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October 2007

The "Best" Exercises Can Revolutionize Your Program

One little-appreciated characteristic of a great exercise is it's ability to be continuously modified without changing it's fundamental essence. Using this criterion, "great exercises" are almost always closed-chain, free-weight, multi-articular movements.

Examples can be found in each category of the 6-7 (depending on how you like to classify them) primary movement patterns: squatting, pulling, pushing, pulling, twisting, and lunging.

Looking at the Lunge for example (and by "lunge" I'm referring to any open-chain uni-lateral lower body pattern), you can quickly develop a long list of variants:

• Alternating leg, long-step lunge (posterior-chain emphasis)

• Stationary, short-step lunge (quadricep emphasis)

• Pistol

• Box pistol

• Lunge (front foot elevated)

• Lunge (rear foot elevated)

• Side lunge

• Walking lunge

• Overhead lunge

• Jumping lunge (switching legs in mid-air between reps)

• Step-ups (essentially a form of a front-foot-elevated lunge)

• Numerous lunge/press and/or pull variations

The list is potentially endless, but movements like lunges (and squats, presses, pulls, etc) add real value to your program because they allow you to exploit the "same but different" principle: long-term programming that finds the sweet spot between specificity and variability. Too much specificity leads to psychological and orthopedic burnout; too much variability leads to little or no progress. But the ideal blend between the two means all the benefits with none of the drawbacks.

Browse through the last 30 days of your training journal and see what percentage of your exercises are machine-based, closed-chain, uni-articular, versus my preferred movement patterns described above. If you've got more of the former than the latter, and if you're not making the progress you're looking for, this could be your answer...

How To Ensure That I Won't Reply To Your E-Mail

It's really quite simple! Here's a great example of an e-mail that I'd never reply to:

i got book thru men's health wondering do you increase weight use when reps increase by 20% or overall weight lifted. weight x total reps im 40 5ft 6 180 lbs would like to lose 25-30 lbs without loosing much muscle or gainning some. second email sent. ps i have not paid for book i can still send back ant help would be appreciated would like to try program for the three weeks allowed to decide if i think it works. i have been working out for 27 yrs so i need alot of variety in workout.

First, the complete lack of punctuation, spelling, and sentence structure make it impossible to discern what this individual is asking.

Second, this individual expects me to answer his questions about my book, which he hasn't even purchased! I'd also wager that he hasn't read it, because if he had, his questions would be answered.

He also wants me to write him a program gratis, but that's a subject for another day.

Free advice is worth what you pay for it. Bad e-mails on the other hand, are a complete waste of time, both for the sender, and for the recipient.

OK, I feel better now, thanks for humoring me...