The beautiful thing about training, whether for sport or general wellness, is that it a personal improvement strategy. Key word: personal. Whether it’s for stress relief, aesthetic goals or performance improvement, strength training is something that adds value to your life in many ways that are unique to you.
Everyone has a different goal. Each goal comes with a different journey to get there. Fitness is not, and never has been, a one-size-fits-all activity.
With that being said, so many people still try to cram other people’s thoughts, programs and theories into their own lifestyle even when it makes no sense.
There are very few rules of training written in stone. Other than “Show up and give it your all,” nearly everything else is open for discussion.
There are still these unwritten rules of the gym that people adhere to blindly, not knowing that these ‘rules’ simply do not exist. These have somehow stuck around forever, leaving more people injured and discouraged than jacked and confident. (I really wanted to say jacked and tan there, but my jokes aren’t for everyone :/)
You must barbell deadlift from the floor.
The only person who absolutely has to Barbell Deadlift from the floor is someone in a sanctioned lifting competition that requires that lift. Everyone else… nope.
How you load a hip hinge can, and should, vary. There are endless variations, progressions and regressions to choose from. Here are three of the many options, displayed by a few of my awesome non-athlete clients: a Trap Bar Deadlift from blocks, a conventional Barbell Deadlift from block and a barbell RDL with a wider foot stance.
And, yes, I emphasize that they are not athletes to drive home the point that everyone should find a way to perform this movement pattern, but in their own way that suits their needs. You’re training a hip hinge not the actual deadlift.
@bri_hughesy demolishing some 4×6 deadlifts today! Today's Pull emphasis session was deads, rows, more rows, more rows, RDLs, carries…. and more rows. #fitness #strength #training #deadlift #row #pull #farmerswalks #back #hamstrings #glutes #womenwholift #strongwomen #motivation #mondayloses #brianawins
@tanyamfoster really getting those RDLs dialed in! She's progressed from body weight to KBs to DBs to Trap Bar and now mastering the Barbell variation! Runs 3 businesses in 2 different states and works with me 4 days a week. But people think they don't "have time" to work out? Pshhhhh. #noexcuses #priorities #commitment #sacrifice #maketime #lifestyle #fit #fitness #training #strength #athlete #motivation #womenwholift #rdl #barbelles #glutes #hamstrings @kisskissbangbangsalon
My favorite progression (of course, this varies for each individual) is using the following:
- DB Deadlift, using one single DB elevated 3-6 inches
- 2DB RDL
- Barbell RDL, using snatch grip to encourage finding true ROM
- Trap Bar Deadlift, using 3-6 inches of elevation if needed
- Barbell Deadlift, using 3-6 inches of elevation if needed
Sometimes that progression takes 3 sessions. Sometimes it takes 3 years. Sometimes you find that a progression stops before you get to the end due to your goals or body type. But when you can master all of those elements in that order, you’ve truly shown control and strength required to take on the highest level of exercise variations.
There is such an obsession with deadlifting huge numbers that it makes people oversee the fact that the loaded hip hinge can be one of the most detrimental movements to your health when performed sloppily. I’m not telling you not to deadlift, I’m telling you to deadlift in a way that gives you the greatest training adaptation – not what gets you the biggest ego boost.
You must barbell back squat with below parallel depth.
Again… the only people that need to barbell back squat to a certain depth are those being judged in a competition. Other than that… nope.
Squat depth, stance, variation, frequency, intensity, etc. are all up for discussion. Of course, it would be awesome if you had no exercise limitations, but we all know that is simply not the case for a large portion of people who train.
Everyone has elements of their life that lead into choosing a squat variation. Injuries, occupation, recovery, sport, goal, etc., again, are all to be considered when it comes to how to load up a squat.
My go-to squat progression goes as follows:
- DB Goblet Squat
- 2KB Front Squat
- Split Squat
- Front Squat
- Back Squat
Oh, and if you ever need help with your squat variations… I’ve got you covered. Below are 101 of them.
While most people can progress through those pretty quickly, the depth may vary for each progression. Or sometime the velocity of the bar path. Or the rest period. Everything is personalized to fine details that give each exercise variation another layer of variations within.
Going into the gym day 1 and putting heavy weight on your spine without earning the right to do so Is a recipe for disaster. Figure out the best plan for you and attack it with intent.
You must train 5+ days a week to make gains.
“Hey bro, I got this new program! Monday is chest, Tuesday is legs, Wednesday is back & biceps, Thursday is shoulders & triceps and Friday is cardio and core!”
You don’t have to train every day to make gains. And you damn sure you don’t have to train body part splits.
Does that work for Phil Heath? Yes. Are you Phil Heath? Okay, yeah… thought so. Sit down.
I believe that actually 3-4 training sessions per week is the most optimal split in most cases. This gives you a chance to go savage mode when you train. Then recover nicely, which is what matters most. Then go back to savage most.
And in those sessions, you’re crushing loaded foundational movements like pushes, pulls, hinges, squats and carries.
Just because you got some free program from bodybuilding.com doesn’t mean that program is right for you. No assessment? Nobody watching your movements? Yeah, good luck.
But for real, I feel like I’m starting to sound grumpy. Maybe it’s because I’m hungry. That’s not my intent. Simply trying to bust myths that people religiously live by in the weight room and let you know that it’s okay to take the path less traveled.
Actually, you should take the path never traveled. It’s your path. You should be the only one on it.
You must stick exactly to your program to get results.
Speaking of paths and programming. You have one? That’s awesome. Is it the Holy Bible? Nah.
You can autoregulate. You should autoregulate. Autoregulation are those micro-changes you make, on the fly, to your training on a daily basis. And it’s totally okay.
Some factors that may cause you to autoregulate include:
- Sleep the night before
- Equipment Availability
- Workload (actual work/school)
The list goes on and on. Here’s a short clip of one of my mentors, Brian Clare, speaking on this topic and how he handles it with his roster of 700+ athletes.
What you squat on “max out” day with the music blaring and your teammates circled around the platform is going to be significantly higher that what you squat in an empty gym with me and Outkast Pandora radio playing at 5AM.
What you deadlift the day you get dumped by your girlfriend may not be up to par with your usual numbers. It’s life. And life happens. A lot.
Making small tweaks to your training is going to keep you healthy, safe and strong on your journey so don’t feel like whatever is written on your program is the only option you have!
You must stretch to improve your flexibility.
Flexibility – One of those mysterious fitness terms that gets tossed around a lot. Mobility would be parallel terminology.
Your hamstrings are always “tight” so you should stretch the hell out of them daily, right? Maybe. Probably not, though.
Everything in the body is connected in some way or another. There is always a root cause for the symptom you feel, and it is usually not that obvious.
So maybe your hamstrings are tight because they are being stretched and permanently weakened by an anterior tilt of the pelvis. In that case, stretching them actually wouldn’t help but may even make the symptoms worse. Fix the root cause, not the symptom.
There are tons of similar cases, too. Flexibility is overrated. You need functional mobility. You need enough range of motion for you to own a movement pain-free. I mean, to be honest, my extreme flexibility is one major reason why I’ve had some of the injuries I’ve had.
Pain, stiffness or other symptoms in the body are often just an indication that something isn’t quite right. Usually you can find the root cause and correct the issues without taking to drastic measures.
Stretching is still awesome and very important. It can be super impactful to your function. But make sure you’re stretching for the right reasons, and stretching the right areas.
Remember, I am not saying that any of these 5 things are “bad.” I telling you that none of these have to be a constant in your training. I think it’s really important to empower people to make decisions based on their own body, beliefs and needs. That’s how you really get in tune with your body and make long—lasting changes. Following trends and theories based on simply popularity and convenience isn’t the way to your goals.