Always evaluate your exercise selection

4 min read.

I’m busy recently, like very very busy. I don’t have as much free time as I would like to and so my plan is to automate as many things as possible, so I can stay the same amount of busy – or even more busy – but still have my free time! Because let’s be honest here, I like a good scratch! (HA! That’s actually hilarious due to my skin condition! If you don’t get it… I have a skin condition…. that makes me very itchy)

Is that laziness? Or is it wanting to get everything done with smarter processes to have the potential to get more done? Bit of both! Training in my opinion, should be viewed in the exact same way. I don’t mean the usual “Need to shake things up“, “Keep the body guessing” “Do what you’ve always done and be what you’ve always been” kind of shit, I mean:

“Are the structures and methods you have in place still doing what they are supposed to be doing?”

For instance, when I am working with someone that is looking to make significant changes to how their body naturally moves, there are certain exercises that they will need at a certain point. Over time with proper devotion to the exercise and “mastery”, for want of a better word, the adaptation from that exercise becomes less and less, therefore the exercise is rendered less useful and more of a maintenance tool. Using a squat as an example, if someone cannot squat at all and we run through a program of lunge variations and end range mobility drills, when they have attained the squat (which they will) then the squat itself becomes the “pattern” that needs to be trained and the progressions are now less useful. This is not to say to do them, but more time should be spent with the new skill over something you have already worked hard with. Your focus needs to change as you have level up, your training and exercise selection needs to change with every improvement and skill aquired.

Constant reassessment of goals, and how you react to certain movements is a valuable thing to do. Imagine if you were intensely stretching your hip flexors every day and stopped for a month and felt no different? What does that tell you? Were they ever really tight? Or was the intense stretching combined with moving well actually a rewrite for your body, so they don’t get tight any more because you actually move better? Should you stop stretching them altogether? Probably not, but unnecessarily stretching something half to death every session can have repercussions also… you’re not always “fixing” something, sometimes over stretching can cause you more issues.

The simpler you can keep your training the less chance you have of becoming overwhelmed. This is especially common in CrossFit and callisthenics, you have to be so good at so many different things that your overall training can turn to shit because you just don’t give enough attention to one thing to get adequate gains from it. Yes there are benefits to being well rounded but the gains be slower, and this is where your exercise selection comes in!

For example, if I want to increase my strict press one rep max and also get better at freestanding handstand push ups, would it be more productive for me to train with the barbell more often or the handstand?

That’s right! Both!

Don’t worry if you answered just handstand, I would have said the same a few months back, and still would depending on the person. Having more time spent on developing the handstand push up will certainly carry over to the strict press BUT your familiarity with the barbell will decrease so your nervous system will turn down your power output. So, your training may look something like: practice your freestanding handstand push ups until you burn out and not able to do any more, that’s when you go to the wall to take the balance element out, then when your head is turning purple you go to the barbell and start working your strict press. If it’s a one rep max you’re training for, then you can’t be doing 5 or 10 reps up and down, you need to do your sets with dead stops in order to train your set brace position for every rep.

If your goal is to get better at two movements then although the handstand is your higher skill movement, the barbell technique isn’t any less important. However, if you don’t care about strict presses then the strict press becomes nothing more than an assistance exercise for your handstand push up.

Generally, all exercises are fantastic, there are no “best” exercises – questioning your reasoning for using them is where the magic happens. Always wonder what something will do for you long term, that way you can stay motivated to do it consistently for a long period of time… like drinking, if you stop you’ll get a hangover, so it’s best to just keep going… don’t actually do that….. and if you do, I’ll see you in Vegas.

Most importantly… if you can’t figure out what you want to do, or don’t feel like you know enough to choose, just do anything! Learn by doing! It still works. Here is an example of progression based training, the great thing about training this way is that you can always feel like you are working towards something!