When it comes to strength training, the range of possibilities when it comes to selecting methods, techniques and exercises is enormous, but could we achieve results by reducing the latter to the minimum possible?

In this article we explain which four basic exercises we would choose in this case and why.

How should we select the exercises if we can only choose four?

It is not the first time that in Vitónica we resort to the basic movement patterns of the human being to select and structure the different exercises that a training session can contain.

The patterns are as follows and depending on it, some muscle groups or others will participate as a priority:

  1. Horizontal and vertical thrusts
  2. Horizontal and vertical tractions
  3. Knee dominants
  4. Hip dominants

In horizontal and vertical thrusts such as bench press or military press respectively, the main muscles are those that are responsible for pushing , pectoral , anterior deltoid and triceps.

In tractions such as rows or chin- ups , we would talk about the biceps, latissimus dorsi and posterior deltoids, among others.

If we go to the lower body, the knee dominants like any squat variant require the majority action (but not the only one) of the quadriceps and instead the hip dominants like the deadlifts , require the action of hip extensors such as hamstrings and glutes .

With these four groups of exercises we can save a training in a quite remarkable way. Let’s take four examples.

Bench press as a horizontal push

The bench press is the quintessential multi-joint staple of the horizontal push movement pattern. This category also includes, for example, the flat dumbbell press or push-ups .

Get well on the bench, scapulae retracted and glute contracted. Once you remove the bar from the support, perform a controlled descent and rest the bar approximately at the bottom of your sternum . The slowness in this phase will depend on the lifter so try the rhythm that best suits your style.

Once we touch the sternum with the bar, we make a brief stop and begin to push the bar as hard as we can while holding our breath so as not to lose tension and stability. The direction in which you should push the bar is up and back . As the bar takes off from your chest, open your elbows slightly to facilitate this trajectory.

Barbell row as horizontal pull

Esther would be the king of traction exercises but it is important to know the details about its execution, because it tends to be done badly by ego. 

Rowing is done with the torso at about 90 degrees to the ground, not at 45 degrees as is often seen. 

Once with the torso at about 90 degrees, we breathe in and bring the bar towards us, driving the elbows behind our body and retracting the scapulae . The elbows are what guide the forearms, wrists and bar.

The point where the bar should make contact with our body is between the lower part of the sternum and our navel.

Two of the most common mistakes during the concentric phase are bending your legs to bring your chest closer to the bar and not the other way around, and flexing your wrists to shorten travel . This reduces the effectiveness of exercise and increases the risk of injury.

Barbell squat as knee dominant

As for lower body exercises we have knee dominants and hip dominants as we said. The former require a greater flexion of the knee with respect to the hip and the latter exactly the other way around. In this way, the former put emphasis on the quadriceps and the latter on the posterior chain including glutes and hamstrings .

Within the knee dominants we have any variant of squat where the barbell squat and the goblet are included. As shown in the video above, mastering the goblet is a necessary step in the progression to barbell squats.

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