A man holding onto a barbell in front of him.

The Athlete in All of Us!

Think for a second about some of the exercises you normally see people performing at the gym. To the left you might observe someone laying on a bench performing bench presses. No shock there! To the right you might see someone sitting on a machine performing a lat pulldown. Then down at the other end of the gym, away from all the machines and benches, someone is performing an Olympic lift, power cleans, with dumbbells. To many of you, this would be very intimidating to see, and you might think that he or she is really strong to be able to perform that exercise.

What you don’t realize is that of the three people you observed, the person performing the power clean movement is getting the most bang for their buck!

Whether you are training to shed some pounds or to peak for a competition, the Quality, NOT the Quantity, of the training stimulus is your key to success. The following will illustrate two very different exercise routines that could be performed when training:

Warm-up:  Elliptical (5 min.)

Leg Press
Machine Chest Press
DB Bicep Curls
Seated Hamstring Curl
Wide Lat Pulldown
Tricep Kickbacks
Crunches (floor)

Warm-up: Jump Rope (5 min.)

Split Squat (step)
Stability Ball DB Bench Press
*Bend + Twist
Stability Ball Hamstring curls
Supine Row (bar)


MB Rotational Throws

As you can see, there are marked differences in the two routines. In the first program, machines are primarily used when performing the exercises. With the exception of the lat pulldown, which can be used for those who cannot yet perform a pull-up, training with machines will not only limit your ability to gain Functional Strength, but will also increase the potential for injuries. If you choose to train your body to isolate, not integrate muscles, you are increasing the potential for injury and decreasing the overall caloric expenditure as compared to performing a workout implementing total body, multi-joint movement patterns.

In addition to performing multi-joint exercises that train your body to stabilize joints and move more efficiently, you must also perform exercises in three planes of motion. The next time you watch a sporting event (basketball, soccer, football, etc.), you will see athletes moving forward, backward and quickly rotating in various directions on both offense and defense. Although you might not play a sport at this point in your life, it is critical to perform these multi-planar movements throughout your life.

The next time you go to the gym, instead of performing leg presses, switch to DB split squats.  Instead of performing the 100+ crunches you usually do, get a partner and perform medicine ball rotational throws in a kneeling position. If you acknowledge and adhere to improving strength in a multi-planar environment, the next time you play basketball with your son or daughter or run around with your dog, your body will move in a more fluid, coordinated manner without the potential joint pain in the days after!

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