Concept’s Exercise Progression Rules To Live By

Bilateral

BEFORE

Unilateral

Bilateral exercises will always offer increased stability in movement over their unilateral counterparts hence making them easier to start out with. They create a wider base of support and do not require as much rotary stability at the hips making them ideal for focusing on one thing at a time.

Lunging, split squats, bulgarian split squats, split stance deadlifts, lateral lunges, etc. are are still technically “bilateral” exercises as both feet remain in contact with a stable surface. These exercises though still bilateral should be considered more unilateral due to the difficulty level and fact that the intended leg should receive the majority of the load. Unilateral lower body exercises include single leg box squats, pistol squats, single leg romanian deadlift, etc.

Push Ups, Bench Press, Pull Ups, Shoulder Press, etc. are all exercises which should be mastered in the closed kinetic chain prior to open kinetic chain dumbbell work, single arm overhead presses, renegade row, etc.

Stable

BEFORE

Unstable

Mastering stable exercises will allow you to get the most out of each muscle contraction. Research has shown that maximum firing potential of muscles does not occur in untrained individuals during unstable exercises. They need to understand the movement under stable conditions prior to being exposed to unstable conditions in order for them to gain maximum benefit when starting a new training program.

A few practical examples would include the fact that a wide stance squat is more stable than a narrow stance squat. Sumo Deadlifts are more stable than traditional deadlifts, and a high bar back squat is more stable than an overhead squat. A few upper body examples include a push up is more stable than bench press, a trx row is more stable than a single arm bent over row, and a seated barbell overhead press is more stable than a standing dumbbell overhead press. 

Be safe and smart. Just because you’ve seen someone on instagram performing a single arm overhead press with a barbell on their shoulders while standing on a bosu ball kicking a soccer ball with their other foot doesn’t mean that’s something you, or anyone, should be doing.

Partial Range Of Motion

BEFORE

Full Range Of Motion

Many people can typically employ partial range of motion movements with success however asking someone to do an ass-grass squat on their first day could create problems. Instead of trying to a full depth squat day one start out with a high box squat, graduate to a medium height box, and finish with a low box squat. Once you are strong enough to perform those well and with confidence then ditch the box and move onto full range squats. Likewise doing push ups with minimal elbow flexion if you don’t have access to a barbell or inclined surface is more beneficial than trying to do a full range push up while your low back arches, your shoulders elevate and you push your head so far forward that your cervical spine grows a mouth and starts screaming for a chiropractic visit. 

Bodyweight

BEFORE

Additional Load

Exercises must be performed under body weight prior to loading up the bar. Don’t put fitness on top of dysfunction. Regressing an exercise is better than progressing into a sucky movement. Don’t forget to consider that upper body exercises such as a bench press can be done up to the weight of a push up. A push up accounts for 65% of body weight being pushed. If you load up a bar or a smith machine with 30% of their body weight this rule can still be followed while adding variation to your workouts.

Slow

BEFORE

Fast

High velocity movements are great! But only if you posses the eccentric strength to do them. If you can’t perform a movement pattern well while moving slowly you’re not going to do it better once it’s sped up. Bodyweight squats to perfection at slow speeds come before squat jumps, push ups come before plyometric push ups, and romanian deadlifts come before clean pulls. mastering basic exercises will help increase your strength and control which will then lead to increased exercise variability down the road.

Simple

BEFORE

Complex

Heavy weight compound movements, unstable single leg exercises, heavy band resistance, and chains should be saved for a later date. These exercises are enticing and fun but until someone can properly link movements full body coordination leave them out. Fitness, exercise, general wellbeing whatever you want to call it is a long game. Don’t screw it up by hurting yourself. Injury only complicates your ability to move… believe me.

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