I have a number of staples in my training programs.
You can guarantee that most of my clients (myself included) will perform some sort of squat, hinge, single leg squat, push, and pull.
Pretty simple really.
But this does not mean that every client deadlifts from the floor.
It doesn’t mean that every client bench presses.
It doesn’t mean that every client back squats.
While these exercises may seem important, they’re not (competitive powerlifters are the exception here). It is really the stimulus that these exercise provide that is the important thing.
Which brings us to the title of this blog post.
Risk vs Reward
With training, we are trying to provide a specific stimulus to reach a specific goal. As such, each exercise should provide a way to reach this goal.
The way to get to this goal is going to be different for each person.
This is why we need to weigh up the benefits and risks of our exercise selection, dependent on the individual, and their individual goal.
For example, if we have someone who wants to build lower body strength, but back squats with abhorrent (AKA makes my eyes bleed) technique, then should we use back squats to build lower body strength?
In short, probably not.
Because the risk of injury (squatting under load with nasty form) far outweighs the benefits.
We can gain lower body strength through the use of squat regressions (such as the goblet squat) and single leg loading (split squats etc.).
Sure, we can try to progress to a full back squat gradually.
But that isn’t essential.
But building lower body strength is.
This train of thought can be applied to a number of different scenarios.
For example, if we have someone who wants to build upper body strength and mass, but doesn’t have the mobility required to overhead press.
Then maybe we shouldn’t have them overhead press.
Instead, we can use neutral variations such as landmine presses, while focusing on improving shoulder mobility. This allows us to reach their goal safety, while also building the mobility required for overhead pressing.
Similar in athletic populations.
If you have an older athlete who needs to develop power but has no experience Olympic lifting, should we Olympic lift?
Again, probably not.
Not necessarily because they are dangerous, but because the learning curve is so steep they may not actually see a whole lot of benefit from them. Instead we can use jumps and throws to develop power, as they require less technical proficiency.
This may be different for a youth athlete, where building technique is important. In this scenario, teaching the Olympic lifts will be well worth the time, as it will prepare them for the training rigors expected at a higher level of competition.
This doesn’t mean that you stop using specific exercises all together. It just means that you weigh up the risks of performing a specific exercise with a specific individual.
And if the risks outweigh the benefits of using that particular exercise, then opt for a variation that provides the same stimulus, with less risk.
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