the real and athletic world as well. Again, I’m not saying don’t do barbell bench press, or any bench press variation for that matter. All I’m saying is that in my professional opinion I believe the push-up to be a more transferable and practical pressing exercise than the barbell bench press
This brings me to final and perhaps favorite truth about human performance training. The core is the anchor of all human movement, the ankles, hips, and shoulders is where most of the power is generated in the body. However, that power can either be amplified or minimized based on the stability that core can provide. Simply put, if your core cannot support the power, then your potential to generate power decreases and your injury potential increases. Therefore, we should be training our core to act and function like an anchor not an engine. Here are a few of my favorite exercises that I recommend you should be practicing:
Finally, you’ve made it to the end, and some of you are probably asking yourself, well what should I do in my training now? Truthfully, I can’t tell you that, because that’s up to each and every single one of you to make that decision for yourself. However, I will leave you with this, and it’s to remember that tradition and habits die hard, and in this context, again I’m not saying that the traditional way of training is bad or even wrong. The truth I want to drive home with all of you is that the traditional way of training just makes you one dimensional like a robot. You can continue to train traditionally and truthfully you’re going to get some benefits from doing so. Whether you like it or not you’re body will adapt to whatever environment you expose it to, so if you want to be a robot then continue to train traditionally. However, if you want to train to become a more optimal human being, then you have to admit that tradition is only going to get you so far, and that’s the truth.
If you’re interested in getting started on you’re human performance and fitness journey the right way, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will get you all set up for in-person or online training with a customized training program specifically individualized for you and your fitness and performance goals.