Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Things I've Learned - Part IV

Exercise progressions don't work for everyone.

What's an exercise progression? A series of progressively harder versions of an exercise. For pushups, it would be something like:

Barbell or Wall Pushups
Feet Elevated Pushups
Feet Elevated Pushups w/hands on med ball(s)
One-Arm Wall Pushups
One-Arm Pushups
Feet Elevated One-Arm Pushups

Not for everyone? Sometimes a variation does a bit more than just make the exercise harder. While a 315 pound squat is demonstrably and measurably harder than a 310 pound squat, it's not precisely the same with changing exercises. A one-arm pushup is harder than a pushup, but it also requires some different body positioning. A handstand pushup (the ultimate in "feet elevated") is more like a vertical press than a horizontal press. The exercise hasn't been made more difficult, it's been made different, and that different exercise is inherently harder.

So what happens if you have someone with a shoulder impingement who can't press overhead without injury? Or someone with a spinal loading issue (compressed vertebrae + loading overhead = bad idea)? You can't easily progress them up.

Sometimes you'll often get oddities. I've had clients with knee pain that prevents them from doing a lunge. On the normal progression, something like a Bulgarian split-squat is easier than a dynamic lunge. By any "normal" progression, I'd avoid the split-squat too. However I've found that for knee pain issues, the lack of forward knee tracking on the Bulgarian split-squat means very little knee stress for those clients.

This doesn't mean progressions are meaningless. But it's worth being aware as a trainee or a trainer that everything isn't always going to move along in an orderly fashion for every client.
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