People lift weights to get strong and build muscle.
Squatting, deadlifting, rowing, and pressing is great and will build an impressive physique if you keep challenging yourself on these lifts and their variations. Unfortunately, that’s where many people’s training ends.
I say unfortunately because life happens in 3 dimensions, and most lifts take place only in the sagittal plane. Most of the ones that are multi planar can’t be loaded very well, so meatheads shy away from them.
This is why the guy who looks like a brick shithouse pulls a hammy running out a grounder in beer league softball, or the dude with a 500 pound deadlift tweaks his back moving a couch. If you move laterally or explosively once every 10 years, there is likely to be trouble.
We’re the most well designed machine on the planet. We are a stack of joints, and if you go up and down the chain, the primary requirement for the joints of the body alternate between being stable and mobile. Think about it-your hips and ankles need to be able to move a lot as ball and socket joints, while the knee only moves as a hinge.
On top of this, our joint mobility is like muscle in the sense that if we don’t use it, we lose it. If we don’t move joints through full ranges of motion, then we get stiff and have less range available to us. Then, we decide we’re Billy Badass and do something out of the norm, and find that range of motion we haven’t been using, and we have to rob Peter to pay Paul, so to speak, and borrow that range of motion from some other joint system.
This is why we hurt shit. For every sore lower back out there, there’s most likely a hip that’s lacking some range of motion or a stiff thoracic spine-oftentimes both.
If you want to build a body like Tarzan and be bulletproof so that you can display your strength and athleticism to the townies watching your pickup basketball game, it’s imperative to include 3 other things to your program:
- hill sprints/sled pushes
- various carries
- regular movement in all 3 planes of motion
- multi directional plyometric variations/Medicine ball drills
I’ll cover hill sprints and carries in another post. Today, we’re talking strictly about moving like an athlete, not a robot.
Traditional single leg movements, like split squats and single leg squats and deadlifts, move in the sagittal (forward/backwards) plane, but since you’re on one leg, (or at least only using the back leg minimally) they’re also resisting motion in the frontal and transverse plane, so all the stabilizing muscles of your hip and trunk are working overdrive.
If you take nothing else from this, add some single leg work into your program to complement your squatting and deadlifting, and you’ll be far better off.
The next best thing to do after adding some single leg work into your program would be to include some frontal and transverse plane movements in. This is easily accomplished in your warm up. Things like lateral squats tend to be pretty awkward to load, but it doesn’t mean you can’t challenge the complexity of them over time to keep improving both your mobility and strength.
Start with the first progression and work to master it in your warm ups over 2-4 weeks, then move on to the next progression. Own the movement before trying to challenge it further. Over time, as you start to improve your mobility and your control through these newfound ranges of motion, you can start to add speed and force with jumps and medicine ball drills. Most anyone can do box jumps right out of the gates, but it’s important to build your multi directional movement capacity before we start jumping and landing in these different ways. Think of it like this: driving drunk is dangerous enough, but driving fast while drunk is even more so. Speed+Force+Lack of ROM=injury.
At the end of the day, training is a means to an end. It’s fun and the process is great, it allows us to feel good and fill out V-necks, but it’s also supposed to improve our ability to enjoy the activities and hobbies we like outside of the gym even more. Don’t lose sight of that. A solid training program should also make you less likely to get hurt doing stuff and even help alleviate some of the nagging injuries you’ve incurred over time.
Stop banging your head against the wall wondering why you can train so hard but still feel so banged up. I did it for years, and missed out on doing stuff I liked because I fucked myself up chasing big weights while ignoring things like mobility and movement. In order to get different results, you need to do different things, so add some movement variability into your program. You’ll feel better, not be so beat up, and be able to dominate
the full contact laser tag game at your next bachelor party the next company softball game.