Taking one exercise/lift or feat as far as you can

max-partial-zercherIn exercise there has always been a debate on using just a few exercises and pushing them very hard so that you are strong all over or using the widest variety possible and hoping that will make you overall strong. This is the difference between just getting a huge power squat versus a good squat, as well as pistol, lunge, leg press, etc. On this issue I fall somewhere in the middle. I believe it’s very important to pick one major exercise per body functions (press, pull, etc.), and be consistent on it. It’s the only way you ever get good at it or get to the point of real progress. I also don’t believe in “multi-angular,” training in the main stream sense.

I also don’t really believe in the shot gun approach to assistance training. Building the chest by doing three sets of flat, incline, decline and dumbbell or machines bench press is really not much different from just doing 12 sets of any one of those exercises. Improving your squat by immediately adding front squats, half squats and four other exercises is usually overkill and doesn’t allow you to really see if one of them is the thing that’s actually helping.  That being said, there is nothing wrong with and much to be said for a basic, balanced approach to using variety in training.

Strength that is really from a different function or plane can benefit from specific training. This point is avoiding redundancy and over working any one pattern. After barbell squatting there isn’t a lot of point (from a potential strength and muscle gain perspective), to using several other heavy squat styles in one routine. There is a point however to possibly adding sled dragging and box jumping for instance.

Sled dragging trains strength in a non-vertical plane (i.e., not straight up and down) and emphasizes unilateral (i.e. one leg at a time) and can be used to emphasize a variety of levels of function (heavy to medium to light resistance) and speeds. Box jumping is truly explosive in nature and emphasizes a different type of speed and muscular work while still working the same muscles. Not just multi-angular but multi-functional training as well.

Here are the important points:

  • Pick one major exercise for every body function or part. Make that one the corner stone of your training.
  • Add other exercises in single doses if you are using them to directly push your cornerstone lift up.
  • Then rotate in lots of other exercises when you are training variety, but do them with an eye toward training different patterns and abilities to create the least overuse effect and the most well pounded abilities.

Continue reading part 2: Taking your training to its max

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