Understanding Exercises And Why We Do Them
Programming is a very complex process that has to take into account tons of different factors, then outline a plan of attack to most efficiently reach our goals. One of the main choices in the beginning of the process is exercise selection. First looking at specificity of the “sport” or goal the athlete is wanting to pursue. For lifting, it is actually often the simplest in selection, if you want to be a powerlifter the majority of our work has to be the squat, bench and deadlift.
For bodybuilding or aesthetic goals we want a more balanced plan of attack, looking at what exercises can lead to the best progress for each muscle group. Adjusting exercise selection over time for our goal will often be necessary, at some point, either due to pain/injury or the rate of our progression slows. Adjusting our plan to allow us to continue to train is the number one goal. Longevity and consistency are the number one factor to an athlete reaching their strength or aesthetic goals(or it should be).
It is hard to speak about the particulars of exercise selection as so much of it has to do with the individual and their goals, but I will give some general rules/examples on things that we should be looking for when it comes to exercise selection. In terms of choosing variations or assistance exercises for a strength athlete many people use the term “carry over”, as an example, does close grip bench have good carry over to my competition bench?. Meaning if i improve my close grip bench will my competition bench also automatically improve. My only bone to pick with this phrase is only within an entire plan does something truly carry over.
If we are programming a close grip bench press for a medium or wider gripped competition bencher, we still keep the competition bench in the mix as it is the main skill. Not only does it have the carry over we talked about we also want to have more than one reason why we chose the variation. So in this example we are also using the close grip bench to force a longer range of motion, increase tricep pressing strength and potentially use it as a limiter for overall weight used in a session(typically close grip bench is harder and you use less overall weight).
In terms of having some pain in your prescribed exercise, typically we then begin to reduce weight in that movement. If pain still persists, we will choose another exercise with a similar movement pattern but reduced range of motion and continue until pain dissipates. Choosing your exercises for your program is a keystone to any training program to allow the athlete the clearest path to their goal keeping things as optimal as possible.