Exercises You Should Be Doing: Shovel Lift

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Like most people, I’m always looking for new and inventive ways to train the “core.” Contrary to what many of the muscle-rags or many of the popular health/fitness magazines may advocate, when I think of core training, the first thing that comes to my mind is anti-rotation. Or, better yet, stabilization.

Truth be told, I haven’t programmed a crunch or sit-up for any of my clients/athletes in well over five years. For those new to this blog and wondering why I despise crunches so much, read here, here, and here for a brief idea as to why.

So it should come as no surprise when I say that a little piece of my soul dies every time I come across an article or watch the latest infomercial promoting some new product that invariably promises a firm and svelt mid-section; using some form of sit-up no less.

For starters, being less fat would help tremendously. I mean, you could do crunches till you’re blue in the face, but it’s not going to counteract the fact that you drink a liter of soda everyday, and consider the pizza crust you had for lunch a “whole grain.” And, for the record, just because you’re eating organic potato chips doesn’t mean anything. You’re still eating freakin potato chips!!!! Nice try.

But I digress

As such, people tend to pay attention whenever someone mentions the word “core,” which is why I’ve gone out of my way to showcase a lot of the different exercises we use at Cressey Performance with respects to training it – albeit correctly.

About two weeks ago, I was catching up on some reading, and came across an article written by Steven Morris titled Abdominal Training for the Power Athlete. In it, he discussed several exercises that, admittedly, I wasn’t a fan of. That said, I’ve rarely read an article and not learned something from it – and this one was no different.

What Is It: Shovel Lift

Who Did I Steal It From: Steven Morris

What Does It Do: This was one of those times where I read the description, looked at the pictures, and thought to myself, “huh, why didn’t I think of that?” We’ve been utilizing asymmetrical (or uneven) training in many of our programs lately (think: one-arm DB presses, one-arm DB/Farmer carries, one-arm DB lunge variations, etc), and with great success. When you think about it, by implementing this form of training (on occasion), you’re really forcing the trainee to HAVE to stabilize him or herself so as not to tip over. This is about as functional as functional training can get.

Furthermore, if someone was ever wondering where their obliques were located, this movement will undoubtedly let them know!

Key Coaching Cues: Grab an Olympic barbell and load it on one end – trust me, you won’t have to use that much weight. Next, grab the unloaded end with one hand and place the other hand at about the mid-point of the bar. From there, you’ll simply lift the bar as if you were shoveling dirt or snow, being cognizant of maintaining proper back position throughout.

As Steven notes in the original article, it will help to lockout your arm furthest from the loaded end and “press” it down, levering the weight up. It may be a bit awkward at first, but with practice you’ll soon get the hang of it.

As mentioned above, you won’t need to load this one too much. I’d suggest 3-4 sets of 4-6 reps per side.

Try it out, and let me know what you think!

Who’s the Asshat in the Background: that would be pitching coach Matt Blake. Side Note: Apparently – and I don’t remember this – I walked in on Eric as he was filming some videos for a presentation he was doing. As a result, Eric ended up using that video in his presentation, and that was Matt doing his best impersonation of me. Wow, I walk like a robot. Shit.


Q; Hey Tony,

Can you put a front view of the exercise cause its hard to really understand what your doing from the side view.

A: Here are a few pictures from the actual article. Hopefully that clears it up:

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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