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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...


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