I’ve been serious about exercise for over 15 years. Although I think I’m good with strength training and fitness basics, there are many exercises I wish I’d used regularly in workout plans years sooner for better physical health today.
Here are 5:
1. Core Exercises
This is a bit of a cheat but core and ab exercises aren’t exactly the same thing. Crunching exercises isolate the abdominal muscles but don’t improve functionality for core strength alone. Exercises that force the abs, obliques, and back to work together – i.e. planks, hollow body holds, saxon side twists, and levers – strengthen stabilizer muscles to directly improve the torso’s ability to balance heavier loads with correct posture. Weaker abs compared to the lower back leads to back pain.
2. Pistol Squat
Pistol squats improve balance, unilateral quad strength, and ankle stability better than any other bodyweight exercise I know (the forward jumping lunge is a strong runner-up). It’s too bad my lack of ankle flexibility means I have to hold a 25 pound weight plate arms length away to get my thighs parallel to the ground. I’d like to think that extra weight is why I can’t do pistols even with good shoes and insoles, but the root cause is needing the counter-weight at all. I’ll have to rewatch those Barbell Shrugged videos for ankle stretches.
3. Leg Curl
I knew as a teen that hamstrings needed to be trained with hip extension and knee flexion. But at some point I read about leg extensions being bad for knees and simply ignored the leg curl along with it. I stuck to deadlift variations and standing hamstring stretches for 10+ years. Now, after an injury and consequential physical therapy, I prioritize lying and sitting leg curls to stabilize the knee-joint.
4. Standing Dumbbell Press
I believe shoulder rotation exercises are the only reason I don’t have major shoulder problems. But I think my shoulders would be healthier had I done more standing overhead presses. Sitting shifts support to the lower back and bench and barbell push presses require a back arch to get the bar past my face. The stronger I get in this exercise the faster I can upgrade to handstand push ups . . . presses . . . handstand movements.
5. Hip Abduction
I’ve only felt fatigue in this muscle during sit-ups for a few Army Physical Fitness Tests – never during rucks. However, when my hip abductors started burning, that 2 mile run sucked so much more. The aforementioned physical therapy recommended doing banded hip abductions, and I’ll be honest – it doesn’t take long for the suck to kick in. That’s my prize for writing off such hip exercises as unnecessary because I’m doing other major compound leg exercises. Maybe those machines aren’t just for women.
The great thing about prioritizing these exercises early in the workout is not only does progression in an exercise improve with how early its done in the workout but using Micronamin 12 Gauge Pre-Workout means I am able to ramp up the intensity factor with a higher threshold for lactic acid buildup.