By: Anthony Campo
In the training world there is much time spent on exercise selection. Many coaches and athletes will talk and write about what exercises are great for building strength. I am here to tell you that when choosing an exercise, one of the most important things is to know why you are training that exercise. For example anybody who knows anything about training knows that the squat is a great exercise to build strength. The fact that the barbell squat can be trained and loaded at a high intensity, is a compound movement, and requires a large amount of muscular coordination and technique makes it a great choice to to train for maximal force output. It can be trained for maximal effort, dynamic effort, or rep effort to cause an adaption of the body that will directly build strength in the long run. This also means that the squat is a great measuring stick, and why it a staple lift in lifting competitions.
Now take for instance an exercise such as a good morning. This is an exercise that will help you train for symmetry and reduce injury. Many coaches argue whether or not the good morning directly helps you build strength, or whether it transfers over to competitive lifts or sports. I say that is the wrong argument to have. An exercise such as the good morning is an exercise that can help you indirectly build strength. If you are training the good morning, the purpose is not to build maximal strength through that exercise. Rather, the purpose is to bring up the posterior chain in an individual where this may be there weak point. So for example let’s take a quad dominant squatter. Let’s even say this individual is a top level competitor. I would highly doubt that in the short term the good morning would increase this individual’s maximal squat. Because of this the coach or athlete might think that the good morning is a poor exercise choice for them because they do not get any direct carry over. However, the more this individual builds this quad-dominant imbalance the more they become at risk for injury. If this individual tears an It Band, or starts suffering from chronic knee pain this can really inhibit their success.
So let’s take this same individual and have them incorporate a posterior chain specific exercise such as the good morning into their training. They might not see any direct carry-over to their squat, but the exercise will work to maintain symmetry and lower the risk of injury. This individual now can train harder and more consistent which means more progress over the long run.
Another example of this concept for the upper body is the overhead press. Many powerlifting competitors argue that they do not get any carry-over from the overhead press to their bench press. For this reason they choose not to train the exercise. While it is true that you might not get any direct carry-over from the overhead press to the bench press, the overhead press is a great exercise for building all around symmetry in the shoulder joint. Many powerlifters that train specifically for the bench press, and ignore the overhead press, build imbalances in their anterior shoulder to their posterior shoulder. They also often lose some scapular mobility and stability. Now these imbalances might initially actually help the powerlifters bio-mechanics for the bench press specifically. However these are the same individuals that end up having to retire because of beat up shoulders, pec and rotator cuff tears. If these same individuals implemented some overhead pressing exercises into their training even though there might not of been any direct carry-over to their bench, they could have built the symmetry needed to keep them healthy, injury free, and have much longer careers.