Q and A: These Are a Few Of My Favorite Things
Q: I know trainers (including myself) hate questions like “Hey bro, so like, if you could only do one exercise for the rest of your life what would it be?”, so I won’t ask you that question. But how about one that is similar, but possibly not quite as frustrating to answer?
As a trainer, what are your favorite lifts for each of the following body parts?
^^^ Yes, that’s a picture from The Sound of Music on this blog (that just happened)
A: Deadlifts, my friend. Deadlifts are the answer to everything……;o) If more people deadlifted, the world would be a happier place – and possibly have less type II diabetes. I have no way to back that statement up, but I’m running with it.
As a coach, I rarely (if ever) think of exercises in the context of what muscles they target. Rather, I’m more concerned with differentiating and improving movement patterns. Squat, hip hinge, horizontal press, horizontal row, vertical press, veritcal pull, single leg stance, and you know, bicep curls.
But, to answer your question – see below:
Shoulders – The obvious answer here is overhead pressing. The thing is, though, for me, people have to earn the right to overhead press. It’s not that I have anything against overhead pressing, or think it’s inherently dangerous – far from it in fact. It’s just as a whole, we move like poop. For most, we spend a vast majority of our days sitting in front of the computer, which compromises stuff like glute function, and more importantly, t-spine moblity.
Do me a favor: round your back and then try to lift your arms over your head. Kind of hard, right? Well, this is something that a lot of people can’t do, and the last thing I want is for them to head to their local globo gym and try to do any overhead pressing. More often than not, they’re just going to end up hurting themselves.
That being said, assuming one is “cleared” to safely overhead press, I’m reluctant to toss in a lot of additional direct shoulder work because, frankly, the shoulders take enough of a beating with all the pressing (and rowing) people perform throughout the week. But, in short, things like strict military presses, 1-arm DB push presses, and the like would be great pumpkin builders.
Chest – Seems how I’m an absolute god-awful (read: really bad) bencher, I’m going to go against popular notion and say loaded push-ups here. Anyone who says push-ups are too wimpy, clearly has never been to Cressey Performance. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had grown men come in who couldn’t do a proper push-up, let alone for reps.
I just feel you get more for your training buck with push-ups. Not only can you sexify your pecs, but you’ll also learn to engage your core, and they’re waaaaaay more shoulder friendly to boot.
Back – I’ve stated this in the past, but nothing is more of a clear indicator that someone has put their time in under the iron than when he (or she) walks around with an impressive upper back. Take personal trainer and manual therapist, Rachel Guy, for example:
Do you think she built that body by doing pilates and lifting pink dumbbells? Ummmmmm, no.
In terms of upper back development, deadlifts really do reign supreme here. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING makes my upper back more sore than when I do sets of heavy deadlifts. Some other favs would include chest supported rows, as well as various chin-ups/pull-ups. But they all play second fiddle to deadlifts.
Quads – Easy, full depth squats. Of course, this begs the question: what entails “full depth” squats. For me, the anterior surface of the thigh must go past parallel in order for it to count. Although, to be fair, not everyone is suited (or ready) to step into the gym on day #1 and squat to depth. In that case, I’m perfectly fine with regressing the movement to a range of motion that’s safe for the trainee. Regardless, if we want to turn into Quadzilla, you need to squat. And you need to squat deep.
Hamstrings – My first inclination will be to say goodmornings, since speaking from a personal perspective, they are an awesome accessory movement that not only develop impressive hamstrings but also carry over very well to the deadlift. It’s a fairly advanced movement, however, and I’m reluctant to just haphazardly recommend them to just anyone due to the high “I’ll shit my spleen” factor.
Soooooo, instead, my “safer” choice will be the 1-Legged Romananian Deadlift.
Glutes – Bret Contreras pretty much settled this debate long ago. You’d be hard pressed to find any exercise that hammers your glutes more than loaded barbell bridges.
Abs – Easy, stepping away from the cookie jar.
Full Disclosure: I am in no way condoning body part splits here; lets not get too carried away here…..hahahahaha. Again, I think of things more in the context of movement patterns rather than what muscles are being hit. But, nevertheless, shooting from the hip, these are what I came up with. Feel free to chime in and offer your two cents below!