| June 23, 2021

Useful exercises worth adding to your program (Part 1)

Popular exercises such as squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, bench press, and so on are the staple of many people’s training programs. They are all excellent in their own right as they can help almost everyone with goals relating to strength, muscle gain, and weight loss. Then there are the other supplemental exercises that may not get as much attention.

By Trevor Mah

Read time: 5 min.

Popular exercises such as squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, bench press, and so on are the staple of many people’s training programs. They are all excellent in their own right as they can help almost everyone with goals relating to strength, muscle gain, and weight loss. Then there are the other supplemental exercises that may not get as much attention.

For people with competitive strength and performance related goals, they may have already dabbled in some of these exercises based on their assistive properties. They are important because of their unique benefits such as keeping one structurally balanced or focus on bringing up lagging muscle groups.

In either way, these exercises may be deemed as assistance/supplemental/accessory, but no matter what you call it they can aid you in many ways. Here is a quick list of a few that I believe deserve a little more love.

Overhead Squat (OHS)
It may also seem a little intimidating to perform an overhead squat since you are literally depending on a lot of things to go right in your body to avoid dumping the weight above you. Obviously, this is important if your goal is to become better at snatches, but the overhead squat also provides many other benefits due to what it teaches your body to do during execution. The OHS can be broken down and regressed within itself to focus on specific aspects. For example, focusing on simply how to hold the bar overhead can teach you how to properly utilize your upper body to provide stability and support. Even though a squat is technically a lower body exercise, the OHS also develops synergy between your upper and lower body as it moves through the movement (plus how to keep the core engaged to make everything work as one) to make it truly more of a full body exercise. Lastly, the movement also helps with both dynamic and static flexibility throughout the range of motion.

Because of all this, you may also notice that coaches screen their clients with the OHS as a way to spot certain structural deficiencies or improper movement patterns. It also works as a great diagnostic tool to see where other parts of your body may need attention. Of course, there are many people who will struggle with this at first and may not be able to keep up with the structural demand, but working your way slowly towards it can eventually help you iron out those wrinkles with due diligence.

Unless you are actually training it (or snatching), use the overhead squat as a warm-up exercise to get your entire body engaged. While it will take some time to be able to lift a significant weight in this exercise, the practice drills with simply an empty training bar or dowel can be great to help grease the wheels for your following workout. Moreover, you don’t even need to use a stick. Simply holding your arms out with proper upper back engagement can be useful for many people.

Sled Push (or Pull)
This exercise is pretty much self-explanatory. Load up some weights (or people) onto a sled and away you go. While the sled push may get a bad rep as a “punishment” exercise that trainers may assign to their clients, there are many reasons to sprinkle this a few times into your training week. Not only is it low maintenance, but also pretty much a dummy-proof exercise that brings forth many benefits.

For one, it gets your heart pumping and taxes the legs (primarily the quads, but you’ll feel your calf muscles and glutes at some point too). If you really want to get the blood going, this is an easy way to get a hard leg pump and make you breathing heavily at the end. Not only that, it works great as a finisher if you want to push yourself to their limit at the end of a workout.

Sled pushes are essentially all-out sprints but without the full speed. Assuming that you use an appropriate weight, you are running as fast as you can without actually moving as fast as you can. This aspect can make the sled push a high intensity cardio exercise, and at the end of the day provide you with a much more fun option than a traditional cardio machine. Plus, it you really feel like you could use more cardio in your life, this is a great way to add it in.

Sled pushes are also concentric in nature, so you can do them more often to increase the frequency of your training for your legs. Most injuries occur from eccentric movements, so this is another benefit with a relatively lower risk of injury (even though you might feel like you might die while doing it). Sled pulls are also an option, but usually they require a little more work with a strap to attach, plus not being able to see where you are going.

Sled pushes are a great finisher at the end of the workout. Add it to finish off your weight training to get some cardio and heart health, or for a burnout to really push your hypertrophy goals. Either way, don’t stop moving and keep those legs going. Also don’t forget to tie your shoes before you start.

Reverse Hyper
Training your erector spinae (lower back muscles) is important because it works in conjunction with the rest of your posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, etc.). Not only that, the erector spinae is important for overall strength throughout your entire body, so training it can help you with increasing your output.

Deadlifts will certainly work your erector muscles, but it likely cannot be performed often at a high frequency. Not to mention, the main movers are your lower body and not your back so you wouldn’t train them specifically for that anyways. Reverse hypers are great because you can work on higher rep ranges and give your central nervous system a break. The reverse hyper also provides less compressive stress on parts of your lower vertebrae so injury risk is less likely in comparison to a regular back (or incline) extension apparatus.

These may not be common in some commercial gyms, but even if you have a bench you can always use a modified version with your legs bent. Reverse hypers can be added pretty much anywhere in your workout as long as it serves the correct purpose. If at the beginning, then make sure your subsequent exercises aren’t extremely taxing on your spine. But if near the end, it can also be used as a mild finisher, or simply on it’s own on a separate day with little interference.

I understand that sometimes your program may not have the flexibility to incorporate all of these exercises based on a variety of factors. There are so many exercises out there that you can choose from and the only thing limiting many people are their imaginations. I’ll likely add more to this list down the road since there is so much more. Remember that when deciding on doing an exercise, always keep in mind that your choice should always serve a purpose towards your goals and be performed with the best form possible to avoid injury.

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