Being a personal trainer, I hear this question all the time: “What’s the best workout to achieve goal X?” The first thing people focus on in the gym is exercise selection and programming (if they do this at all). They want to know which machines do they need to use in order to reach their goals. While I commend people coming into the gym to change their life through fitness, most are missing the point. Take for example the bro in the corner doing half rep squats or Quasimodo deadlifts. Have they chosen a great exercise to achieve their goals? Absolutely! I believe everyone should do a variation of a squat and deadlift in their training program, this isn’t the problem. However, there’s a missing piece: Movement quality.
Squat, hinge, press, pull, row, lunge, carry. Every compound (multi-joint) exercise you see in the gym falls into one of the 7 movement patterns. I strongly believe that an effective and balanced strength training plan should incorporate all 7 of these movements. However, if someone is unable to hinge without rounding their back they have no business performing a barbell deadlift. The same goes for squats and all of the other cool exercises that have been around for centuries. Look, I get it. Like many of you, I watched Pumping Iron and marveled at the insane weights that Arnold and Franco were putting up (who could ever forget his 700lb Deadlift?!?!?!?). Every time I watch that documentary, I get fired up to get in the gym and crush it. Just thinking about Louie yelling “ARNOLD” while shoulder pressing makes my testosterone levels triple. Don’t even get me started on the Rocky workout montages…
Heavy lifting is a fantastic tool to help you build the athletic body you desire, but it has to be done safely. I’ve seen far too many people get injured from taking a haphazard approach to training, mindlessly adding weight without learning the fundamentals first. One way or another, you’ll learn. Years of faulty movement patterns and increasing the load will lead to many devastating and unnecessary injuries. Check your ego at the door, learn the movements then progress.
My training philosophy has changed quite a bit in my almost six years as a coach. When I first started, I was all about exercise selection. Now, I focus on two things for every client that comes to see me; move well and feel better. Focus on learning the foundational movement patterns first and the world is your oyster. If you don’t know how to perform the movements properly, seek a professional’s help. I’m a trainer and I have a coach, just to put it in perspective. Find a coach that will focus on teaching movement patterns as the foundation of a safe and effective training program and you’ll be on the road to becoming unstoppable.
To your lifelong health and success,
-Demarco Crum, CPT