Take a quick glance at Social media and you will see a whole host of fitness folks doing different styles of training, some good, some bad and some downright strange. With this constant bombardment it is becoming increasingly challenging for people to know what they should be doing in their training programmes. This blog should help reduce that confusion for you.
So, what should most of our training be focused on when it comes to lifting?
It should be focused on mastering the Fundamentals.
The Fundamentals are our Bread & Butter. Some view them as the Basics and these basics are what every good programme should be built around.
Strength Faction Coach Chris Merritt describes the basics this way.
That’s right folks, the Basics Kill!
So, what are our basic fundamental movements?
Strength Coach Legend Dan John simplified it for us with 6 Categories.
1) SQUAT VARIATIONS
Squats, Front Squats, Goblet Squats and we can also include single leg Quad-Dominant movements like Split Squats, Lunges and Step Ups here.
2) HINGE VARIATIONS
Deadlifts, Rackpulls, Romanian Deadlifts, Kettlebell Swings etc
3) PUSH VARIATIONS
Push Ups, Bench Press, Overhead Press, Dips etc
4) PULL VARIATIONS
Inverted Row, Chin Ups and Pull Ups, Dumbbell and Barbell Rows etc
5) LOADED CARRIES (I ALSO INCLUDE CORE/BRACING MOVEMENTS HERE)
Farmer Walk, Rack Walk, Waiter Walk, Planks, Deadbugs, Pallof Press etc
6) EVERYTHING ELSE
Do I need to give examples here?
Almost anything and everything else goes here that doesn’t fit the other 5 categories. It’s the icing on top of the cake stuff. Want to hit some extra glute work to get the booty popping? It goes here. Fancy chasing a bicep pump? Now’s your chance. Want to practice Headstands? I think you get the point I’m making now.
We must ensure we address the first 5 categories before training the ‘Everything Else’ or fancy stuff as it’s those first 5 that give us the most “bang for our buck” and will ultimately give us greater results – and who doesn’t want that!
Unfortunately, too many people spend their time in the ‘Everything else’ Category and wonder why they aren’t seeing the results they so desperately want.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t do the fancy stuff in category 6, please do, I’m just urging you to earn them by focusing most of your time on mastering Squat, Hinge, Push, Pull and Loaded Carry/Bracing variations.
Now that we’ve learned what the fundamentals are where is a good place to start with each category?
This often-forgotten exercise is fantastic. It’s easy to load and when done well helps to teach correct squatting form. For some this maybe the only variation they’ll ever need so don’t rush to jump to something deemed as better if it’s not appropriate
For most, starting with the Kettlebell variation is a great option and from there you can progress to Dumbbells or the Barbell. For me building strength in and establishing that solid hinge position is vital so the R.D.L is always my go to. But again, context is key, this is a generalised answer, always choose what is appropriate for your ability and limitations.
Horizontal Push, The Push Up.
I know it’s not sexy and it’s probably one of the most forgotten exercises but it’s truly a monster. It’ll teach you to brace, master your own bodyweight and with multiple progressions/regressions it makes it perfect for almost everybody.
Vertical Push, The Half Kneeling Single Arm DB Overhead Press.
The half kneeling position and the Unilateral loading will teach you to brace and stay tight whilst pressing overhead which will transfer to standing variations down the line.
Vertical Pull, The Chin Up/Lat Pulldown.
The Lat Pulldown can be great for those who can’t do Chin Ups but if your goal is to achieve a Chin Up then the movement will need to be addressed. A good place to start on your Chin Up journey is with Slow Eccentric Only Chin Ups with the aim to increase your eccentric time under tension as you progress. This is where I start all my clients with Chin Up goals and I’ve had great success with this approach.
Horizontal Pull, The Inverted Row.
The Inverted Row is fantastic for all levels as not only do we get to master our own bodyweight but we can progress and regress the exercise purely by changing our body’s angle when performing the movement
LOADED CARRIES & CORE/BRACING MOVEMENTS
Carry Variation, The Farmer Walk.
Start with either Dumbbell or Kettlebell Farmer Walks and utilise both Bilateral and Unilateral Variations. Carry them for Distance or for Time, just make sure you’re walking tall, bracing hard and aren’t compensating your movement whilst doing them.
Core Variation, The Plank.
Simple, effective but unfortunately often done incorrectly. Instead of just holding your plank position focus on creating full body tension throughout the hold and utilise diaphragmatic breathing during and you’ll reap a lot more results from it.
So there you have it, a simple 6 category checklist for you to base your training programme on. As a good rule of thumb I suggest that 80-90% of your lifting time is dedicated to the 5 Major Movements and 10-20% to everything else.
We must always ensure that we maximise our exposure and pursue mastery of the 5 Fundamental Movements as these will bring us the best results. “Everything else” is just a nice reward for all our hard work on the other 5 during the week.