Sunday, July 13, 2014


In lifting, many trainees are inclined to view movement selection in their programming as a question of weighing the pros and cons of each movement.  We specifically will compare movements against each other, curious if one can substitute the other, what the difference is between the movements, and in many cases attempt to find the “best” movement for us.

I was originally going to make a joke about "mismatched couples" here, but when I set the image to "medium" it was HUGE and that made me laugh, so here you go

This style of thinking fails on a variety of levels, and primarily hinges on the false notion that one must be married to one movement, never willing to deviate, change, falter or in any way show infidelity to their decision.  This is a lack of long term thinking and vision, fixating on the present and ignoring the reality of the future.  We forget that we can train pretty much any movements we want, we just must understand that we can’t train them all at once.

What this means for a trainee is that there is no need to decide between incline bench, flat bench, dips, dumbbell press, or floor press when it comes to horizontal pressing.  These are all great movements, and they all hold a tremendous amount of value, which means that they all have some worth in training.  All a trainee needs to do is cycle these movements into their training when the time is appropriate, which is generally once their currently selected movement is no longer meeting their goals.  Getting stronger from a variety of angles and with a variety of movements is never a negative thing, and time spent training a variety of movements is typically very beneficial.

Some exceptions apply

When it comes to the initial selection of one movement, we once again witness an analysis by paralysis that is entirely unnecessary, as the big picture has been lost.  A trainee who is fretting about this decision is most likely in such an untrained or undertrained state that they will get stronger from ANY movement, as long as they execute it violently and with purpose.  Specific exercise selection is only necessary when one’s goals are specific, while general movement patterns are more than sufficient for general goals.  A trainee whose concern is growing bigger and stronger will do well to simply follow Dan John’s 5 movement approach

1. Push
2. Pull
3. Hinge
4. Squat
5. Loaded Carry    

If they want to get slightly more specific, they can include “vertical” and “horizontal” for the push and pull, but as long as they are moving weight within these directions, they will grow bigger and stronger.  A need for a more specific exercise develops as one develops specific needs.  If the bench press lockout is lagging, one may need to engage in something more tricep heavy, like a close grip bench or a board press, while a weakness off the chest may require some dumbbell pressing or wider grip benching.  However, the answers to these questions should become evident to the trainee as the problems arise.  Our issue is attempting to problem solve the problems we don’t have, not understanding the blessing that is having only a general goal.  As long as our problems are not specific, we need not waste the time worrying about the pros and cons of all movements, but instead just commit to A movement and grow bigger and stronger.


  1. Sometimes reading your posts makes me want to run my head into a wall. I read and understand what you are saying. I also believe its logical and very sound yet i still hear that little doubting voice in my mind. I know all it is is the remaining brainwashing of the years i have spent reading training article after training article. You have a gift at looking at training completely unbiased in a very clear light. From reading this blog and disciplining myself I am also trying to acquire that ability. Great read and good training man.

    1. I appreciate the kind words. I was in the same position you were in, and it took a few years of stagnating, getting hurt, and burning out before I decided to just burn all my bridges, do everything "wrong", and see what actually works. It takes a while to be able to ignore everything that is out there, and every once in a while I fall for some snakeoil salesman, but I try to remember where I came from. Thanks for reading.

    2. "You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it." - The Matrix

      For next time, when you run into your run of the mill Starting Strength/8repsforhypertrophy/squatsandmilk fanatic.

    3. Hume also described the phenomenon pretty well, haha. It s absolutely true.