Build the basics, maintain and progress - ELMM #3

In advertising there is the saying "sex sells." In the world of health, fitness, and rehab I say "fancy sells." If you look at most articles, videos, blogs etc. they are about the "new cool exercise" that you should do. This is not saying that there is no place for adding in variety or playing around. Far from it in fact, I think the concept of playing with new exercises for most people is very valuable. However, my concern comes though when people have not learnt basic movements that allow for them to build off of. More often than not, people should be looking to regress an exercise and build their way to the new exercise over time.

If you haven't learnt the basics of keeping a stable spine while moving into a glute bridge or goblet squat you're going to struggle with the "fancier," "cooler," stuff. Thats where this article looks to teach some of the basic movements that people should start off with, drill them to competency, then go and crush whatever else they deem fun.

The guide to building the basics -

Below I've outlined a few of my personal exercises that I view as the minimum standard before progressing to more advanced exercises. I don't necessarily start every client off with these, but I only push them past these if I know they are capable of completing these well.


One of the best exercises for learning how to begin getting a good midline stabilization while moving your limbs. Whether it be in the warm up or as an actual exercise, nearly all of my clients see the deadbug and its variations in their programs.

Glute bridge

Moving through the hips into extension is a very critical pattern for sport development. Being able to do so without arching the lower back is a good skill to learn. The glute bridge can start without weight as a learning exercise and also a warm up drill, but we can begin progressing it with weight quickly for most people.

Bird dog

The bird dog is essentially a deadbug reversed, now challenging you to focus on extension rather then flexion. This movement can pay off big for those who tend to move through their spine a lot and need to learn to differentiate hip/shoulder movement from spinal movement.

Push up/Hands elevated Push up

The push up is one of my absolute favorite pressing exercises. It is rarely ever painful for people as it has so much freedom for the shoulder and doubles as a trunk exercise. For those who cannot do a rock solid push up from the floor off their toes I will have them switch to a hands elevated push up to learn the pressing mechanics while carrying less weight through their upper body due to the orientation change.

Goblet Squat

One of my go to's for squatting education. The front load helps you learn to shift your hips back and encourages an additional boost of stabilization for trunk contraction. If you can crush a set of goblet squats with your gym's heaviest dumbbell/kettlebell, you're likely a pretty solid squatter.

Inverted row

I've been known to favor pulling exercises in my programming. I'm a huge fan of what rows/pull ups do for the body, especially when done well and frequently. The inverted row is so easily modified for people - changing the height of the handle (higher = easier), bending the knees, add weight, etc. - it allows for small frequent changes to keep people interested and progressing.

Split Squat

Most of the exercises I discussed are bilateral - using both sides of the body at once. This however is a transition towards unilateral where there is a shift to favoring one limb. As well, it trains the lower body in a position that allows greater challenge to stabilize than normal squatting and can help to progress the individual in the long term with less stress to the trunk.

Suitcase Carry

I've never met someone who can carry heavy stuff for a long time and struggles in their daily life. Is that by chance or because carries are just awesome? I'll be releasing a whole article and video series on carries soon, but probably my favorite is the suitcase carry. Through its offset load it challenges the hips to stabilize in a way they are often not challenged and people develop weakness in, and requires to trunk to step up in a lateral plane stabilization that is routinely weak in people.

Once you've built your basics, its about maintaining the skill and progressing in new ways. For many people that may take a long time, for others not as long. Myself, I spend way more time working the basics than people would think. I utilize the split squat, push up, inverted row, deadbug, and carry in nearly all of my sessions to some degree and it has paid off very well.

If you've got questions about integrating these into your workouts or just how to get started training, feel free to write me an email and ask -

Lift heavy, move well, stay healthy,

The Strength Therapist

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