Let me start by thanking so many of you on sending your valuable feedback on the last blog, made me feel I certainly picked up the right topic. So far we have established why we need baseline strength for almost everybody and what are the training principles for it. On the third part of this series post I would like to keep it short and power packed. What are some of the exercises that will have the maximum impact on upper and lower body strength and are functional. The word ‘functional exercises’ has been thrown around a lot these days but to me the meaning is simple. These exercises will have carryover benefits to certain ADL’s, hence more functional.
If you were able to convince your client that lifting weight could positively impact his/her health and he/she agreed but has a very busy day and can only spare 30 minutes a day to exercise, what exercises would you chose? If some athletes come to you during off season, tell you that they want to get stronger or increase their overall muscle mass and that they can only spare 1-2 months before they shift their focus back on sports skills, what would your exercise selection look like then? Remember time is not on your side and the clock is ticking, your clients demand the maximum training bang for their buck. In such a situation, here are a few things to take into consideration
- Bigger muscles. You know what I am talking about- the glutes, the hammies, the quads, the lats, the pecs. Your biceps, triceps, calf, forearm muscles are not the obvious choice. (Tik toc remember you don’t have the luxury of time).
- Compound multi-joint exercises- why not use one exercise that works on multiple joints and perfect that movement rather than spending time and energy on 5 different isolation exercises to target the same amount of joints/muscles. I think it’s a no brainer.
- Exercises that mimic sports movements/ADL’s- aka ‘Functional exercises’.
- Body weight exercises over machine exercises- Machine exercises are not ‘functional’. Here’s an example – you could train your quads with a knee extension machine in the gym or train it with a squat. Now, how often do you need to squat in a day, to pick stuff off the floor, sit in a toilet seat etc. How often do your athletes need to squat? To jump, to dive etc. I don’t need to elaborate here. How often do you perform the knee extension movement while sitting on a chair, what do you use that for? Is there a sport that requires athletes to sit and extend their knees? I certainly can’t think of any. Also remember that when performing body weight compound multi-joint movements you are not just training a physical attribute of overcoming resistance but as these movements are complex, you are also creating new neuromuscular pathways to develop a skill. Kind of sounds like motor learning, doesn’t it?
Without further adieu, here are my current favorite exercises for strengthening/fitness –
- The squat-
- Targets multiple big muscles like glutes, quads, hammies, erector spinae, core etc.
- Functional in ADL’s and sports movements.
- Translates to higher vertical jump.
- Positive effect on blood hormonal levels of serum insulin like growth factor, testosterone and growth hormone.
2. The dead lifts-
- Very functional- trains the hip hinge pattern.
- Great upper and lower body strengthening exercise.
- Targets even greater number of muscles than the squat- glutes, quads, hammies, erector spinae, lats, traps, grip muscles.
- Similar positive effects on serum testosterone and GH like the squat.
3. The Kettlebell swing-
- Strengthen posterior chain and the core.
- Great exercise to teach the hip hinge pattern for people with low back pain.
- Trains the cardiovascular & muscular system, balance & coordination, core stabilization and hand and eye coordination.
4. The pull up-
- Great exercise to build upper body strength in ‘pulling’ movements.
- Works on multiple muscles- the lats, scapular stabilizers, elbow flexors, grip muscles etc.
- Multi joint exercise with good metabolic effect.
(Sorry I don’t have a video of me doing this exercise yet. This is my weakest link in upper body strength and I have struggled with it for years. I can perform a few bad pullups but I cannot perform a single good ‘strict’ pull up. I am currently training for it with assistance weights and bands. I will put a video of them shortly for those who struggle in this exercise like me. Just like this blog loosely following my journey of learning, I plan to have a parallel journey of performing 10 strict pullups and sharing it with you. I am not sure how long it will take but I will update often. I also welcome anyone who would like to embark on this journey with me, send me a message and we can talk more.)
5. The Military press/Shoulder press-
- Strengthens shoulders, arms, core, scapular stabilizers.
- Builds strength in overhead movements with carryover in ADL’s.
6. The Dumbell/barbell bench press-
- Great exercise to build upper body strength in ‘pushing’ movements.
- Works on pecs, arm and core muscles.
By no means is this list exhaustive. There are a lot of other exercises out there that have great benefits which I have not mentioned here. Training athletes for more sports specific exercises can be a book in itself and I will write more on it in the future. However, if you look at most of the exercises above, they have something in common. They all focus on training more than one muscle/joint at a time, target the larger muscles and have some carryover to what we do in everyday life. For this first post on exercise selection, I am sticking to the ‘KISS’ principle.
KEEP IT SIMPLE SILLY
I welcome you to share your thoughts on some exercises you like.
Until next time
Abhijit Minhas PT
(BPT, MS, CMP, FMT)