Thursday, June 20, 2019

My Undeniable Truths of Weight Training for Beginners - Part 3 - Balance your training routine - By RJ Hicks BS CSCS

A common theme I come across when discussing training with individuals is the lack of balance in exercise selection in their routines. Many people believe they are training all their muscles, when they only truly train half or focus on training the primary muscles used in a given activity and ignore the rest. If you want to get as strong and muscular as possible, take up a balanced approach.

It is easy to get in trouble with unbalanced routines when your philosophy of training is based on a certain group of exercises. The first example that comes to mind are people attempting to mimic strength athletes, competing in powerlifting. Many people believe the squat, bench and deadlift are the only three lifts you need for total strength and muscular development. The squat, bench and deadlift are great exercises, but by only training those three lifts you leave out many of the equally important muscles. 

The bench press trains the front deltoids chest and triceps but does not train the muscles the overhead press trains to the same extent. Just as the deadlift fails to train your upper back to the same quality as the bent over row or chin up. The bench press and deadlift do not truly train all your muscles of the upper body, maximally. You miss out on a lot of upper body strength and size potential; creating an imbalance in the shoulder joint. This imbalance between the pushing and pulling muscles can invite shoulder problems down the road. That is why these exercises are meant to complement each other. 

Some coaches de-emphasize total body training to solely emphasis exercises that resemble movements performed in an athletic setting. You would never want to work only the primary muscles in a given activity. The muscles surrounding a joint must be strengthen on all sides regardless of your event, to prevent one side of the joint from over powering the other. The antagonist (opposing) muscle groups must be just as strong as the agonist (primary) muscle groups. A balanced joint is a stronger joint. This should be the goal of every athlete in any sport. To do this you must work the front and back of both the upper body and the legs.

I prefer a strength training philosophy grounded in training with balanced routines over a philosophy paved by certain lifts or modalities. I break the body down into planes of motions rather than muscle groups. This allows me to avoid being pigeonholed into one exercise or training tool over another, while keeping a balanced approach. The philosophy is simple; a bench is a horizontal push, a military press is a vertical push, a row is a horizontal pull, a chin-up is a vertical pull and the squat, deadlift and leg press cover the push and pull for the legs. Now it doesn’t matter if barbells, dumbbells, machines or body weight with added resistance are used. 

The foundation of a routine would consist of a horizontal push, a horizontal pull, a vertical push, a vertical pull, then rotating one major push or pull movement for the lower body.  That way one workout the squat or leg press is trained, and the deadlift is trained the next. There is equal emphasis on pushing and pulling for both the upper body and lower body, and therefore greater stability in the joints. 

You can choose to cover the basic planes each workout or spread across the week, based on individual preferences, recovery or time. One workout you can train the (bench) horizontal push, (pulldown/chin up) vertical pull and (squat/leg press) lower body push, while on the next workout you train the (overhead press) vertical push, (row) horizontal pull and (trap bar or conventional deadlift/stiff leg deadlift) lower body pull. Splitting the work up over a 7-10 day can allow you to better focus on each lift or might just be the extra recovery needed in each movement to keep progressing.

The more equipment you have the more planes of motion you can add for variety sake. Every workout does not have to be based around a flat press and a horizontal row. Incline presses and high rows, dips and upright rows, decline benches and low rows are many great combinations that share a similar plane of motion and follow the simple push/pull philosophy. Find the exercises you enjoy the most and balance out the upper and lower body training.

There is no one size fits all for productive training. Strength in any one exercise can be obtained through consistent and progressive effort, yet true strength can only be developed through complete muscular balance in all parts of the body. Adopt a balance training routine philosophy and get balanced!

Editor's note: Great Article R.J.
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