1. Incorporate the following movement patterns into your program: squatting, hinging, lunging, pushing (horizontal and vertical), pulling (horizontal and vertical) and carrying. Sled pushes are also a great option.
2. Master all of these movements. In fact, it doesn't matter if you are training for a sport, are looking to achieve an aesthetic goal, or are simply looking to improve your overall health and performance. These are basic movements that most of the population will have to perform on a daily basis, so your body needs to be properly prepared.
3. With each movement, there are many exercise variations that can accommodate your current fitness level, body structure, unique needs (perhaps if you are injured). Choose variations of each movement that meet your current fitness level, technical ability, body structure, and unique needs. Believe me, there are many variations.
4. Do not force a square peg into a round hole. If an exercise does not feel good, opt for a variation that does. There is no one size fits all approach to training.
5. Only add more resistance, or perform more advanced variations of an exercise, once you have mastered the basics.
6. Good form is the gateway to your success so make using good form your top priority. Own 100% of your reps. To be clear, and I'll discuss this more later, form will vary from person to person, and this is totally normal.
7. When you are strength training or are performing any movement, the mind-muscle connection is vital. Do not just go through the motions. Be physically AND mentally present.
8. Progressive overload is key to your success. There are many ways in which you can achieve progressive overload.
9. Consistency trumps intensity.
10. Be sure to include both bilateral and unilateral variations for all of the movement patterns I listed in point #1.
11. Perform mainly compound movements, and compliment them with isolation exercises.
12. Select a resistance that allows you to feel really challenged for your target rep range, but where you can maintain proper form for 100% of your reps. When you are first starting out, selecting your ideal resistance will take some trial and error, but always err on the side of caution versus jumping the gun and going too heavy.
13. While this does vary on an individual basis, so this is not a black and white statement and is merely a suggestion that works well for many, aim to use of a ratio of 2:1 (or even 3:1) pulling to pushing exercises. And for your pulling, aim to use a ratio of 3:1 horizontal to vertical pulling exercises.
14. Before you add speed to a movement, you need to be able to control that movement. For instance, before you perform kettlebell swings, you should be able to execute the hip hinging movement. No I'm not suggesting you need to be deadlifting from the ground, or even be performing heavy deadlifts, but at the very least, you should be able to execute more basic deadlift/hinging variations like dumbbell or kettlebell deadlifts, Landmine deadlifts, band/cable pull-throughs, etc. This is just one of many examples I could use.
15. If you struggle to perform overhead presses due to mobility, strength, injury issues, or other factors, there are many Landmine variations that will allow you to obtain many of the benefits of overhead pressing.
16. If you can't deadlift from the floor, don't sweat it. Performing rack or block pulls, Landmine deadlifts, or other deadlift variations where you aren't required to start from the floor, are just as beneficial. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise. Unless you are competing and MUST deadlift from the floor, there is absolutely no reason why you must.
17. Resist the urge to keep ''switching it up.'' Following a sound program and on a consistent basis is the key to your success. You can achieve variety by varying your resistance, rep range, exercise order, rest intervals, tempo, exercise variations, workout splits, etc. ''Confuse your muscles'' by employing these strategies, not by doing different exercises or workouts all the time.
18. Don't fixate on exhaustion, focus on making yourself better. Being tired and sweaty is not the telltale sign of a good workout. This is especially true when you are strength training, and are performing higher risk and more technically demanding exercises.
19. If you like to make yourself tired and sweaty, do so during your conditioning sessions. However, even when you are conditioning, you want to be mindful of your form 100% of the time. If you plan on running yourself ragged, and in most cases there is no need to, definitely opt for lower risk and less technically demanding exercises. For most people, performing higher risk and more technically demanding exercises, and while in a state of fatigue, is a recipe for disaster.
20. Prioritize quality over quantity, and stop when your form fails. In other words, stop when you reach technical failure, not absolute failure.
21. Address your weaknesses. Make sure to work at what you are not as good at. This will make you more well rounded, will help improve your overall performance, and will help safeguard your body against injury.
22. Prioritize your health. You won't achieve your goals or have the best quality of life if you are always injured. Remember, consistency is key. It's tough to be consistent when you are constantly battling an injury or multiple injuries.
23. If you are injured, in most cases you can work around your injury. As I talked about above, address your weaknesses (and possibly why you got injured), focus on other parts of your body, or possibly other modalities of training.
24. Bodyweight training is an extremely effective method of training. Pull-ups, push-ups, chin-ups, skater squats, levers, and l-sits are just a few of countless challenging and effective bodyweight exercises you can do. I might have mentioned a few times that I'm extremely fond of pull-ups 😉
25. When it comes to range of motion, no two people are a like. For each exercise, go to a range of motion where YOU can maintain proper form and body positioning. For example, an ass to grass squat is useless if achieving this depth causes your form to totally break down. For the record, ATG squats are not the holy grail of squatting.
26. Still talking range of motion. Sometimes it's a matter of checking your ego at the door and using a weight that will actually allow you to reach your full depth, versus going too heavy and totally sacrificing range of motion for resistance.
27. No matter what you've been told, no two people will have the same form. Due to differences in body structure, biomechanics, and other factors, form will vary. This IS normal. So while there are some glaring mistakes/breakdowns in form you want to avoid, choose a form that works and feels best for you. This form might even vary on a daily or weekly basis.
28. If you like to run, get strong first. You need to be strong to run.
29. The same goes for playing sports. You need to be fit to play. You don't get fit by playing.
30. If you don't enjoy running, don't run. Countless people run solely because they have fallen prey to the myth that running is the best way to achieve fat loss. It is not. Your nutrition is close to 100% responsible for fat loss.
31. Just move. If you aren't into doing conditioning, go on walks, hikes, do yard work, take the stairs, and just move as much as you can. Movement is medicine.
32. ALL body types are normal.
33. While this is not meant to be a blanket statement so do not take it as one, many people are chronically tight because they are weak. If you are weak and cannot control the movement in a part (or parts) of your body, certain muscle groups might tighten up to provide your body with the stability that it is lacking. In a lot of cases, when people prioritize getting stronger (versus focusing on improving their flexibility or mobility), their ''tightness'' will improve and possibly dissipate all together.
34. No, you cannot stretch and roll your IT band. The IT band is a fairly rigid tissue and the effects of stretching it are minimal and short-lived at best. Lack of stability in part or parts of the body can be the culprit behind IT band ''tightness'' as several muscles attach to the IT band and can ''pull'' on it when they tighten up. Refer to point 33.
35. If you are hypermobile, you do not want to reinforce this hypermobility. You want to prioritize your stability. Many hypermobile individuals can take their joints through extreme range of motions, yet have muscles that are extremely tight.
36. You do not need to spend hours in the gym to achieve top results.
37. Listen to your body, and be somewhat flexible in your programming. If your body needs a day (or a few days off), listen. If your body needs an easier workout, adjust accordingly. As I mentioned above, the key to long term success is consistency. Rigidity usually does not lead to sustainability, or enjoyment.
38. Unless you have suffered from an ankle sprain, performing stability exercises on a Bosu or other unstable surfaces serves very little purpose, and there are many better options. Excluding the VERY rare exception, you will improve your strength and stability more by performing your exercises on a stable surface. Many people lack balance and stability because their muscles are weak and they lack the ability to control their mobility. Performing regular exercises but on an unstable surface, using much less resistance and far inferior form than if you were performing the same exercise on a stable surface, is not the route to take. To be clear, I'm mainly talking about standing on an unstable surface. Exercises like chaos push-ups can serve a purpose.
39. Enjoy what you are doing. While every workout you do might not be fun, and you might have days when getting to the gym is a struggle, select exercises and activities that you enjoy.
40. Limit performing combination exercises where one part of your body will greatly limit the amount of work you'll be able to do with another other part of your body. The squat to biceps curl is one example, as the amount of weight you will be able to curl will be much less than the weight you will be able to squat. This will render the squatting component of the exercise significantly less effective.
41. When you are performing unilateral exercises, you must pay attention to the non-working side of your body. For instance, during a single leg hip thrust, you still need to engage the glute and anterior core muscles on the non-working side. Failure to do so will cause your one hip to lower at a faster rate, and for your pelvis, torso, and spine to rotate.
42. Don't underestimate the importance of the tripod foot. I talk about the tripod foot a lot. A tripod foot is when most of your weight is on the mid to back portion of your feet/foot (depending on the exercise), and all of your toes are in contact with the floor, particularly your big and baby toes. This foot position will give you a much more stable base to work with, will make maintaining proper form much easier, and will help you generate more strength with your lower body.
43. Proper footwear matters. Do not think it doesn't. For example, squatting in high and cushiony running shoes is not conducive to good form or likely a happy body.
44. If you enjoy doing steady state cardio, do steady state cardio. No, it will not make your muscles waste away.
45. Make sure that you do not neglect your core stability. Perform exercises that train your body to resist the extension, lateral flexion, and rotation of your spine. Dead bugs, loaded carries, and Pallof Presses are just a few of many different examples I could list. I am a huge fan of Stuart McGill, and pattern a lot of my core stability training after his philosophies. While the bulk of your training should be based around the movement patterns I listed in point 1, you can add in a few of these exercises.
46. Now let me get to core mobility. In most cases, spinal flexion is totally ok, as is rotational work. Despite a lot of fear mongering that exists, your spine will not explode. But you want to be extremely mindful that you are performing the exercises correctly.
47. Make sure that your goals are authentic to you.
48. Do not expect instant results overnight. Be realistic, and opt for sustainable habits.
49. Focus on and embrace the process. Don't just fixate on the end results.
50. Don't base your results purely on what the scale says. The scale only gives you a small piece of the overall picture, and it isn't always accurate.
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