Crawl Before you Walk. Exercise Variations: Beginning, Intermediate, Advanced.
When you come into Pulse, whether you are a seasoned power lifter, 2nd grade athlete, or a housewife there will be a variation of every single exercise that is appropriate for your age, development level, goals, and fitness level. Below are a few movements that are staples in almost all of our programming and some variations that may better allow you to get the most out of these movements.
Beginner: Goblet Squat
This squat requires you to hold a medicine ball, kettlebell, or dumbbell with both hands tight to the chest right above the sternum. Excellent variation to begin teaching proper squat form because it is very difficult to round the back or drop the chest and still keep the weight tight to your body. Start by squatting to an above parallel box, add load and reduce height or remove box all together as you progress. This is a great variation in that it has almost zero potential for injury and is great for youth or anyone that may be negatively effected by direct loading of the spine.
Intermediate: Kettlebell Front Squat
This variation moves away from the one implement in the Goblet Squat to two. Grabbing two kettlebells, one in each hand, raise them up to your shoulders and interlock your fingers. Keep the chest up and elbows high with a kettlebell resting on the back of each forearm. Same as the Goblet Squat start on a high box and reduce the box height and load as needed. Very little potential for injury as well and an excellent stepping-stone to the advanced variations.
Advance: Back Squat
The Back Squat needs no introduction. The mother of all squats. If you are putting the bar on your back with a significant amount of weight and squatting with good form there is no doubt you can handle almost all movements life can throw at you. Make sure the form is on point because and you always have a spotter because potential for disaster is there if you are careless.
Beginner: Inverted Row
There are of course a million different row variations but we are a big fan of the inverted row for beginners because it is a bodyweight movement. Mastering our own bodyweight is a great way to get started. Start by setting up a barbell in a squat rack at about chest height. Grab the bar similar to the position of your bench press and walk your feet forward under the bar. Keeping the body straight pull your chest to the bar. The further you walk your feet out the more difficult this variation becomes and you can eventually have your feet elevated on a box or bench.
Intermediate: Dead Row
The Dead Row is my personal favorite for the person that isn’t quite ready for a bent over row. The biggest problem I see with a bent over row (if you aren’t familiar with the bent over row you will be in a moment) is that a lot of people can’t keep a flat back for that amount of time and it ends up just killing their lower backs. The time under tension holding the position is too much for them. Enter the dead rows. Simply set the pins of the rack to just below the knee height. Bend over with a flat back and row the bar straight up to your belly. As the bar comes down, let it come to a full rest on the pins. This will give you a chance to take the tension off your low back. Can also be used as an advanced variation because you will be able to row a significant amount more than your standard bent over row.
Advanced: Bent Over Row
The bent over row is exactly the same as the dead row but remove the pins. This is going to force you into hold tension in your lower back for the duration of the movement. Focus on posture. If you cannot hold a neutral spine for the entire set take a step back to the dead rows until it is more comfortable.
Beginner: Kettlebell Deadlift
This can be done with a single kettlebell and sumo stance or a kettlbell in each hand and a conventional stance. For the sumo, take a wider than shoulder width stance, grab a single kettlebell with both hands letting it hang below your waist. Keep a neutral spine, chest up and sink the kettlebell to the floor on a line directly between your feet and come back up to the starting position. For the conventional stance, hold a kettlebell in each hand and take a hip width stance. Maintain a flat back and keep the chest up as much as possible as you lower the kettlebells directly outside of each foot and return to the starting position.
Intermediate: Trap Bar Deadlift
The trap bar is a piece of equipment that you don’t see at all gyms. If you have access to one it is a great stepping-stone to the barbell deadlift. It allows the load to be placed much closer to the center of gravity than a traditional deadlift reducing the stress on the lower back.
Advanced: Barbell Deadlift
The most butchered lift in terms of form you will see. There could be a million reasons why you can’t maintain a neutral spine. If you can’t, find your weakness and build it before you go blowing your back out.
Beginner: Lat Pulldown
Oldie but goodie. Make sure you are getting through a full range of motion and use a variety of grips.
Intermediate: Band Assisted Pullups
If you have a pull up assist machine at your gym then hop on that. If not, a band over the pull up bar will do just fine. Slip a knee or both knees in the band and as you pull up it will assist through the range of motion. Use a thinner band until you can remove it all together.
Not an easy movement for a lot of people. Some very strong people don’t have the relative strength to perform these properly. Rep these out with perfect form any substantial number and you get the tip of the cap from the Pulse Team.
In any program the idea is continued development so make sure to self evaluate on where you stand on performing these properly. If you look like a cat stretching during your deadlift could be time to check the ego and build with the trap bar for a while. On the other hand if you have been Goblet Squatting for 5 years it may be time to put the bar on your back and bend those knees. Crawl before you walk but don’t get stuck to the floor either.