November 12, 2020
Why The Squat, Deadlift and Bench Press Are Not Always The Answer
It is said that necessity breeds ingenuity.
If you are anything like me, COVID has pulled every ounce of ingenuity out of you.
If you are anything like me…you didn’t have a power rack, or a bench or even heavy weights at all, so you did what you could, with what you had. For me it wasn’t much…one mildly heavy dumbbell, some bands and a pullup bar.
So how did I manage to become stronger (I can squat, pull and press more than i’ve ever been able to), more resilient(less aches and pains) and more muscular than before?
Mind you, I have not touched a barbell for over six months.
I attribute my progress to a few factors;
One of the major ones, is that I had to depart from the traditional lifts, out of necessity. Rather than using squats to develop my legs, I opted to use reverse lunges, this allowed me to keep the weight relatively light while keeping the intensity high(trust me, taking away one foot from your base of support makes everything harder).
I also played with the tempo; For example, instead of going for 10 traditional reps, I slowed each rep down to between 5 and 30 seconds on the descent and incorporated pauses at the “sticking point”(the point where you switch from descent to ascent). I got the idea from John Rusin, he is a big proponent of the reverse lunge and I can now see why.
Rather than racking the weight on the squat(especially when just starting to workout), the reverse lunge challenges you in different but equally beneficial ways.it also gives you an opportunity to discover any strength deficiencies between the right and left limbs. So I urge you, the next time you visit the gym, try the reverse lunge.
But it doesn’t end with legs. I also saw some major upper body gains. To my surprise, after a very hiatus, I was able to press as heavy as ever. So what did I do, that made my bench numbers go up? Would you believe me if I told you that all I did was push ups?!? Well, believe it!
That’s right for the last six months, my pressing routine has consisted of a lot of pushups. But the key was how I did those pushups; like the reverse lunge, I played with the tempo. I slowed down my movement and upped the intensity of each rep. The progress has been tremendous and has shocked me…
It is also important to mention that i’ve paid a lot of attention to developing my back muscles, a fact that, I believe, has also tremendously helped my bench numbers.
Last, but not least…I’ve incorporated various hinge movements, to replace the heavy deadlift. These included; kneeling hip hinges, band pull thrus, floor hamstring curls and isometric holds. I’ve yet to attempt a deadlift with the bar since returning to the gym(always had issues with the lift), but my hamstrings are most definitely more developed.
My point with sharing my experience, is that you don’t have to be limited to the traditional lifts. There is no rule that says the squat is better than the lunge or that bench press is better than the pushup, it very much depends on you and your own body. As long as you incorporate the fundamental movements(squat, push, pull, hinge) in some way into your workouts, then you should be fine.
Remember, we are not all built the same. Some will have a harder time with the deadlift, while others have a harder time doing pushups. It is important to find exercises that benefit you both in and outside the gym, rather than ones that tear you down.
If you’d like to hear more about my progress, and implement what I’ve learned throughout the years,