It’s the middle of the summer and life is great. I’m coaching a lot of people and getting better all the time. I’m thinking of some really cool ideas to write about and slowly (but surely) getting these ideas out of my head. My progress in the full olympic lifts is coming along pretty well, and my aesthetics continue improve without any concentrated effort.
For the general gym-goer looking to maintain a decent physique while pushing some decent weights around, this stuff really isn’t all that complicated. What you’ll usually come to find, however, is that the industry as a whole is really good at making things really complicated. As a result, the general population is essentially overloaded with conflicting ideas of what works and what doesn’t.
All this information certainly isn’t a bad thing, but for those who are just starting their journey to increased health and fitness it can be a major issue. The last thing I want as a fitness professional is more absolute, black and white thinking about exercise selection and contrasting training styles. The more we send messages like “leg extensions suck therefore everyone should do full barbell back squats” the deeper of a whole we dig for ourselves. Statements like these are certainly desirable under the right context, but unfortunately that context isn’t appropriate for everybody who wants to start lifting.
For what it’s worth, a very small number of our clients at ASAP Fitness perform leg extensions, mainly as a warm-up for the knees and quads with lighter loads and higher reps. On the other hand, a very small number of our clients perform deep barbell back squats, mainly for athletic purposes or a general ability to perform the exercise well. Almost ALL of our clients fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, mainly performing anterior loaded squat variations with moderate loads for moderate reps.
Back squatting is my favorite exercise. In a perfect world I’d be able to teach people how to perform deep ass barbell squats in one session and they’d be able to do it well and never get injured. Whether it’s due to anatomical restrictions, injury history, time constraints, whatever – it’s just not happening. A much more sensible and safe approach is to attempt to fit exercises to people rather than trying to fit people to any particular exercises. This is why we have variations and modifications on top of those variations, because they help us to effectively train a squat pattern in the most appropriate way for us.
But we cannot forget about context, as it applies to everything we choose to do in the gym. If you were to start training at a very “weightlifting friendly” facility with tons of platforms and bumper plates and squat stands, you should understand that you’re going to be back squatting frequently. This type of environment probably isn’t the most appropriate setting for a 55 year old business owner who only has two hours a week to train and a long history of lower body injuries. On the other hand a college student who plays pick up sports and carries a solid frame might thrive in this type of environment.
Dan John has said it time and time again: “Everything works.” Because it does. Every style of training has an effect. Every exercise may have value under the right circumstances. What’s “good” for you may ultimately be “bad” for someone else.
Nobody knows you better than you. But you’d be lying if you said you know everything about yourself. And this is why you must experiment. The more you train, the more you’ll understand what you like and what feels good. When you find things that you like and that feel good to your body, you’ll probably tend to do them with greater consistency. The more consistently you train these things, the more efficient you’ll become at doing them. If you can sustain these behaviors for an extended period of time, you will progress.
Nobody really cares what it is. But you should. You should care enough that you’re willing to put forth maximal effort to improve at it. I like powerlifting and weightlifting. Other people like triathlons. Some like martial arts. Others just like to lift, it doesn’t matter. Find some physically challenging activities that you sincerely enjoy and you’re off to a great start.
Of course there will be resources like myself along the way to assist you, but this is your time to shine. Don’t let anyone stand in your way. And when all else fails, just keep training.