I feel like I could honestly spend all day telling you how to train your muscles into immaculate, fibrous pockets of fascia that are full of steel-like masses called muscles. I’m not here to tell you how to squat or teach you how to snatch. We learn those things with practice and consistency. I’m here to tell you the structure, attitude, quality of movement, and avoidable things that can truly benefit you to become great. Not just good, but great. I’m going to break it down into the “rules of lifting”.
Rule Number One: When writing a workout program, or even a daily workout, I always use exercises from basic movements. Those basic movements are squats, lifts, pushes, pulls, basic power moves, hip mobility, weak spot exercises, one legged exercises, carries and crawls.
The thing you have to know about these categories is that there are many variations of each. In fact, if you want an epic circuit to do for a conditioning day, take an exercise from each category and have at it for an hour.
Squats: Goblets Squats, Back Squat, Jump Squat. . .
Lifts: Dead Lifts, Hex Bar Deads, Tire Flips. . .
Pushes: Push-ups, Shoulder Presses, DB Chest Presses. . .
Pulls: Rows, Pull Ups. . .
Basic Power Moves: Sand-bag Cleans, Barbell Cleans, KB Swings, DB Snatches, Rope Slams
Bodyweight Mobility: Burpees, Get-Ups, Bruce Lee. . .
One Legged: Step-ups, Walking Lunges, One Legged Dead-Lifts, One Legged Bear Crawls
Carries and Carry: Farmer’s Walk, Sand Bag Carries, Rack Walks, Overhead Plate Hold, Handstands, Bear Crawls, Wall Climbs. . .
Weak Spots: Swiss Ball Hamstring Curls, Towel Bicep Curls, Shoulder Mobility. . .
These are just a list of some. My intent isn’t to tell you every exercise to do. It’s to tell how you to incorporate them.
Exercise is broken down into four main components. Will it help me move better? Will it make me stronger? Will it aid in my lean muscle mass and fat loss? Will I feel good 10 years from now?
When you’re 20 and young, you can destroy your body with many press movements. Once that 30-40 year old range hits you though, you have to start thinking, “When I’m 50, will I be able to wipe my own ass?”
Rule Number Two: In order for you to gain full maximum potential and strength each and every workout, things must change. Giving you all sorts of variations first is vital in this. For example, I dead-lift with a straight bar 3 weeks out of the month. The fourth week I use a trap bar to dead-lift, and the fifth week I don’t dead-lift at all. Doing 19 straight weeks of dead-lifts is not ideal in training. This may possibly be the most important rule. This goes for any categories of lifts. Switch it up. Pull more than you push one week. Press more than you pull one week. Don’t push or pull at all one week. Your body is like a dog. It can be very protective of you when a stranger appears at your front door and they growl with a vicious tone. “Good dog!” However, it’s also the same dog that runs into a screen glass door when they’re so excited to go potty outside. “Dumb dog. . .”
You never know what type of dog you’re going to get that day. This method is the best way to train your body and keep it from beating itself up by running into glass doors over and over again, just because you’re excited to lift.
Rule Number Three: You should know exactly what you are trying to accomplish in a workout. Randomness in an exercise routine gets you a workout, but it’s not smart training.
So why are we training? To be stronger? Faster? Healthier?
Ask yourself, “Why am I doing ball slams before step-ups?” If you don’t know, we can do better and get results faster.
Rule Number Four: Am I doing this exercise for the right reason? Does this exercise make me look cool or does it actually benefit me? Am I more likely to get hurt doing this exercise, or will I gain strength from it? There’s smart training, and there is dumb training. If you are training for the sport of climbing up a rope as fast as you can, then that’s what you practice. If you are looking to train to gain grip strength, then rope climbs may be acceptable. If you are training to look cool, then that’s where I scratch my head.
In my head, I couldn’t care less what you train for. No matter what: fitness is a sport. Whether it’s bodybuilding, CrossFit, or powerlifting. That is the question you should answer first. Am I here for sport, or am I here because it’s Instagram worthy?
Rule Number Five: Only do what you are capable of doing. Most people don’t have business doing some of the greatest exercises out there. The most beneficial exercises can also be the most dangerous. For the average gym-goers, doing exercises that you’re capable of doing is key. The average person is you, me, and everyone reading this blog. If you weren’t an average fitness enthusiast, you’d be making money training for a sport, and you obviously don’t need me to help you. Snatches, overhead squats, heavy bar squats, cleans, turkish get-ups and compound exercises like that shouldn’t be performed by just anyone. If you have the ability to do them, that’s freakin’ outstanding. It will help your body tremendously. If you can’t do them, just don’t.
I have a 75 year old client that could probably press 60 pounds over her head. Why would I make her do that though? She has no business in her stage of life doing that. I have a client with collagen that basically does not allow them to do jumps or runs. I’ll be damned if she’s going to do a 3 mile run. I have many ladies in their third trimester of pregnancy. If I made them do handstands, I’d be an idiot. Some people just don’t have business doing things, and we have to decide what type of person we are before we can chalk up our hands.
There is nothing in my training repertoire that calls for me to do overhead squats, bar snatches, and muscle ups. I don’t train for a sport that requires these. So I don’t do them.
What can a snatch do that a clean and press can’t for the average person? The answer is nothing. Or nothing significant. Which is safer for the average person? The clean and press.
Rule Number Six: Other lifts aid in completely different exercises. One mustn’t have a “what body part is this working?” mentality. Are you plateauing on your bench press and pull-ups? Do you squat? If the answer of that last question is no, it’s the reason your first answer is yes. Girls can benefit the most. They naturally lack the chemical components to build muscle. These compound exercises help release the most. Mainly squats and dead-lifts. . .
Once again, squat with a wise brain. Don’t heavy squat every week. Your spine needs breaks and relaxation from constant compression. Load the weight differently at least twice a month, or perhaps don’t even load at all.
Squats and dead-lifts are the God’s gifts of exercises. If exercises were sports movies, squats and dead-lifts would be Rudy and everything else would be The Little Giants. If exercises were rock bands, squats and seadlifts would be Pearl Jam and everything else would be Carly Rae Jepsen. If exercises were boob sizes, then squats and dead-lifts would be Katy Perry and all other exercises would be Lady Gaga.
Rule Number Seven (and maybe the most important): Training is not about ass’ kickin’s. I do agree, most sessions should leave you pretty bushwhacked, but the main objective is not to make yourself feel like a gorilla stomped all over you.
I’ll always tell my clients, “There is no such thing as over-training. There IS such a thing as under-recovering though.” Trying to gain the feeling that you got smashed by a wooden door for the better of your body should be erased from your mind.
I don’t mind working out for the soul benefit of feeling like you’ve been run over by a zamboni every time. For total body improvement and change, it’s unnecessary.
I love fitness, and I love improvement in fitness. The good thing? You can never be perfect. There’s always room for improvement.
This is where your body changes,