Welcome to a three part series on important exercises you’re not doing. These are exercises that are missing from many routines. These exercises will be ones many people forget about or maybe not know about, but are exercises that I consider important.
Whilst these exercises might not seems glamorous they serve a very important purpose – they improve movement, posture and joint stability – all key for preventing injury and improving performance.
So without further ado, here are the first important exercises you’re not doing…
A good kettlebell swing is one of the most beneficial exercises you can have in your training regime. I first started using kettlebells properly in 2011 when I became certified in their instruction. Before then I had used them sporadically, but wasn’t sure how I could get the most from them.
The kettlebell swing is a unique exercise as it stretches, strengthens and improves mobility in one. The swing improves hamstring strength during the eccentric phase of the exercise, which is when most strength gains are made according to some research. The hamstrings act as a brake for the kettlebell during the movement, which is where the exaggerated eccentric phase (stretch) comes from.
On days where I am working at a desk for long periods, or driving a long way, a few quick kettlebell swings is a remarkably effective way of mobilising the hips and stretching the hamstrings in just a few seconds. Given most modern jobs involve sitting or driving for long periods, adding kettlebell swings to your routine will be an excellent way to improve posterior chain strength whilst improving hip mobility and hamstring flexibility.
Kettlebell swings are one of the best ‘bang for your buck’ exercises there are – this movement alone is enough to give you a good training session if you are short on time and have a heavy enough kettlebell. As I mentioned earlier, this is my go-to exercise for improving hip mobility when I have been sat down for long periods.
Reverse Cable Fly
For the most part, people are exercising to look better. Aesthetics rules in the gym for your everyday member.
But, therein lies the problem. With an obsession for training ‘beach muscles’, many people without a real fitness education will create chronic muscle imbalances, leading to long-term injury and discomfort that could easily be avoided with a little more balance in their training. Too many pushing exercises, especially for the chest and shoulders, coupled with a lack of pull exercises for the back can create a postural and muscle balance problem.
When the chest and shoulders are tight, they can internally rotate our shoulders, creating injury. Life is a big culprit too though – when we type, drive or eat we bring our hands in front of our chests, activating the pectorals whilst the back is relaxed – chronically imbalancing the chest and back.
The reverse cable fly helps to correct this by strengthening the posterior deltoids and opening the chest – a movement not performed particularly often by most people. Select a light weight, keep the form smooth and really make an effort to ensure the posterior deltoids do the work and squeeze your scapula (shoulder blades) together at the top of the movement.
This certainly is an exercise that will keep your ego in check! Use a light weight and keep the form good – if you can manage more than 6kg per side for 12 good, slow reps I am impressed!
Barbell Core Rotations
When the majority of gym-goers think of core training, they think of sit ups, crunches, reverse crunches, hanging leg raises, the plank etc. Whilst some of these are worthwhile exercises, they don’t take into account a MAJOR function of the core – rotation.
The barbell core rotation is a fantastic exercise – it develops strength and control, teaching you how to control a weight on a descent. With the exercise, keep the core tight and your arms as straight as possible. The movement should be controlled by the core. The speed is key – not fast, and the weight shouldn’t be ‘dropped’ back to the starting point – the descent should be slow. One rep is a 180 degree rotation.
Of all the muscles in the core, the majority are designed to rotate – forward flexion of the spine is a secondary concern really – we have lots of other muscles to help with that movement. Rotation is purely down to the core. It never ceases to surprise me that guys will go to all kinds of extremes to train their chest from scores of angles, but only train their abs in one direction with largely pointless crunches!
There is a cross over with rotational exercises too – most sports will require some kind of rotation. Any throwing event, any combat sport, any field sport – they all require rotation of some sort. The ability to rotate withe speed and power is a massive athletic advantage, and one that needs to be trained.
Finally, if you need to strengthen your back to prevent or manage an injury, you could be missing out if you aren’t rotating (only with the advice of a qualified therapist, I might add!)
So there we have the first article of the series of important exercises you’re not doing. These exercises are prehabilitation – doing them will prevent many injuries in future. They are also a way for you to add in extra work and gaining structural benefits, as opposed to exercising already fatigued body parts for the sake of it.
Give them a try and let me know what you think!
For the next in the series of important exercises you’re not doing, click for part 2!