Move Better, Look Better, Feel Better
Weight training shouldn’t JUST make you look better. Do these moves weekly for better performance, mobility, posture, and gains.
Want a long, healthy life in addition to an impressive physique? Resistance training is nonnegotiable, of course. But certain exercises are more necessary than others for longevity and improved quality of life.
Most people suffer from poor posture, limited hip mobility, poor ankle and foot stability, wonky knees, compromised overhead positioning, an overly dominant anterior, and a weak core. All of these contribute to a cascade of issues like back pain, instability, and chronic injuries. This also makes everyday life much less enjoyable.
Let’s fix that. Put these seven exercises on your “do every week list” no matter what program you’re following or how busy life gets.
Around 80% of Americans suffer from back pain, while 70% have suffered from severe neck pain. These pains are largely associated with poor posture and underdeveloped posterior chain muscles.
Pulling the shoulders down and back against resistance is a necessary tool to fight poor posture. Practice a seated row or band pull-apart of some sort daily.
Vertical pulling is important, too, but horizontal pulling counters the chronic issues most people deal with, like upper cross syndrome or back pain. Emphasize the horizontal pull with a 2:1 ratio.
Harden your body and build coordination with loaded (or farmers) carries. In addition to building bigger traps and delts, they also train grip strength – a proven predictor of all-cause mortality.
Carries improve posture, improve co-contractions of the upper and lower body, promote a high degree of core engagement, and make you more efficient at walking with load, something transferrable to the real world.
If you want to reduce the likelihood of picking up your groceries in a motorized scooter one day, perform heavy carries weekly. Start with traditional dumbbells by your side and advance to more challenging variations like suitcase carries, front-rack carries, and Zercher carries.
Beaten-up lifters often avoid training legs or avoid training them with any real intensity that produces adaptation. They may be unable to work as hard as they’d like because of an old injury, a new pain, or a lack of mobility. It’s wise to look for the root cause, but introducing sled training is also a good idea. (This is a good sled.)
Sleds are one of the most versatile pieces of equipment in the gym. They’re suitable for all ages, and they’re great leg builders that don’t cause much soreness or muscle damage. Plus, they’re easy to learn and fun.
You can move in the sagittal plane with a standard (forward) sled drive or backward walk and in the frontal (side-to-side) plane by doing a lateral sled pull. Frontal plane work is virtually non-existent in most training programs, especially among the injured who can’t fathom squatting with a barbell, let alone moving side-to-side.
Sleds also allow you to train upper body in a purely concentric manner with sled pushes, sled rows, and arm work if you have access to a strap.
Four lengths of 15-20 yards is plenty for both lower and upper-body sled movements. If intensity is the goal, load up a heavy sled and drive it forward for 10 yards.
And clearly, sleds are a great conditioning tool. Doing the 50-100-yard sled push is a simple way of improving your work capacity while giving the legs some added volume.
This is arguably the most dynamic mobility movement you can do. The windmill trains ankle, hip, shoulder, thoracic, and trunk stability. Plus, you get some rotation and hamstring flexibility work, all in one movement. The windmill opens the body up and primes the most common offenders that limit gym performance.
Use the windmill as a primer on hinging or squatting days or as an active recovery movement on an off day. Once you’ve got the technique down, make it a stand-alone exercise and add load.
Single-leg balance is quick to go if you don’t train it. The single-leg RDL not only strengthens and builds up the posterior chain but also amplifies core and trunk stability while improving foot and ankle strength – the key ingredients in pain-free performance.
Start with a simple single-leg toe touch, using your opposite hand to touch your opposite big toe. From there, advance to more dynamic versions like the dumbbell/kettlebell and barbell RDL.
Perform single-leg toe touches as a primer for hinge-focused days or add single-leg RDLs as an accessory move in full-body or lower-body workouts.
These are more challenging than they look. Placing your arms in this externally rotated position strengthens the rotator cuff, an important shoulder stabilizer. It also strengthens the upper back muscles, rhomboids, and trapezius, contributing to shoulder health.
These muscles are important for trunk stabilization and improving posture. And don’t underestimate the muscle-building potential of these. The burn is real and adds up quickly.
Do 2-3 sets of 5-7 slow, controlled reps before pressing (or even squat sessions) and notice how your body feels during and after those compound movements.
The glutes are one of the most underdeveloped, neglected muscle groups in most hardcore lifters. Outside of the booty influencers, the glutes are rarely trained frequently and consistently in an isolated fashion with exercises like hip thrusts, kickbacks, and abductions.
Weak glutes reduce power, limit force production, and diminish speed potential, making you weaker in the gym and less of a physical threat in the real world. A strong pair of glutes and hips are also essential for injury prevention, which is the most important reason to build them.
Our glutes are the biggest muscle in the body and are necessary for everything hip extension and hip abduction related. They protect our back, knees, and core during everyday movements and even lifting itself.
A simple supine glute bridge is a great glute strengthener. Do 12-15 banded glute bridges before deadlift and squat sessions. And if you’re man enough, train this movement with some real weight with either a back-supported hip thrust or a barbell glute bridge. Add a 2-3 second hold at the top to maximize the glute squeeze.
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