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Simplify Your Workouts And Get Better Results In The Gym

In today’s post I want to provide some simple yet highly effective tips for getting better results in the gym. This is for everyone…newbie exercisers, the seasoned workout veteran, and yes even fitness trainers and coaches.

Spend enough time in the gym and you’ll see exercises that resemble something that could be in a circus show.

Some of these movements may serve a very beneficial role in challenging an individual’s core stabilization, strength, etc, but a lot of times there’s not been much thought on “why” they’re being done.

Let this post serve as a guide to beginners and a wake-up call to fitness trainers and coaches.

Keep it simple ya’ll!

More after the jump…

Anyone who follows the fitness industry can testify that trends always seem to revolve around what’s new and different. As my friend, the manager of Tonebodyfit, noticed, it’s the latest “gadget” that somehow improves the efficiency of exercise, seemingly allowing you to get more with doing less.

It’s the newest way to cut time with your workouts, whether it’s “8 minute abs” or some breakthrough technique that allows you to workout for only 20 minutes twice a week.

Whether it’s some fancy gadget, time saving technique, or circus show exercise, the idea is always to “wow” the exerciser in some way.

After all, there’s nothing new and sexy about doing a vigorous workout with good old fashioned barbell back squats for example.

Why do that when you could stand on some vibrating platform and squat without ever breaking a sweat?

The reality is as far as we’ve come with advancements in workout technology, new exercises, fad fitness routines and the like, there’s nothing that’s changed in how the human body moves or adapts to overload stimuli.

In short, the way we move and the way we get leaner, stronger, more flexible, etc, hasn’t changed at ALL over the years.

What worked in some rustic gym say fifty years ago still works the same today!

You never saw the early fitness pioneers like Eugene Sandow, Charles Atlas, Jack LaLanne and others standing on a BOSU ball doing single leg squats while doing dumbbell curls.

There was no talk about “proprioceptive mulit-planar fusion” training or some other jargon coaches often use now to impress their clients.

They simply MOVED their body in ways that seemed natural and increased the intensity or demands of these movements by adding external resistance.

Did they work hard? Of course, but there was nothing fancy or complicated about it.

Whether it was with bodyweight calisthenics or weighted exercises, the movements were all pretty similar.

Let me break it down for you real simple like…

- Pressing horizontally or pressing vertically
- Pulling horizontally or pulling vertically
- Squatting
- Rotating
- Changing levels (stepping up/down)
- Locomotion (moving in some way)

The basis for pretty much all human movements fall into the above categories. There’s only so many ways the human body moves. Exercise and fitness training should simply mimic these movements in some way.

It doesn’t matter if you use your own bodyweight or ANY driver for external resistance. It could be a bale of hay, a sack of feed, barbell, kettlebell, dumbbell, rubber band, heck you name it.

The form of resistance may change but the movements patterns don’t. All this talk of “multi-planar integration” stuff is nothing new. You pick up a bag of sand and press it overhead from the front, the side, from behind you.

You do it while squatting down, or reaching, splitting your stance, etc, just like may happen in every day life activities.

Is this starting to click?

What do you accomplish by standing on a wobble board, BOSU ball, etc, and attempt to squat, juggle, or do whatever?

Well you’d get good at doing the “whatever” on that object. Ok, so now what, how does that correlate to your fitness goals? Once again we’re at the all important question of “why.”

Contrary to what some fitness gurus may lead you to believe, this doesn’t necessarily improve core stabilization, balance, or improve neural recruitment patterns in NORMAL activities.

Keep the circus show for the circus.

Want to improve your core stabilization, squat, do planks, press something overhead, perform a chopping motion.

The BASICS always have and always will work the best.

There’s no need to ever get overly fancy. Sure you can change the intensity or demands of an exercise through variations, but there’s never any need to get cute.

Let’s look at one basic bookend human movement, the squat, as an example for how one might change the intensity or demands. A short list off the top of my head in no particular order.

- Bodyweight squat- feet parallel
- Bodyweight squat- feet staggered
- Bodyweight squat- 1 leg
- Weighted squat with external resistance on the back
- Weighted squat with external resistance held at the chest (Zercher hold)
- Weighted squat with external resistance held at the sides
- Weighted squat with external resistance held overhead

How else might we change the intensity or demands?

- Increase the weight or load
- Increase the total number of repetitions
- Decrease the rest time between movements
- Increase the total volume of work completed

What about combining the squat with some other movement?

- squat and press overhead
- squat and curl
- squat and upright row
- squat and horizontal row or pull
- squat and rotate while pressing overhead

Do you see where I’m going with all of this?

The basic human movement pattern of the squat can be varied numerous ways, but you’re still doing a squat with your feet on the ground.

One of my biggest mentors in the fitness industry, the legendary strength coach Dan John, said something during a talk I heard him deliver a while back that has always stuck with me.

“If it’s important, do it often.”

Is the human movement pattern of squatting important? You betcha. Whether you’re nine or ninety you’ll be squatting in some way if you’re mobile.

Doesn’t matter if it’s a 400lb barbell back squat or getting up out of chair. The goals and objectives may change, but the movement patterns don’t.

My point with all of this is to STICK WITH THE BASICS.

Pressing something overhead, pulling something from the floor, etc, never needs to be overly complicated, fancy, or different.

Sure you can progress yourself, or your clients, to more challenging variations, but it should always be with a purpose.

Start with all the basic human movement patterns and use your own bodyweight first. If you can’t handle your own bodyweight, you have no business trying to add loaded resistance to the movements.

This should be common sense if you think about it. Once you can functionally move and control your own bodyweight, then progress to weighted resistance and adding variations in intensity, demands, and combinations.

The reality is the old school weight training exercises like the back squat, bent over row, overhead press, and others are extremely effective. They worked fifty years ago and they still work today.

You don’t need to get overly cute by trying to make them more complex or different. If the basic movements aren’t in your training regiment often, you’re missing out.

When it comes to getting results, I’ve personally seen some of the greatest gains at times when I had very little in the form of equipment available.

I remember working out in a hole of gym in my early twenties that had just some racks, barbells, and free weights. There was no fancy equipment of any sort. You worked with what was available to you.

What does this make you do? It makes you stick with the basics for starters, then it allows you to get somewhat creative.

When you don’t have some ab gadget machine that you sit and rotate in, you learn to pick up a weight plate and chop it across your body.

Truth be told, these kind of things, while simplistic in nature, work the best. Other than a dual pulley cable machine, there’s not much in the form of “isolation” equipment I use or have in my gym to this day.

Let’s just say there’s a good reason for this. I learned that the basics work the best and exercise was never meant to be something done while sitting down on your butt!

You want to see results from your workouts…go back to the basics and work your tail off.

Yes, it will take hard work, sweat, and effort. There’s no getting around that fact. But just remember it doesn’t have to be cute or overly fancy.

When you hit a plateau and no longer see improvements in the gym from doing push-up’s, pull-up’s, squats, and the like, you let me know.

The basics work folks…do more of them, make em harder by changing the intensity through any variation you want, but don’t stray too far away from the root exercises that have been producing lean and strong bodies for centuries.

Tis my two cents for what it’s worth.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts. With a staff of over 10 certified fitness professionals, Shaping Concepts provides fitness consulting in Charleston with a specialty on weight loss and body transformation. See our success stories from numerous Lowcountry residents then sign up for a no-obligations consultation today.

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