Thursday, September 24, 2015

Exercise Selection Based on Your Personal Physical Structure


“You are unique…….just like everyone else”

You’ve heard that phrase before from me. But it’s always important that you remember it when it comes to training. There are any number of exercises you can do for any given body part or muscle group but all of them won’t work well for you.  Some of them may even contribute to your chance for injury. A lot of this has to do with your individual physical structure.

It’s obvious that some people are taller than others, some have larger hands, longer arms or shorter legs or wider shoulders or bigger feet. But there are also differences that reflect your particular habits or lifestyle. Do you sit all day at work, or spend all day on your poor flat feet?  If your job involves physical labor, is it predominately lifting or pushing or pulling?

Be careful of taking advice from untrained individuals on what exercises work best and how you should do those exercises.  What works for them may not work for you or may even cause you injury. Often, the exercise may work fine for you with just a minor tweak or two…a change in foot or hand position, a different grip, dumb bells instead of a barbell (or vice versa).

Let’s look a few scenarios:

Your friend is much shorter than you with shorter arms and is more “barrel chested”. All other variables are equal (age, weight, experience, training time, and grip).

Who is going to have the better bench press? Hint: it’s not likely you! Your friend is going to have a shorter range of motion. His arms are shorter and his chest is closer to the top of his range of motion.

Your longer arms and less rounded rib cage not only mean you must move the weight farther, your longer forearms puts your elbows below the level of the bench and gives the elbow a tendency to flair our away from your sides. Both of which puts much more stress on your shoulder complex. It also stretches the pectoral muscle and its tendon attachment to the upper arm to extreme ranges of motion.

What’s the fix? A closer grip will shorten the range of motion as will keeping the elbows closer to the bench. Unless you are in an official competitive meet you can also shorten the range of motion by not taking the lift to lock-out (don’t push the weight all the way up to fully extend you elbow) and/or lower all the way to the chest.

Genetic Differences.

Other differences exist between individuals. Some are genetic and some are caused by lifestyle. Genetic differences are more difficult to fix.
Lack of sufficient hip mobility, for example, is usually caused by lifestyle. But many cases of insufficient hip mobility can be genetic. The structure of the hip joint can vary substantially between individuals. And this can be true of almost every joint. An individual’s hip structure can make it difficult to do certain exercises. Squats, for example.   But there are almost always alternatives to every movement. Using squats as an example there are: box squats, hack squats, goblet squats, front squats and others.

You have a desk job and spend most of your time seated behind a computer screen.

The odds are very high that you body had adapted to your occupational restrictions and your shoulders (and several other muscle groups) are no longer in the optimum position. Your shoulders likely have shifted well forward of where they should be. (Translation; your posture sucks) All this causes weaknesses in portions of your shoulder’s muscle structure and the improper alignment of the bony structures.

Do you think you should do the same exercises as your friend who pulls heavy loads all day at work?

The fix? Start doing twice as many pulling exercises as pushing exercises until your shoulders and posture are improved. And find pushing exercises or variations that don’t cause pain.

While we’re on the subject of sitting your entire working life, do you remember when you were a toddler and could squat ATG? (Ass to grass). Do you think age has anything to do with the fact you can’t even get your thighs parallel to the ground now? Age probably has little to do with it.

Look at a National Geographic Magazine and see how many old people you can find still squatting the same way you did as a toddler. They can still squat that way because they don’t have office chairs or dinner chairs or easy chairs or double cheeseburgers with extra large fries and a large chocolate shake!

You’ve been lifting now for a while and your chest has been growing steadily. Suddenly, you’re having shoulder pain.

Your chest has gotten stronger but you’ve neglected your back. (You can’t see it in the mirror so it’s not as important. Right?)

You have an imbalance. Your chest muscles (Pectorals) have pulled your shoulder forward of where they should be. Leading to poor posture and the same type of injury as sitting in that office chair all day. And guess what. The fix is the same.

These are just a few examples and the fixes are greatly oversimplified. There are often many ways to skin the same cat.

The point of all this is:
1.     Find what needs fixing and fix it (posture, imbalance)
2.     Experiment with different exercises for each muscle group. “No Pain-No Gain” is bunk. If it hurts, find a better exercise or a better set up or a better variation
3.     Don’t wait until you have an injury or pain that limits your progress to find the best program that works for you.

   For dozens of variations on different exercises go to  and find what works best for you or contact me by commenting below or email.

 If I don’t have an answer I’ll try to find someone who does.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated and will posted once approved