The universe always trades up. I PROMISE. I have no choice but to believe this truth after my last failed dating escapade. I mean, you really couldn’t get any worse than your beloved pretending not to know you on the street. Except of course, if he was with his “ex-wife.”
OK, ok. Before this piece gets too dark to recover, let me just say, I learned some very valuable life lessons from said relationship — even though he was a complete bonehead.
See, you must understand, even the unworthy people who will inevitably move in and out of your life always show up for a reason. They appear, to help you uncover some deeper karmic lesson about yourself.
As this relates to fitness, I believe there are a lot of just ok or even not so great exercises that may show up on your template and still teach you some very valuable lessons you may not have received otherwise.
They fulfill a purpose. But they don’t deserve to stay very long.
I’m talking about the exercises that aren’t serving you very well. Maybe they don’t offer you the results you are seeking or they cause you pain. Maybe you just kind of dread them even before you set foot on the gym floor.
Maybe you’ve even been working on them forever, going around in circles and you seem to make no progress.
Time to move on to something better, better. No more tryna make it work. Deuces.
Of course, we should always look back. We must evaluate the good and the bad of our programs and practices. We need to meditate on what we’ve learned about our bodies.
But we must not stare too long before it is time to get started on the next layer, the next challenge -- Something that gets us closer to our bigger goal without all the negative drama.
You know, you can’t keep messing with the same lifts (assholes?) forever and expect a different outcome.
And really, it’s not you. It’s them. Some typical strength exercises are just a little more party trick than they are real world applicable. They make for a really cool Facebook status that garners a lot of likes, but they leave you unfulfilled.
And that’s when it’s time to trade up.
The Full Get-Up
Being raised in the kettlebell world (it was my first and favorite strength certification post basic CPT way back in 2009), I have a special place in my heart for full get-ups. It is an exercise that demands and deserves all of the respect for it’s sophistication in execution and purpose.
A full get-up is an elegant dance. The seven steps are even a beautiful metaphor for human life. No matter what, you always need to be strong enough to get up off the floor with little difficulty.
But to be honest, I really only program the half get-up for class or clients on a regular basis. And that’s for a few reasons.
Regardless of most dysfunction, almost all humans can perform the first two steps without any serious compensation. Whereas, if hip stability is questionable and shoulder mobility is lacking (maybe you cannot reach your arm to true vertical over head), the full get-up could actually worsen these issues.
The half get-up is also much easier to program in a traditional sense. I can throw it in the middle of a workout as an accessory on any vertical pressing or upper body day with sets and reps. Whereas the full get-up typically needs to be programmed alone in the beginning of the session with low volume as it requires a high level of skill and so many complicated steps
You can however, practice the half get-up with much more ease. Get to the half-sit position, and return back to the ground.
Try it for 3x6 as your vertical push for the day!
Better Option: The Half Get-Up
The Pistol Squat
I believe that the fraction of the population that really deserves to do a pistol squat is something like less than 5%. And I’m not exaggerating. That’s a very low projection from someone who only sees the fittest demographic of the population from day to day (I work at a high end luxury gym in Soho, so I actually have more hope than I probably should).
The requisite foundation of mobility, stability, and motor control required for this exercise are all huge! Even the expert fit pros who show their skills on social media rarely meet the criteria for a confidently controlled repetition.
Much like the get-up, the pistol also presents some programming problems. One perfectly executed pistol squat is often the equivalent of a max effort lift. Meaning, it has no business in any program with sets and reps. Past 2 repetitions, and you’re likely just jamming joints together to get it done.
Think of this way: If your top deadlift is 300lbs, you wouldn't be hitting that over and over again every day. That's as silly as repeating this eating mistakes over and over again.
And don’t get me started how trainers include the pistol in “quickie” or “metabolic” workouts. Face palm.
As you can surmise, I’m a little bit passionate about this one. And that is because, the risk in programming pistols outweighs the benefit. The cost is just too high. Even for me. And my dears, I once did a perfect pistol with a 32kg bell. That's a half bodyweight pistol.
Even the kettlebell people quietly stopped testing it at workshops as a requirement to pass. Because it was that ugly.
You and your body would be much better served with a more traditional single leg squat. Add in a box and you’ve got ample freedom to focus on that working leg. Just don’t forget about the other one. Tense it up and reach through the heel of the “non-working” side to maintain balance. Add in a counterbalance if you need it!
Better Option: The Single Leg Squat Off Box
The KB Push-Press
For a hardtyle push-press, you are required to keep your heals glued down to the floor. After years of debate with elite trainers and my own experience with clients, I don't teach like that anymore.
It’s just awkward and I hate it. Ok, but seriously, it’s difficult to generate a lot of force for a number of reasons.
The cue in a push-press is to slide your back down the wall as you dip, rather than sit back like a squat or deadlift. This can help to prevent any leakage from the core. In other words, it can help you to keep your trunk together, without moving through your lower back, as you press.
However, you need a significant amount of ankle dorsiflexion to initiate the push when the feet are trapped on the floor -- to allow the knees to come forward.
And even if you do have real nice ankles, the lift still doesn’t feel one bit powerful.
As the goal of this exercise is to generate explosive force, I believe the feet need to be free to leave the ground during a push-press.
Easy fix: Just jump.
Complete your KB push-press while jumping up and stomping your feet into the ground.
And if we’re talking about power, we want to create a more challenging situation in which you’d have to generate it.
So I love love love a log press. It’s also awkward. But, in a more appropriate manner to the goal of the exercise. So you will have no choice but to literally throw it up overhead.
And that is exactly what you want to do.
Better Option: The Log Press
Bent Over Rows
If I hardly ever program full get-ups, then you could say a bent over row is more rare in my programming than meeting a good one on Tinder. Like almost never happens.
And that’s because, it’s a little too complicated for most. You’ve got to be able to hang back in a perfect hinge position, stabilize the shoulders really well, and then also move some heavy weight.
Accordingly, they usually look damn ugly. Necks jutting forward with each rep. Backs rounding out to a nice curl by the end of the set. And not to mention the unhappiness your body may feel the next morning as you go to roll out of bed.
And so instead, I like to set up a sumo deadlift alternating row. That’s a mouthful, I know. However, it’s worth remembering and repeating to all of your friends who experience any kind of back pain.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction in order for an object to stay in place. Normally, you’d have zero external feedback to stay stable in your hinge. In this row variation, you’ll get to push into the unmoving arm as you pull from the other. The added punching action will actually assist you.
Try them! You'll still build a beautiful back but without all the stress on your front side body and lower back.
Better Option: Sumo Alternating Row
Got any other exercises that aren't suiting you?
Leave them in the comments and I'll offer you more options!
#tradeup #deuces #sophisticatedstrength