Theres no such thing as a must-do exercise.
This is the truth about fitness, even though not everyone understands that. Walk into any gym, and youll see a host of guys doing barbell deadlifts, for example, and somewhere in that gym, there will be one or two guys who insist that if you cant do a barbell deadlift, well, youre just not fitness-ing the right way.
Why? Because a long long time ago, the barbell deadlift was established as a must-do exercise that every guy just had to do, well, just because. Over the years of bodybuilding and exercise, a handful of movements have gotten this level of love, ascending from just another exercise to staple movement territory.
But the more time you spend training, the more you realize that not everyone needs to do every movement. Yes, the back squat is the gold standard of all squats, but that doesnt mean you need to do it. Not all exercises are for all people, so skip these staples for exercises that will work better for your body.
Focus On Movement Patterns, Not Movements
Understand this about training: Your body needs to work through certain movement patterns. You need to be able to push things away from you (as you do in a bench press). You need to pull things toward you (as you do in a pullup or a row). You should be able to bend at the knees (like you do when you squat), and you want to hinge at the hip (which you do when you pick up your keys from the floor or when you deadlift).
Now, if youre a competitive powerlifter, then you need to do the barbell deadlift as your hinge movement. But if youre just trying to stay healthy, why cant you do dumbbell deadlifts, or other versions of the move? Truth is, you can, so dont fall into the trap of thinking you cant.
This is similar even if youre training specific muscles groups. Take your triceps for example. Yes, plenty of guys do dips for triceps, but there are a host of other moves that let you isolate the muscles on the backs of your arms. So if you can wind up with shoulder pain when you do dips, swap them out for more shoulder-friendly moves. And yes, your tris will still be able to grow to epic proportions.
The Training Marathon
None of this will cost you muscle or strength. You can build just as much strength without classic moves as you can with them. The added benefit of swapping out certain moves for smarter, safer ones is that youll be able to train injury-free.
Classic staple moves are tried-and-true methods for building mass and strength, but they dont always aid your training longevity. Why? Because they dont always consider the joint system. The dip, for example, does indeed hammer your triceps, but is it friendly to your shoulders? Thats a different story for some people.
Now, theres a good chance youre physically capable of doing a dip. But that still doesnt mean its the best option ion your training plan. Every rep just might be stretching tendons or rubbing those tendons against bone in ways that could lead to pain in a few years. And plenty of gym injuries dont happen in a single moment; instead, they happen because of repeatedly unfriendly forces taking a toll on the body over years and years.
Think ahead and consider these training swaps.
Moves to Reconsider
Think Twice About The: Triceps Dip
This is a new-age staple move popularized by CrossFit. But its a very high-risk low-reward move, depending on the mobility of your lower body. It places great challenge your knees and ankles, and in many cases, youll wind up lowering with very little control. A little speed as you lower can help you get into the bottom of the pistol squat, even if you dont truly have control of that range of motion. That speed can also propel you out of the pistol squat; many people rely on elastic energy to power up from it. Are you really building strength that way? No, but you may be getting a very cool Instagram post out of it.
Try the lateral lunge instead. You wont put quite as much load overall load on one leg during the lateral lunge as you do during the pistol, but youll still get heavy single-leg work and youll get to take your time and work on form and positioning as you lower into each lateral lunge. Youll actually get to train and hone good mechanics as you push your but back and lower your thigh til its parallel to the ground.
The bonus here: Youre also moving laterally, which you may be forgetting in your regular training.