I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Variety is the spice of life.” I’d certainly agree, and I think that we need to try a variety of things to experience more of what life has to offer. A wide range of experiences are usually preferable to the same stimulus time and time again. This applies to everything from the music that you listen to, the books that you read, the intensity of the exercise you engage in, and the types of food that you eat. Variety is good, but there are always basics, right?
Even in the best stocked spice rack, good chefs have some ‘go to’ tools that can be counted on for a potent improvement on almost any ingredient. They may not work all the time, but they’re called basics for a reason. Occasionally, we get carried away with the exotic ingredients and we forget about the importance of Salt-n-Pepa.
After messing around with plenty of unilateral and bilateral lower body exercises in the past few weeks, I headed to the gym on Wednesday wanting a good ol’ kick in the pants. I included a variety of movements in my warm-up, and I dabbled with some abdominal exercises in between sets, but in terms of ‘training’, I only used three exercises.
Squat, Deadlift, Sprint
Three exercises that have worked for decades to help athletes get bigger, faster, and stronger. For certain athletes, in certain sports, they may not be necessary, but I’d strongly recommend against your assumption that you’re the exception. Applied correctly, these three exercises will pack a potent punch to helping you reach almost any goal regarding performance or aesthetics. Maybe ‘any goal’ may lead you to assume that squatting, deadlifting, and sprinting aren’t for you. Let me rephrase with some specifics, shall I?
- Are you an athlete that wants to run faster, jump higher, and beat your man? Squats, deadlifts, and sprints can help.
- Are you a weekend warrior who wants to get the most out of their precious time in the gym? Squats, deadlifts, and sprints can help.
- Not exactly getting results from hot yoga and spinning? Squats, deadlifts, and sprints can help.
- Sick of your friends loving Zumba but looking the same? Squats, deadlifts, and sprints can help.
- Want to suck less? Squats, deadlifts, and sprints can help.
In all seriousness, if you can think of a goal that squats, deadlifts, and sprints won’t contribute to, let me know; I’m interested in hearing about it. Now, let’s get to some of the specifics of what I did yesterday, in case you’re interested. My ‘squats’ were to a box, and I took 4 sets of 5. After that, I paired a 1.5 rep trap bar deadlift with a ValSlide bodysaw/pike, which was much more difficult than I thought. The 1.5 rep deadlift was inspired by Ben Bruno’s experiments with single leg exercises, and I had thought about using the same technique with a bilateral exercise for a while. While I don’t have a video demonstration, I’ll pick one up from the next time I use the technique. It involved a pull from the floor to just above the knee, back to the floor, and then to full hip extension. My hips hated me for switching directions, and my quads took a beating for coming off the floor twice per rep. It was certainly an interesting variation to a basic you should know and love.
After quickly breaking down and packing my bag, I was able to head to my old high school and take some sprints on the turf before the football team took over. I’m used to sprinting on the indoor track at school, and it was nice to run on the actual yardage markers to know my exact distances. I’ll be doing it again sometime soon, because 40 yards was a lot longer than I remembered it being.
Now, normally I’d include a single leg strength movement in my program as well, but I opted out of it because I included a single leg box jump as part of my warm-up, and I accounted for the impact that the sprinting would have on me. Sure, the sprint and box jump are plyometric and nature, and have a different effect than a slower, higher load strength exercise would have on the body. In general, I’d recommend that people use at least one bilateral strength exercise and at least one bilateral exercise in their lower body training. (The same can be applied to upper body training.)
If you’re training smart, you’re probably already using the squat, deadlift, and sprint in some capacity or another. If you’re not, well then we’ll need to talk. You’re likely avoiding them simply because you don’t know how to do them, and that’s fine, as long as you learn! Just please don’t be the person that rationalizes having ‘strong legs’ because they jog, which isn’t going to be as good as squatting/pulling OR sprinting, and it certainly can’t compete with both. Make sure to train hard and live healthy, and you’ll reach your goals.