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Muscles Or Motor Qualities?

The Overhead Squat-Lunge Develops A Host Of Athletic Qualities, Not Just Muscles

(Filmed at Charles Staley's Bed & Barbell, Queen Creek, AZ)

I always used to get the oddest questions when people saw me performing Olympic lifts.

Actually, I still do.

I specifically remember one particular workout "back in the day" at the Dutchess County YMCA in Poughkeepsie (yes, there really is a Poughkeepsie!) New York.

I was mid-way through a power clean session when a well-meaning but hapless inhabitant of a nearby Smith machine asked "Hey- could you tell me what muscle that works?"

"Ya know when you're, say, on a football field, and someone throws you the ball, and you sprint and catch it?" I replied


"It works that muscle."

You could almost hear the gears turning as this poor guy's brain went into overdrive to comprehend my unexpected, albeit sarcastic answer.

All of which leads me to today's question: Why is it that people choose exercises almost solely on the basis of muscle-targeting?

Why is it that no one seems to recognoze that exercises should be selected primarily for their ability to allow the expression of motor qualities?

After all, muscles will be put to work anyway, so why not seek higher ground and focus on motor abilities and athletic qualities?

A few examples to consider include:

• Ovearhead Squats and Planks for core control.

• Kettlebell Snatches for scapular stability.

• Cleans Pulls for explosive power

• Glute-Ham-Gastroc Raises for posterior chain integration and muscular power

• Farmer's Walks for anaerobic strength and lactic-acid tolerance.

Now all of these exercise examples will collectively build enviable slabs of lean tissue on nearly every muscle on the body, but they accomplish an even greater purpose: they build athletic functionality on every level. In other words, they foster improved movement capacity.

The alternative approach (muscle targeting) is an inferior approach. A program consisting of Leg Curls, the Pec Dec, Crunches, Preacher Curls, and Leg Presses may promote muscle growth, but not movement mastery. Isn't it time to move past the "bodyparts" paradigm of modern-day fitness thinking into the realm of skilled athleticism?


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