When we strength train we want to do so in the safest, most effective manner possible. Ultimately, that means we aim to move through the appropriate ranges of motion and maintain proper form. While it’s easy to download a program and get to work, one should consider their own needs before starting.
As a coach, there’s no shortage of available programs for me to foist upon my athletes. However, downloading the Nebraska Football workout and tasking a bunch of adolescent kids with executing a program designed for older, more developed athletes might be a colossal mistake. First, the skill level isn’t there – I’d be running the risk of putting those kids in a bad spot. Second, most high school athletes are still growing and maturing, which leads to poor mobility and range of motion. We need to find ways to maximize range of motion, rather than make choices that might load dysfunctional movement patterns. The same goes for many people who have sedentary jobs. Since many of my clients spend 8-10 hours at a desk, my job is to find exercises that promote and reinforce good movement. By helping them unlock their bodies, I also place them in a better position to improve their strength.
The goal for any strength training program should be to increase strength through a full range of motion. Ultimately, we want to get “full value” from the exercise we’re performing. Aside from an injury risk, which should be obvious to anyone with a pair of eyes, the person on the right is getting nothing out of this lift. They are not squatting to depth, so there is minimal useable strength gain being achieved here. As the knees collapse inward and the body shifts to one side dysfunctional movement patterns are being loaded excessively. Even if an injury doesn’t occur in this moment, the risk that one could occur during athletic competition is heightened.
The goblet squat shown here is a great choice, as front loading can clean up some squatting imperfections. As we see, this person is able to squat to depth, making the strength gains useable. And he does so without unnecessary injury risk. As the technique is mastered, the loads utilized will increase. From here, he can progress to a dumbbell front squat and later to a barbell front squat. While you don’t get the ego boost from loading up a bar with a ton of weight, your knees and spine will thank you for your discretion. No points are awarded getting injured in the gym.
While squats make for an easy illustration, they are not the only culprit here. Whether you’re performing squats, deadlifts or bicep curls a focus on technique will lead to long-term performance improvements and reduced injury risk. A few weeks back we discussed Exercise Program Design, and one of the key principles was individuality:
The program has to be right for you. Your exercise abilities may differ from your friend or workout partner. Be sure that the program you follow takes into account factors like skill level, mobility, injury history, etc. Better program adherence and positive results will follow.
Remember, one size doesn’t fit all. Any exercise can be regressed or progressed to find the right fit for your experience level and ability. If barbell back squats are a problem for you, goblet squats might get the job done. If you have shoulder issues, replace the bench press with dumbbells or the cable machine. Many variations will get the job done – pick the appropriate one and get to work!
Strength training can be challenging and intimidating, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the movements in a given program. At Vitalifit, we design exercise programs with your experience and ability in mind. In addition to regular coaching and communication we also include a comprehensive exercise video database with over 150 exercises so you can execute with confidence. If you’re looking to start a strength training program and need guidance, contact us today to join the Vitalifit Coaching Program that is right for you.