Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Straight to the Bar - Six Things Your Training Should Include


A great article from CS Smith at Straight to the Bar. This is all good advice - and I have come to enjoy having a training partner for the past few months. It has really improved my training.

Six Things Your Training Should Include

Posted 07-04-2009 at 12:21 PM by CSmith724
Tags training

Six Things Your Training Should Have (If It Doesn’t Already)

Everyone has a different training program. There is no magic program out there that will work universally. There are, however, training principles that anyone can use to create a successful program. Most people who are involved in strength training know the basics: the overload principle, the plateau effect, specificity and so on. There is only so far that these basics will take you, however. Here are six things that your training should include to help take you to the next level.

Suspension Training

Suspension training is a great addition to any training program. It’s a great way to include body weight exercises in your training, and allows maximum variety. With a pair of rings or any other suspension training tool you can do almost any exercise you can think of, and are limited only by your own creativity. In addition to bringing some great variety, suspension training is an awesome workout. The unstable nature of suspension training means it enables maximum muscle and motor unit recruitment since your body needs to utilize every available resource to stabilize your movement. If you don’t believe me, try some ring dips and compare them to dips on stable parallel bars.

Unilateral Training

Think of an exercise you regularly perform in your training. Chances are that it is a bilateral exercise (i.e. one that uses both sides simultaneously). Chest presses, military presses, squats, deadlifts…the list goes on. Many common exercises are performed bilaterally; it’s just the way we think to do them. The idea here is that pretty much any exercise can be performed in a unilateral way. Unilateral training engages the body in a way that requires it to stabilize itself due to the off balance loading. Also, since almost everyone has one side which is dominant over the other, it’s a great way to work out imbalances between the two sides. Try unilateral military presses or a one-legged deadlift and you’ll know what I’m talking about.


Any athlete can benefit from the ability to produce more power. Plyometrics are an excellent addition to any training program, whether for an athlete or just someone looking for a good workout. Since plyometrics require the generation of great force, they tax the body in a way that regular exercises fail to do. They develop maximum power and many plyometrics exercises are done against your own body weight, so they require no equipment to perform. Try super-setting a normal resistance exercise with a plyometrics variant (e.g. squat and jump squats, bench press with plyometrics pushups) and you’ll see why plyometrics are something your training needs.

Core Training

First off, core training does not equate to ab training. Many people hear the word core and immediately think that it means abs. Your abs are only part of your core, and should be trained accordingly. Core training does not mean endless crunches. Depending on who you are talking to, the definition of “core” can vary. Generally, however, your core is your whole midsection and trunk: abdominals, hips, back, obliques and so on. Anything that taxes these muscle groups can be considered core training. Often, people neglect core training, or have such a narrow definition of it (read: abs) that they fail to train their core effectively. Next time you do some core training, be creative. Instead of just doing set after set of crunches, throw in some windmills, Russian twists, planks and so on. Remember, you can train your core while you train other muscle groups as well. A front squat is a great core exercise. So is the kettlebell swing. Start treating your core like you would any other muscle group and watch the benefits that it can bring to your training and performance.

A Partner

Having a training partner is a tricky thing. Many people (the author included) prefer to workout alone. However, even I enjoy having a partner once in a while. There are loads of benefits to working with a partner. First of all, when you train with a partner, you have someone there to motivate you in a way that you cannot motivate yourself. A partner will often push you to lift that heavier weight, hit that extra rep or try one more set. This can be a great thing if you are having an off day and just don’t feel like going that extra bit. The other great benefit of a partner is having someone there to call “bullshit”. If you have a good training partner, they should be able to tell you when you’re form was bad, you cheated too much or just in general failed to do what you should have done. This can be a great motivational tool and can be invaluable to have when training.


Variety is the number one thing that anyone’s training needs. Change your program! Lots of people out there perform the same kinds of workouts day-in day-out, month after month, year after year, and then wonder why they haven’t made any progress. Try something different! Ever tried only bodyweight drills for a few weeks? Metabolic conditioning? Power lifting? Even something as little as performing a different training split can have huge impacts on your progress. Your body will adapt to a given stimulus fairly quickly, and if you do not provide new stimuli often, your progress will grow stagnant and will cease to be progress at all. Don’t be afraid to try something completely different from what you’re doing. It may seem a little weird at first, but eventually you will get comfortable not only with the new change, but with making changes in general. Once you do that, you’re well on your way to reaching new levels of progress.

I could easily have included any number of other things that your training should include, but eventually it just becomes a list of different training tools and methods. The above six items are basic things that I feel are essential to a successful training program. I’m sure plenty of people will ask why I didn’t include this or that. What? No kettlebells or strongman training? What about grip work? The list goes on and on. The bottom line is that if you’re serious about reaching your goals (and constantly have new ones) you need to try new things. “Variety” is the final point in this article, but it’s also the most important. There is no perfect training program for anyone; no single program or tool is going to magically make you reach your goals. Any time you reach a goal, it means you’ve adapted to something in order to get there, and it’s time to challenge yourself to adapt again! Keep challenging yourself and your training can take you anywhere.

- Chris Smith

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