Bodybuilding could quite possibly be considered the most difficult sport to excel in by virtue of the ever-changing variables that consistently keep us on our toes. Just when you think you have everything figured out, your body changes its chemistry and adapts to the training and nutritional stimulus you are providing it with, and then all progress comes to a halt.
What you are left with at that point is your knowledge, your experience, and your expertise as it pertains to your own body and a whole lot of figuring out to do.
Should your diet change, should your supplementation change or is it something with your training that isn’t allowing for progress to occur? In some cases, you have self-sabotaged yourself by choosing exercises that really don’t match up with your natural strengths. In essence, you set yourself up for less than stellar results despite how hard you actually train.
So, what am I talking about here? Well, let’s take a closer look.
There are very few people training in the gyms that don’t want to possess a big bench press, a huge squat, and an impressive deadlift. Those big three lifts sort of form the foundation for alpha dominance in the gym.
However, to be fair, some of us have an advantage over others in this respect simply because of how we’re all uniquely designed. Those of us with short (shorter) limbs have less distance to travel through these movements, therefore, giving us a distinct advantage over those with longer limbs who will have to move the weights through a greater distance. Now, that’s not to say that those with longer limbs won’t be able to get strong, build muscle and move around impressive poundages by using these exercises, I’m just saying from a biomechanical standpoint, the less distance you have to move a weight the better.
The other concern is injury. When you watch someone who is over six feet tall pull a deadlift from the floor versus someone who is around my height of 5 foot 8, there’s a big difference and a lot more movement involved for the taller person. That potentially could create more wear and tear on the body from having to use the muscles for a longer duration during just one rep. These types of exercises may not exactly line up and match what your natural levers are meant to do.
When you have someone who understands human kinetics watch the plane of movement through which you work, any improper alignment or poor form can easily be spotted and identified. In many cases, the reason behind bad form (especially for an experienced trainer) is a lack of joint flexibility.
For instance, one of the best pressing movements for shoulders is the barbell military press done behind the head. Unfortunately, as we grow, many of us lose that shoulder joint flexibility and the ability to perform that exercise. So rather than forcing it, we press to the front.
Squatting is another great example in that lots of people have poor hip flexibility and getting low enough in the squat to stimulate growth the way this exercise is intended to do so, doesn’t occur and knee problems become an issue. You’ll see this in the leg press too when the lower back tilts up when the weight is coming down.
The point being made here is just because a certain exercise is supposed to elicit a certain response, doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you. Your flexibility issues could be preventing you from using these movements correctly and instead contribute to an unwanted injury and you certainly don’t want that.
Go by Feel
Finally, your muscles are unique to you and where they originate and insert on your skeleton is also unique. You will find that the exercises that you think will provide a good training response for you just don’t feel right. You can’t really connect with the muscle, you’re not very strong in the movement, the pumps just aren’t there and you can’t feel things working the way you think they should. When this happens, again, don’t force it. The exercise just isn’t right for you so don’t waste your time on it anymore.
There are countless pieces of equipment in the gym I currently train at that I haven’t given a second look because they did nothing for me when I tried them and that’s fine. The goal each time you train is to lock in with the target muscle you’re attacking for that day, feel everything you do, feel strong in all of your movements and connect with the muscle so you can feel the work being performed. If you can’t do this, move on and find an exercise that matches up better for you.
The goal of each workout needs to be complete satisfaction when the session is done. You don’t want to be sipping on your VP2 Whey Isolate shake in the locker room while doubting the effort you put in for the day. You want to know that what you did will produce results. The only way to ensure this is to match up your movements with your natural strengths. It’s the best course of action to take, the most efficient way to grow, and the safest way of going about it.