Saturday, November 24, 2018

My Undeniable Truths of Weight Training for Beginners - Part 2 - Do the Hard Exercises - By RJ Hicks, BS Exercise Science, CSCS

One of the biggest mistakes I see is the use of ineffective exercises. Although many exercises are effective, there are some exercises much more effective than others. For a program to be productive and yield the greatest results, a trainee must train using the most effective exercises. For maximum results in size and strength, train the hard exercises.

Multi joint exercises vs single joint exercises

The hard exercises are the major compound multi joint movements. They are the most systematically demanding, involve the most muscle mass and carry the most potential for poundage progression (or greater increases in strength). These are the exercises many trainees like to avoid, simply because they are uncomfortable and hard to do. This is a huge mistake! A routine of squats, dead lifts, rows, dips, pull ups, presses and bench will do more to transform your muscular size and strength than any number of lateral raises, cable cross overs or hack squats. The foundation of the routine should be built on the hard exercises. Squat, deadlift, leg press or any variation of the three should be a stable in your lower body training. Presses, rows, chins/pull downs, flat/incline bench and dips should be the primary exercises in your upper body training, with pullovers, shrugs and barbell curls as a close secondary. Keep the hard exercises as the meat and potatoes of the workout, leave the single joint exercises for dessert.

The easy exercises are often, but not always, the single joint exercises. It is common for beginner trainees to choose to perform single joint exercises for most of their routine. Most single joint exercises are nothing more than a pumping exercise in my book. The whole toning, sculpting and shaping theory is a myth that DISTRACTS many trainees from using the hard exercises. Muscles adapt through progressive overload (stress), not through pumping. The pump these trainees experience is a temporary rush of blood that bloats a muscle, doing little in the long term for muscular size and strength. Toners and phonies primarily use pumping exercises, because they “feel” good and are the EASIER to do.

You can get a painful burn on leg extensions and watch your quads swell up, but it is nothing compared to the total body metabolic shock your body would undergo from a hard set of 10-12 repetitions on the trap bar deadlift. Pumping exercise involve less muscle activation, less weight and less metabolic stress. Often, you’ll see trainees perform hack squats instead of squats or skip overhead pressing and go straight to lateral flies. This is a sin for serious trainees. No real long-term gains in size and strength are made by pumping exercises for the natural trainee, because there is a lack of mechanical stress on the muscles. Be wary of exercise routines filled with single joint exercises as they distract you from the hard exercises and never substitute them for the hard exercises you can do safely.

Rehabilitation, tinkering and special circumstances

The best exercises to train with are the hard exercises you can do safely. If an exercise hurts, don’t do it. Not everyone can squat in a safe manor due to long limbs or previous injuries. The pendulum Squat, trap bar/DB deadlift, Hammer Strength horizontal leg press, or a belt squat can serve as a good substitution for the barbell squats. Substituting a belt squat due to injury is acceptable, substituting a hack squat because it is more comfortable is not. The same is true with single joint exercises, if you cannot do the multi-joint exercise, but can target the muscle with a single joint exercise, do what you can! A lateral raise will never compare to an overhead press, but it will be far more productive than doing nothing for the shoulders.

Not all single joint exercises are bad. Some parts of the body are best trained with single joint movements such as the neck, calves, rotator cuffs, forearms/hands and midsection. Bob Whelan ( refers to these as your tinkering exercises. He often sequences them in after multiple compound exercises, strategically using them as built in rest. They are of low intensity compared to the major compound exercises, but important in keeping the entire body strong none-the-less. Any serious strength training program should include these exercises a majority of the time.

Sometimes extra work is needed due to a lagging muscle group. While the major compound exercises advantage is in the amount of muscle mass they work, not all the muscles are worked equally. Sometimes the best way to bring a lagging muscle up to par is to train it with a single joint exercise, but don’t overdo it. Single joint exercises have the advantage of what's known as the “direct effect” and can force all the mechanical stress on the targeted muscle. The lateral raise is a great example of an exercise with a “direct effect” upon the shoulders. If you feel it is of physiological/psychological benefit, great! Add it in to the end of the routine, if it doesn’t take away hard exercises. To summarize, you can train single joint exercises IN ADDITION to the hard exercises AFTER all the hard exercises have been completed.

Final walk-through

If you’re a beginner, train the basic hard exercises. If you’re a middle age adult, train the basic hard exercises. If you’re an athlete train the basic hard exercises. If you want to look strong and be strong, train the basic hard exercises.

Editors Note: This is great RJ! Awesome job on this!
Does modern bodybuilding make you sick? You should write for Natural Strength! I always need good articles about drug-free weight training. It only has to be at least a page and nothing fancy. Just write it strong and truthful with passion! Send your articles directly to me:

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