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Merritt Clubs Blog
Strength Training Baltimore

Strength Training Baltimore

We as fitness professionals have so many exercises to choose from, and it really is limited by our creativity. You go to any gym and see wacky things done by many different folks; Bands, big stability balls, med balls, odd machines, cables, pulleys, kettlebells, ropes, benches, etc, etc. I am sure lots of it looks crazy for people first walking into a gym and it can be very intimidating. I am also sure that through my years of training I have done many crazy things, but they key is to always do something, however little/big that may be. I always start with the end in mind, and any time a client comes to me, I want them to eventually progress to… for example the ability to do 8-10 pull ups. I see way too much “sloppiness” in fitness and people just need to pick a couple things and get really good at them. Sticking to the basics is so simple, yet everyone thinks they are “too advanced” for the fundamentals. Build confidence doing the fundamentals and slowly build your way up. Stop trying to do the crazy things you see other people doing and start with the basics. So if I had to take all the fluff out of my programs and narrow my exercise index down to 5 exercises only here they are in no particular order…Thank me later.

1. Deadlift or Squat Pattern

I made this a choice because some people just cannot squat. This can be an issue of “bad kness”, bad leverage’s or what have you. However, I tend to believe anyone can squat, you just have to work around the issues involved. We squat everyday when we get up in the morning, so you can’t tell me you cannot do it. Also, as babies we first learn how to squat before walking, running, so again it is a basic innate movement pattern that I feel is necessary. For all the whiners out there I gave you another choice…The Deadlift. In reality this is probably the only exercise you need. All you have to do is pick something off the floor, did I mention something heavy? Some people who cannot squat end up loving the deadlift because it is a posterior chain dominant exercise and involves little knee bend with smaller shear forces around the knee. I also believe everyone can deadlift, its just a matter of figuring out what works best, sumo, conventional, rack, etc. Nothing can be more important than technique! Many people do deadlifts and place all the emphasis on the back, when the glutes and hamstrings should be doing the brunt of the work. In this case you see people with nice back development with little to no butt. A heavy dose of Hip Thrusts can take care of that. These movements are simple to the eye, but in reality extraordinary complex. However these lifts will do more for your figure than anything else.

2. Sled Push/Pull

The beauty of sled pushes and pulls is eccentric less training and training economy. That means you don’t get sore but still get a training effect. I believe legs should be trained in some fashion 5-6x/week because they need lots of volume and frequency to adapt, and this serves as a great way to do it without getting sore. Sled pushes/pulls are fail safe because everyone can do them and you get an unbelievable bang for your buck exercise. They will build strength if you go heavy, build speed if you go fast, build cardio if you go for time. We all want results in half the time right? So why not pick exercises that kill multiple birds with one stone? I think it is also a great way to add muscle on, because you can get lots of lactate production which releases GH, and going really heavy generates lots of tension while getting lots of volume. Lots of load and volume = growth. Nothing can be more functional and you hit every body part…legs, core, back, arms. I believe you can substitute any exercise with a prowler push, it is just that effective. Did I mention you will get in the best shape of your life?

3. Pull up/Push up

Once again a choice, if you can’t do one, do the other. I had to add a more upper body focused exercise and nothing beats the push up or pull up. I have yet to see any one come in the gym and be able to do 10 correct push ups and 10 correct pull ups. Here are some tips for both….stay tight in the core, stay connected/stabilized in the upper back, and go through the full range of motion. Of course once you show good technique and proficiency, then we can do variations. Pull ups are crazy on the core…don’t believe me? Go tell me how they feel after you strain your oblique/ab muscles. Most people need to be regressed so they can actually do things correctly so add bands on the pull ups and elevate the push ups so you can do them right. Did I mention keep your abs tight and don’t let your lower back hyperextend? Too easy? Try for handstand push ups.

4. Running/Sprints

I think I may have come half circle on my thoughts of running. I think it is a great exercise, just not for most people. If you’re into half marathons and 5k’s that’s awesome, I couldn’t do it. I feel myself getting slower and weaker the second I start…so I sprint short distances, run around some cones, and call it a day. However, running is a natural form of movement and I would recommend adding some form of it in your program. I am even more open to some type of steady state aerobic work, to build recovery capacity. Your going to have to run at some point in your life (chasing after someone, etc), so you might as well be somewhat efficient at it and do some sort in your training. Also, running on the treadmill is NOT the same as actually running.

The tread aids in leg extension which takes out the glutes/hamstrings, AND your center of mass does not move on a treadmill. It is completely different when you have to move your mass around, which is evident when you take someone who thinks they are doing cardio for 20-40 min on a bike or elliptical and ask them to jog around the track. Another eye opener is when they plan a hiking trip. They will be out of breath after a couple minutes doing either! When you have to displace your own mass, there is a different effect on the cardio-respiratory system. Another point is that running has an extraordinary impact on leg development. All great runners tend to have good legs and glute/hamstring development, just look at sprinters. There is nothing like running (outside) a little bit everyday, and it is good for you. Do not go overboard, remember, you must be fit to run, don’t run to get fit. So don’t just go out and start running 3x/week. The forces in running are unparalleled in the weight room, so if you cannot squat your body weight 3-5 times, then I would see it unwise for you to be running too much. Your body just cannot handle the forces very well. Also remember that too much running will lead to injury; Too much of any movement pattern will lead to repetitive injury. Another reason why I choose to run around agility cones as a form of general movement training. For these reasons I find most people need to regress and start with walking (ah hem up-hill to build cardio and strength at the same time).

5. Chops/Lifts

This is a new one for me, and I am just exploring the benefits of these lifts. They are very athletic moves so you must be mobile, and strong, and you must be able to feel your core working. If you don’t feel it, these are not for you and the exercise should be regressed to something where you do feel your abs stabilizing…such as planks, levers, deadbugs, etc. However, they provide phenomenal core training in an integrated fashion, which is how the body works. They also work in the transverse and frontal plane which helps balance out the core and develop a more functional looking physique. Too many crunches over develop the rectus abdominus and create an unnatural stomach. Just look at bodybuilders compared to gymnasts, who do you want to look like? Too many squats and deadlifts work the saggital plane too much and neglect rotational forces. All sports and life require rotational movement in some sort (tennis serve, gardening, picking things up) and chops and lifts help bridge the gap, and help you feel the core engaging in the these movements.

So there you have it, my top 5 movements. I love the idea of beginning with the end in mind, otherwise how to do how where you are going? You need to know you’re going to Hawaii, before you set out to go to Hawaii. I want every one of my clients to be able to progress and do these movements quite well. It is just getting there that is the challenge. Everyone is a different and will require different things, but don’t forget you must have basic flexibility and the ability to get in the right positions before anything else! Usually flexibility/mobility is the first priority. Progress is usually slow, and each new “skill” or movement that you learn is just one step closer. Don’t get discouraged, because sometimes it takes months/years to develop the proper foundation. The Great Pyramid was not built in a 12 week plan, and either will your deadlift. Let me know what you think!

Please click link below for a new kids fitness program in Towson or email dfrager@merrittclubs.com to signup. http://merrittclubs.com/downloads/programs/Towson-Kids-Fitness.pdf