It’s that time of year again, January 1st, a time of year where the masses resolve to improve their lives in several different areas. When it comes to resolutions, a high percentage are going to involve exercise and nutrition. As you peek into any fitness facility, you can be sure that poor form, worse exercise selection, horrific etiquette, and a general sense of cluelessness are commonplace. No other time of year is it ordinary to find someone wearing a plastic suit, doing half-assed burpees with a weighted vest in the squat rack while the google results to “how to lose 30lbs in 30 minutes” are still loading on his iPhone.
It’s funny, when I think of some of the concepts I use in my training and spend long portions of the day teaching to clients, it makes me laugh. My 21-year old self would mock the hell out of my present-day self instructing a client to “feel the lats squeeze when you drive your elbows back!” or “squeeze your butt as hard as you can at the top of the movement!”
If you are following any competent strength training program, you should be performing a variety of heavy compound movements such as bench press, overhead press, rows and pulldowns/pull-ups for the upper body. If you aren’t, it’s time to bail on your current program and start from scratch. Those are the basic movements of which there are a million different variations but including them is required for gains in size or strength. My holiday analogy would be to think of these movements as the turkey and mashed potatoes of your training program, everything else is a side dish.
Outside of the small window of prohibition, alcohol has been a legal, socially acceptable form of altering your state of consciousness that everyone over the legal age could enjoy. Booze is everywhere, it’s been handed out at church for centuries, you can get it on a plane ride, even some grocery store chains are encouraging getting a drink during your weekly food shopping run.
When it comes to building the upper body, nothing beats a good set of lats. They help stabilize other movements like deadlifts and bench press, they aid in proper posture, and generally make you look more bad ass overall. In my opinion, when it comes to the pecking order of lat exercises, only pull-ups rank higher than lat pulldowns in terms of building size and strength.
As trainers, we see all types of mistakes made in the gym. Some are obvious, some aren’t. Most people can tell you that the obese guy trying a handstand pushup on the cement floor while holding a 40lb dumbbell is a recipe for disaster. However, other mistakes may not be so clear. Some people may look like they are doing everything right, but are making the biggest mistake you can make in exercise, they are training without a goal.