Simplify your workout with complex movements

The Summer gave us the opportunity to see world-class athletes in the best shape of their lives performing at the peak of their abilities. While these athletes possess skills at a level that the average person cannot attain, we can use their training principles to get the figure and strength we want.

We can all agree that these swimmers, gymnasts, rowers, boxers, volleyball, track and field athletes etc. all have very different physiques, yet each one of them looks GOOD. These athletes utilize diverse training programs but have a key similarity; they use big, compound, multi-joint lifts in their resistance training program. When using resistance training for aesthetic purposes people tend to think of body builders who utilize isolation exercises to individually develop each muscle. They should however look to athletes who use complex movements to functionally develop major muscles and supporting muscles alike. Utilizing big, multi-joint movements gives the body the long, lean and symmetrical look athletes have and so many of us strive for.

When I think of a muscular athlete I think of a gymnast. A male gymnast will have some of the most muscular arms around but if you saw them in the gym they would never be performing isolated bicep curls or triceps extensions. They develop those muscles through complex pushing and pulling movements that you don’t have to be a gymnast to use in the gym such as pull-ups, push-ups, dips, overhead shoulder press and seated rows.

Benefits of multi-joint movements can be shown with the bench press as an example. You will get much more out of performing free-weight bench press than you will using a seated chest fly machine. This is because the chest fly machine isolates your chest muscles while the bench press works your chest muscles, synergistic muscles like the triceps and anterior deltoids, as well as stabilizing muscles including the rotator cuff complex, lats and traps.

Other than resistance training to look good, many of us use lifting to increase strength. Big, compound, multi-joint lifts will yield the greatest strength and mass gains while also doing the best job at building the inter-muscular and intra-muscular coordination. Elite power lifter and strong-man competitor Chad Wesley Smith states that top weight lifters follow many different programs but they have a few key things in common. They bench, squat, deadlift and continue to get stronger. Smith also has a great point that no one cares how much you can leg extension and if they do, you shouldn’t care what that person thinks anyway.

Using complex assistance lifts such as dips, chin-ups, pull-ups, shoulder press and lunges will also enable you to get the results you want more efficiently than you would performing many isolation exercises on machines.

Unless you want to spend three hours a day in the gym with the goal of looking like an immobile muscle-bound body builder, multi-joint complex movements should be the staple of your resistance training routine.

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