If there is one thing that’s detrimental about modern society for man, it’s that we’ve switched out our spears and horses for keyboards and soft ergonomic chairs. (read: how to reverse bad posture)
We’ve become weaker, and our posture is terrible as well. (read: how to create your own strength program)
Not only is our keyboard warrior lifestyle hurting us, but you’ve been fed the lie that more is better.
Don’t have a squat as big as you want? Squat more.
Don’t have a big enough chest? Bench more.
More is not better. Better is better. If we overdo it on the squat, bench and deadlift without much variation, that can lead to achy backs, shoulders, and knees.
Even though we overdo it on those 3 exercises, there are 3 exercises we can’t get enough of. They help straighten up our posture to look more like a man, completely buck the joint pain, help you perform better. (read: how to maximize your results at a bad gym)
And if you don’t see these exercises in a training program you have, run away. Quickly.
And for the perceptive guys in the crowd, you’ll notice a pattern here. I won’t point it out until the end of the article, but I’m sure you’ll see it.
What are these 3 exercises? Let’s see.
EXERCISE 1: Rear Delt Movements.
Let me guess. When you started working out, you did 3 exercises: Bench Press, shoulder press, and a few pull-ups and bicep curls?
You probably are like most guys and have continued that trend going forward. You hammer the front delts, chest, and arms when we do any bench press, shoulder press, dips, or push-ups. This is to gain a ton of size in your chest and shoulders, but at the detriment to your shoulder health and performance.
You spend more time in front of your computer, phone, and tv hunched over, and all that time combined with your bench press is putting more strain through your shoulders than necessary.
Lately, your bench has been causing so much aching through your joints that you’re wondering if it’s worth it to bench press still.
Bench can still be part of your training, you’ll have to make this small addition: Rear Delt training.
By nailing some rear delt training, you’ll start to feel your shoulders open up immediately. The rear delt is a muscle you can’t access unless you’re doing very specific, direct work. BUT just because it’s direct doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be trained.
Your rear delt is a chronically under trained muscle. It takes a little more direct work than we like to think, and it’s also pretty challenging to get it with rows.
Your rear delts horizontally abduct the shoulders. This means you pull the hands away from the midline. When we do things like bench press and push exercises, you’re adducting your shoulders. This leads to the gorilla posture of the guy who always seems to be guarding the bench press.
Because of our heavy bench press and sitting culture we have, you can do rear delt work for high reps as frequently as you’d like and you won’t see any adverse effects. As long as you don’t shrug your shoulders, you’ll see benefit from this exercise in less than a few workouts.
Exercises you should do that are versions of this are the band pull apart, the rear delt cable fly, and dumbbell reverse fly. All solid options for this exercise
Keep the weight low, and rep ranges from 15-25, no less. The shoulders can handle a ton of volume, and feel best when done at high volume.
EXERCISE 2: Horizontal Pulling.
I’m always surprised at how this type of exercise is rarely used in training programs.
ESPECIALLY for how it makes our chest look and feel.
For this exercise, instead of just targeted at the posterior shoulder, you’ll attack the whole back.
When we do a ton of pushing, not only do we adduct our arms, we also protract our scapulae (shoulder blades).
This in itself isn’t a problem. Your shoulders are supposed to do this. BUT the problem is when we spend too much time protracting, and not enough time retracting our shoulder blades.
This is part of what contributes to the shoulder problems we have. There is an imbalance between push and pull muscles.
By adding more horizontal pulling, you’re going to create performance benefits by creating a more stable upper back for bench press, deadlift and squat. Not only that, there are aesthetic benefits too. Rows open up the chest to give you better posture, and allow your chest and shoulders to look bigger than it is. And if you think you have a bigger chest, you’re going to walk with good posture, feeding into a good posture loop.
Horizontal Rows include things like
Single Arm Dumbbell Rows
Seated Cable Rows
Meadows Rows… And I could go on for a LONG time.
If you start adding in more horizontal rows, you want to do them at a 3:1 ratio with your push exercises like bench/push-ups. Do them anywhere from 5 reps to 25 reps. All of them will grow your back and help improve everything.
Check out the BEAST Program to get in the best shape of your life:
EXERCISE 3: Posterior Chain exercises.
This is a big group, I get it. But it’s a necessary thing that most guys don’t take care of.
You see, not many guys will spend a lot of time on their hamstrings and glutes. It’s either squats or deadlifts for most guys. And I was a culprit of it as well.
By spending time doing posterior chain exercises, you are able to improve the strength relationship between your glutes and lower back, as well as your hamstrings and quads. Plus! Often times if you are able to take a few steps back from your heavy deadlifts, you’re able to come back and crush your old PR’s with absolute style.
Hammering heavy deadlift can beat the body up. By doing the following exercises you’ll help build up your hamstrings without popping painkillers for how terrible your back feels.
Banded Hamstring Curls.
Glute Ham Raises
Snatch Grip Deadlift (Go LIGHTER THAN YOU THINK)
Single Leg Glute Bridges
Single Leg Deadlifts
Perform 3 of these every leg workout, focusing on feeling the muscle rather than how heavy you can go, and i’m sure you’ll see some benefit in a very very short time. You could do them every day and not see a downside to it.
If you’re after the best body of your life, more is not better for the squat, bench and deadlift. BUT for exercises like these, you could do these as often as you wanted with no negative circumstances… AS LONG AS YOU DON’T GO TOO HEAVY! You’ll watch nagging painful joints go away, and you’ll become the warrior you were designed to be.