When first starting to workout it can be daunting. Scary. Overwhelming. There are machines everywhere. Which ones are good? Which are bad? How do you use them? The squat racks and dumbbells are super intimidating… along with the people who know what they are doing in that scary corner of the gym. How do you know where to start? Are you doing it right? Everywhere you look people are doing variations of all kinds of exercises you’ve never seen before. Are those the ones you should do? They look complicated.
Well, I am here to tell you that being fancy is overrated. Are there lots of exercises that seem unconventional that you could benefit from – absolutely! Do I think you should do them? Yes and no. It all depends on where you are in your journey.
A great way to approach the gym is to think of it is practice. You are practicing a skill. The more you practice that skill the better you will get!
So Where Do I Start? What Exactly Do I "Practice?"
What should you practice? The basics. The basics which you should try to master are the:
upper body horizontal push (push up/bench press)
upper body vertical push (shoulder press)
upper body horizontal pull (row)
upper body vertical pull (pull up/lat pull)
Those are the basics. If you can focus on mastering those along with proper mobility work, you are setting yourself up for amazing physical results, as well as health and longevity.
Focusing on the main compound movements, rotation, and mobility you will decrease injury risk, increase strength, improve body composition and set yourself up for more complex movements in the future should that be a goal of yours.
You will be amazed of the results you can achieve by focusing on improving the basics.
Increasing the ability to maintain tension, controlling and slowing down the movements while increasing range of motion of these exercises will result in more muscle mass, strength, and improved joint health! What more could anyone want?!
Why Does The Body Adapt So Well To This Approach?
It is because you are always pushing a new range of motion which generates a new stimulus every time you attempt it. The body is always adapting to the stimuli it receives, which is what you need to elicit change in the body!
Let me give you an example.
I am not the best squatter, nor will I ever be. It is something I have always really struggled with, but a goal of mine last year was to focus on improving the depth of my squat. I still did other exercises in my program, but I squatted 3 days a week 3 sets each time. I did my mobility and warm up work first and then the first exercise I would tackle was the squat on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I varied my tempo on each day but focused on what muscles I was trying to use, maintaining the tension throughout the entire movement, and improving my depth. I did this for about 6 weeks. My intention was just to practice the movement and nothing else. I did not go super heavy either! It was enough to challenge myself but not so much that I could not control the entirety of my movement. Fast forward 6 weeks later and I was able to up my weight a bit (from 85lbs to 95lbs), but I was able to get super low into my squat (which I was only getting to about 90 degrees before), control it (no bouncing from the bottom position) , my knees no longer hurt when squatting, AND THE CHANGE IN MY GLUTES AND QUADS WAS UNREAL! I did not have to do a crazy amount of weight or volume to get results.
Moral of the story: focus on practicing the basics. The rest will come later. Set a solid foundation to build on!