This is the final article in my three part series on the most important exercises you’re not doing, featuring 9 exercises that you may be unaware of or have forgotten about. Each of the most important exercises you’re not doing can offer many functional fitness benefits if programmed correctly.
So far the feedback from the series has been very positive, so to round things off here are three more….
Single Leg Deadlift
The single leg deadlift is an exercise I like for the glute isolation benefits. In 2009 I suffered from knee pain which came from training for a half marathon without proper preparation in the weights room beforehand – my glutes weren’t strong enough which contributed to ITB pain and a lack of proper knee stability.
If you are a runner, suffer from back issues or need an extra hip-dominant posterior chain exercise, this could be the one for you.
Importantly with this exercise, you have to maintain excellent core control throughout to prevent back injury. Tighten your core at the start position and maintain the tension as you descend and return.
As with any single-limb exercise, you are automatically out of balance, so be sure to maintain a good neutral spine and control during both parts of the lift. Distribute your weight almost evenly throughout your foot, perhaps with the exception of a small bias of weight through your heel – this helps enormously with balance.
Finally, with balance and control being potential issues with the exercise, start this exercise with just bodyweight. By mastering your balance and technique from the start you make the transition to a weighted version much easier. Perform the exercise slowly and deliberately, otherwise you may end up toppling head first into the floor, which whilst hilarious to others, won’t do much for your health.
Triceps Push Up
This may seem like an odd choice, given ‘chest Monday’ in gyms the world over, but I have picked this one for a reason. Whilst I agree that too many people over-train their chest at the expense of their back (causing a number of imbalance issues and injuries), a large part of the problem comes from poor exercise selection.
The barbell bench press isn’t suitable for everyone. I have seen and heard of many people suffering from shoulder and elbow issues from pressing with a straight bar. I later read that Jason Ferruggia had seen the same thing over and over again.
I like the push up as it is a simple exercise, can be performed almost anywhere, has lots of variations and done correctly is a safe exercise to perform. The problem with a traditional push up though is it follows the same movement pattern and joint loading as the bench press, potentially putting shoulders at risk again. The triceps push up keeps the elbows close to the body, placing more emphasis on the triceps whilst still activating the pecs. There is less stress on the shoulders and the overall injury risk is reduced.
The extra work done by the triceps in this version stimulate arm growth, and the chest is still targeted. The reduced weight means you are able to perform more reps allowing you to increase the workload in your session.
As with any push up, keep the form strict – engage the core to keep your back rigid and prevent injury. Keep the elbows close to the chest and the movement timing consistent. Hands should be placed in line with the pecs, and range of movement is critical – train from full extension of the elbow to a good 90 degree bend at the bottom of the exercise.
Barbell Back Squats
Legs – the most neglected body part of all! I have written extensively on how and why you should train your legs and find it amazing that many people still don’t do it. In fact, I am actually surprised when I see a person using a squat rack for its intended purpose, such is the rarity with which public gym users perform the exercise!
I am aware of the debate about single leg vs barbell vs dumbbell vs front squat vs back squat, but I am not here to discuss the intricacies of each. I just want to encourage an increase in the amount of leg work being done by people in the gym and the barbell back squat is an ideal starting point for most. A simple technique, very functional and has numerous benefits.
As with all exercises, it is important to maintain core control throughout the lift. With significant loads on your back the injury risk is increased many times over, so extra care is required.
Maintain a neutral spine, keep your descent smooth and ensure your thighs reach at least parallel with the floor. Drive the weight back to the start position by pushing your weight through your heels and explode into the movement.
With huge growth hormone, strength and fat burning benefits, squatting in all of its forms really is an exercise that should be in your exercise programme.
I really hope you have enjoyed the series and have been inspired to shake up your own exercise and training programmes.
This article concludes the most important exercises you’re not doing series. If you have any questions, comments or queries feel free to leave them in the boxes below!