Friday, December 10, 2010

What exercises could we NOT live without?

Okay, 3,000 miles of driving, one hyper-extended thumb, and too many days of not making any money have come to an end and I can do some blogging...

If strength were an element, I'd think it would be safe to say that it would have to be carbon. I've said it in previous posts: strength is such a raw product, capable of being molded into so many different ways. Well, look at how many different variations that carbon can take on...

The allotropes (look it up... it might be a nice break from porn) of carbon are positively dizzying. It can form the hardest and softest materials. It can abrade as well as lubricate. Its found in solids, liquids and gasses alike. It's just like human strength. Think about the number of very different athletes that, for a brief period of time, have been considered the strongest people alive, for one reason or another, or that I can remember in my lifetime...

Isn't it kind of amusing to read or listen to people insisting that there are things (ie: certain exercises) that must be done to be the strongest? If strength can be refined in so many different directions, how can one set of exercises possibly satisfy so many differing takes on strength?

Or, are there really exercises that we all should be doing, regardless of what we're training for? Are there really exercises that have that much of a universal training effect of making you strong for, well, pretty much everything? In other words, I'm asking a variation of the old, "if you could only do ___ exercises, what would they be?"

First of all, I'd have to point out that most exercise species as we know them have so many variations that they've become their own genus. So, what we may be really asking is which physical culture taxonomic rank is the most valuable to all of our needs.

We'd have to take into consideration is how unique of a training benefit that it provides. Many joints are capable of quite a few action. So, trying to pin down one or two exercises that are so unique and universal in their benefits doesn't seem doable to me. The Pec-Major jumps to mind. There are a myriad of ways to stimulate this piece of meat and saying that only one exercise is too important to not do since it can move (and therefore be trained) in so many ways.

Contrast this to the legs. The movements of the legs are far more limited. So, are the number of exercises that they can do. Therefore, if I had to name my first genus of exercise that pretty much every strength training couldn't live without, I'd have to go with the squat.

Paul Anderson thought so and I see no reason to argue with someone coronated by many as the strongest man in recorded history. There are a lot of variations on this one, weighted and unweighted alike. Whichever you choose to kill the goals you aim at is your business. Taken as a whole, I don't think that there is a good enough substitute for the ol' fashioned "knee bend."

The second exercise not to be lived without has got to be the pull-up/chin-up. What do you have for pulling muscles in your upper body? What do you use for upper body climbing work? It doesn't really matter. The pull-up works it. Really. Hard. Really! Fucking! Good! Plus, it does it all in one movement.
Even the most basic pull-up and chin-up variations can be practiced by the majority of strength trainers for a long time before they get to the point that they need to search out harder variations. To top it off, a lot of them don't even require extra weight to increase the difficulty.
If memory serves me correctly, I think that my friend Ed Pierini threw up a routine on his now-retired blog about a routine consisting of just squat and pull-up work. I didn't follow it to the letter but I took the idea of the pull-up/squat combo to heart and I've used it several times in the past year. It's a fitting way to train with what I'd consider the two most valuable exercises that can be done.

What do you think? What are the exercises we couldn't live without?


FirePR2002 said...

I agree with you on the pull-up, however I think I would replace the squat with the lunge instead. Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Hey Justin,

Arthur Jones suggested the three best exercises are chins, dips and squats in some of his early publications and autobiography. Except for a few $$ in building materials for your home these can be done anywhere and hit nearly every muscle group.

Ellington Darden, of Bowflex and Nautilus fame, worked for Jones and wrote in one of his more recent publications properly performed pushups can be an incredibly productive exercise like dips.

Even in the military, it was chins, pushups or dips, BW squats and ab work of some kind.

The only thing I'd add would be some kind of deadlifts with a barbell, KB, etc. , if, for no other reason, to keep the core/legs/posterior chain trained to lift things from furniture to logs or whatever. Simply one part of life we can't avoid.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Justin --

Good to see more posts up, hope work & life are treating you right.

Thanks for ref'ing the Pierini Fitness blog! Lot of wisdom in there - both for fitness, and just taking care of yourself (in a more general way).