Everybody knows that certain things are “good for you.” In fact, I am usually amazed at the lists that people can spout off in just a moment or two without really thinking about it. Like my quick list:
Wear a seatbelt
Get eight hours of sleep.
This is not a bad list and, to be honest, follow that short set of five and you will do well to insure a healthy life. Those of us who lift weights usually have a short list of movements that are “good for you.” Yet, whenever I enter “FastFitness 24/7 Spa and Supplement Superstore,” most of the guys are doing Bench Presses, Curls and Lat Pulldowns. Yet, if I sit around with strength coaches, fitness professionals or people that bring fear to the heart of mere mortals, they rarely do those three movements.
So, what are the “Big Five” that most people recommend? You won’t like the list:
Bent Over Row
Why am I sure you won’t like this list? Simply, because I never see the average gym rat doing any of these movements! Or, and this can simply be sad…if I do see people “squatting” in most gyms, frankly, my dear, those aren’t squats! These movements require a bit of introduction for the body and need usually a few days of orientation to get right. But, wait, what’s that last one?
Planks? Yes, Planks. Recently, at a workshop, a guy kept asking me about lunges. “Do your athletes do lunges?” No. “Do you do lunges?” No. Finally, he asked the real questions: “Why don’t you guys (strength coaches) hate lunges? Okay, he had me. Like planks, lunges are “one of those exercises.” You know, the kind that Jane Fonda does. The kind of exercise that you see the manic aerobics instructors screaming “go for the burn” and “feels good, alright” doing with a roomful of mirrors and a disco ball. Then, in the quite of the night, you try them and fail. And the last thing we want to do in a gym is to, one, look like an idiot, and, two, perform poorly looking like an idiot. Planks are the worst kind of exercise…they are miserable and just don’t look that hard!
So, let’s make a goal: one, let’s not look like idiots, and, two, let’s perform these lifts well.
Let’s start with the bane of most lifters life in the gym: squats. Years ago at a clinic, a young man told me “squats hurt my knees.” I asked him to demonstrate a squat. I said simply, “Squats don’t hurt your knees, what YOU are doing hurts your knees.” Squats can do more for total mass and body strength than probably all other lifts combined. Doing them wrong can do more damage than probably all the other moves, too.
Let’s start simple. Find a place where no one is watching and squat down. At the “bottom,” the deepest you can go, push your knees out with your elbows. Relax…and go a bit deeper. Your feet should be flat on the floor. For the bulk of the population, this small movement…driving your knees out with your elbows will simplify squatting forever.
Next, try this little drill: I have the athlete stand arms length from a door knob. Grab the handle with both hands and get your chest “up.” Up? I have the athlete imagine being on a California beach when a swimsuit model walks by. Immediately, the athlete puffs up the chest which tightens the lower back and locks the whole upper body. The lats naturally spread a bit and the shoulders come back “a little.” Now, lower yourself down.