I am not the onlyÂ memberÂ of the revolution, thus for the spread of ideas toÂ continueÂ we must have others contribute! This article is by Scott Carter, Revolution Community member, and is an in-depth guest post on how to get stronger without the big movements.Â
Want to get strong, but donâ€™t like moving big weights? Maybe you want to get strong and lift bigÂ weights, but youâ€™re not comfortable doing compound movements that are found in most strengthÂ programs (squat, deadlift, press). Lucky for you, I know a few tricks that can turn normal body weightÂ movements into the core lifts of your strength training program.
Many popular strength and conditioning programs revolve around the squat. Unfortunately the squatÂ is a complex lift. The squat can be intimidating for beginners and difficult to master for intermediateÂ lifters. Not to mention the fact that traditional back squats can be troublesome for anyone with pastÂ back and/or shoulder injuries. The list goes on and on when it comes to difficulties involving the squat.
Enter the rear foot elevated split squat. Normally this lift is prescribed as an assistance lift in a strengthÂ program. Typically lifters will perform sets anywhere from 5-15 reps. If a lifter has never done this formÂ of split squat before, then often times their body weight alone is enough resistance to complete theÂ number of required reps in the set. However, I believe for someone who is looking for a safe and lessÂ complex way to break into the squat game, the rear foot elevated split squat can be used as a core lift inÂ their strength program. Watch the video below for an example of how to do the rear foot elevated splitÂ squat.
Now letâ€™s look at the rear foot elevated split squat with added range of motion. By adding additionalÂ range of motion to the split squat a lifter can make the exercise more challenging. Paired with additionalÂ external load from holding dumbbells by your side and you have yourself a core lift for any strengthÂ program.
Instead of loading tons of weight onto your back, a lifter can hold moderately light dumbbells and useÂ their own body weight to make the exercise difficult. Holding 20 lbs. dumbbells in your hands soundsÂ much more appealing to a beginner than putting hundreds of pounds of weight on your back. Next timeÂ youâ€™re looking to train legs, give these variations a try.
When asked what lift trainers would choose if they could only do one lift for the rest of their lives andÂ most would respond with the deadlift. Personally I would have to agree. There are many ways to spinÂ the deadlift so that it emphasizes different parts of the body. From deficit deadlifts to heavy rack pullsÂ and even trap bar deads, theyâ€™re all deadly, and they all have a massive training effect. However, ifÂ youâ€™re like I was when I first started training, then reading those last few sentences made you a littleÂ uneasy.
See, when I first started lifting I didnâ€™t like the idea of lifting below 5 reps. Going heavy wasÂ uncomfortable at first. So seeing â€œdeadlift 3×5â€ written in my program made me squirm. Rightfully so,Â I had very weak hamstrings and glutes. Loading up the barbell and picking it up off the ground madeÂ my spine feel like it was going to shoot through my lower back. So, while you muster up the courage toÂ start deadlifting (and work on hip and thoracic spine mobility), you can try these lifts as your main hipÂ dominant exercises.
Say hello to the hip thrust. A couple things I love about the hip thrust are; they donâ€™t require anyÂ external load to be difficult, itâ€™s easy to learn, and itâ€™s simple to increase the difficulty of the exerciseÂ without adding external load. The trainer who popularized the hip thrust is Bret Contrerasm and he hasÂ a very good instructional video on the hip thrust. Watch below.
Now, for trainees who find the hip thrust too easy with just body weight, but do not want to dive rightÂ into loaded thrusts, I have a solution for you. Actually two solutions. Option one; you can do the liftÂ using your body weight and only one leg. I like this option because it trains each leg individually. OptionÂ two; you can increase the range of motion of the lift by elevating your feet. This way the glutes have toÂ go through a greater range of motion in the bottom phase of the lift.
Instead of jumping right into the deadlift, give the hip thrust a try. Try one, two, or all three ways Iâ€™veÂ laid out in order to strengthen your posterior chain and be ready for the deadlift.
Ahh, the mythical bench press. I remember weight lifting for football in high school and the ONLY liftÂ that we cared about was the bench press. Actually, this attitude carried on well into my college days. IÂ remember my first workouts after I graduated from high school. They literally consisted of two stylesÂ of bench pressing, one ab workout, and then pick-up basketball games. Talk about a balanced workoutÂ (note the sarcasm). Anyways back to the point, I think the bench press can be an excellent chest andÂ tricep lift. However, I donâ€™t believe itâ€™s right for everyone and more importantly I donâ€™t think beginningÂ lifters, with very little strength, deserve to be under the bar.
The push-up. I know what youâ€™re thinking â€œwhat is this high school PE?â€ Let me assure you, if performedÂ correctly, many people reading this may not be able to complete a set of 10. Watch the video below andÂ take note of the following things that make this push-up technically correct.
- Core is tight.
- Spine is in a straight line. Notice how the hips arenâ€™t sagging, the upper back isnâ€™t rounded, andÂ the head is down.
- The scapula is retracted once the push-up begins, in other words the shoulder blades are backÂ and down.
- The first thing to touch the ground is the chest.
- In the bottom position the spine remains aligned.
- The â€œpushâ€ is an explosive move from the ground.
- Finally, the rep isnâ€™t finished till the push-up is fully locked out.
- No stopping Â¾ of the way up.
Now that weâ€™ve established how to do a correct push-up, assuming you can perform multiple sets ofÂ multiple reps; letâ€™s move onto making these more difficult. Personally, I like using push-up handles. OnÂ top of adding range of motion to the lift, I like the added benefit of the neutral grip position. I think theyÂ feel much better for anyone who has shoulder issues. Finally, and my favorite, are feet elevated push-ups while using push-up handles. This version incorporates all the bells and whistles. Added range ofÂ motion from the push-up handles and added resistance from elevating your feet onto a bench. WatchÂ he video below of some well executed feet elevated push-ups with done with handles.
Add those into your strength program rather than bench pressing and you wonâ€™t be sorry.
Originally I included barbell rows as part of this article, but barbell rows are not really part of the â€˜Big 3â€.Â Also, there are many rowing alternatives that are similar to the barbell row. However, for those of usÂ who sometimes have low back issues or prefer body weight movements, I give you the inverted row.
The inverted row can be done with suspension straps, on a smith machine, or even with a bar placed inÂ a power rack. I like using the inverted row as an accessory lift and I love using versions of the invertedÂ row on off days to get a little extra work done.
If youâ€™re strong in the inverted row, but still want to make this into a core lift for your strength programÂ there are many ways to make the movement more difficult. Such as elevating your feet, adding weightÂ to your torso, using thick grips, or doing one arm rows. Watch the video below to see just how advancedÂ of a movement inverted rows can be.
While I approve each one of the exercises I just listed, I do believe some version of the big three can,Â and will, be beneficial in your strength and conditioning program. The lifts listed previously are great forÂ beginners, especially for building strength and prepping the body for the big compound movements.Â However, once youâ€™re ready, the big three compound movements have incredible potential for lifters ofÂ all ages and experience levels. Itâ€™s up to you to determine when itâ€™s appropriate to insert them into yourÂ program.
About Scott CarterÂ
Got a question for Scott? You can find him in the forumsÂ @scarter2 (you can @mention people in the forums).Â
Born and raised in a small town in California. Scott graduated with his bachelorsÂ and quickly became a staff engineer at a structural engineering firm. Along withÂ working full time, Scott loves spending his time with his family, friends, andÂ pursuing Jesus Christ.
As a varsity high school quarterback and shortstop, Scott always had a passionÂ for not only sports, but also staying physically active. As his days of organizedÂ sports ended, so began his favorite hobby of researching and implementing allÂ things related to strength and condition. In particular Scott took a special interestÂ in training for strength and improving his mobility and quality of movement. As heÂ approaches his wedding date, April 20th 2012, Scott awaits the quickly approachingÂ next chapter of his life. (Stay tuned for Scottâ€™s construction of a garage gym inside aÂ small apartment bedroom)