Goblet squats, farmer’s walks and weighted pushups. Say what?
A little change can be just what you need in your strength and fitness routine.
Consistency is important, but variety is often desirable.
Here’s the issue: you don’t want to be known as a program-hopper, and you don’t want to look the same in a year. So what do you do?
People thrive on change. Give the average gym bro a workout plan that focuses on just 4-5 basic compound exercises for a year and they will get bored. Variety can be a good thing if done right.
How To Add Exercise Variety to Your Routine
Changing up the assistance exercises every month is one good method.
For an example; With the 531 program you normally do 5 sets of 10 rep dumbbell rows once a week on your Bench day. Switch this out to 4 sets of 12 on a plate loaded row machine or cable row. Small changes add new challenges and motivation.
Regardless of your reasons (boredom, injury, equipment limitation) there are always different exercises you can perform to get strong and fit, beyond the big 4.
There are plenty of variations you can mix in. Front squats, Romanian deadlifts, incline bench, one arm db presses. Etc..
Goblet Squats, Farmer's Walks, and Weighted Push-ups
Three movements that changed my life this past year are the goblet squat, farmer’s walks and weighted push-ups.
I've been heavily influenced by the work of Dan John and he exposed me to the Goblet Squat, among many other excellent ideas like the Easy Strength program (highly recommend.)
As part of my warm-up I do goblet squats. A few sets, nothing heavy, just some weight to drill the squat pattern, to open up the hips and start enforcing tightness in the upper back.
Goblet squats force you to remain upright. If you haven’t tried them, they require you to hold a dumbbell or kettlebell at your upper chest (like a goblet) and to squat while holding the bell.
They aren’t the strength builders that barbell squats are, as you are limited by the weight you can hold in your hands, but they are great at warming up the hips, legs, and back.
Since I was battling some shoulder issues I decided to drop all bench pressing. Don’t hate on me bench lovers, it’s not forever.
I needed a push exercise that was shoulder friendly so I decided on the classic push-up.
Most people suck at push-ups.
By improving your push-up form, you will find that the movement is more challenging than you thought. (get everything tight!)
I worked my reps up until I felt very proficient, (sets of 40-50 reps) then added resistance.
I started with plates on my back, then I went to chains and worked up to handstand push-ups. I did this once a week in place of bench pressing. My shoulders felt better and I also get in some extra "core" work. Done right, push-ups challenge the middle of your body.
Lastly, the farmer’s walks. I did them mainly as "finishers". Use whatever you have available, whether it’s dumbbells, kettlebells, a trap bar or real farmer’s walk implements, or buckets of water or sand if you train in your backyard.
What’s so great about farmer’s walks? If you haven’t done them you will find out quickly how they improve everything. They make you stronger head to toe.
Watch a strongman competition for proof. I won’t use the word functional as I think it’s overused but picking a weight up and walking with it is one of those activities we all have to do so why not do it better?
With the addition of these three movements I found a way to add some exercise variety to my program and to work around an injury.
Grease The Groove
Here's another concept I got from Dan John.
Let’s say you want to improve your front squat technique. You can insert front squats as part of a warm-up on an upper-body day. Just go light and work on “greasing the groove” with a weight that you can dominate (50-60% of your 1rm) for 4-5 sets of 2-3 reps.
You can do this as many days a week as you like. I have done it up to 5 times a week for 3 months to work on technique in a lift. Move the weight explosively and treat it as you would heavy weights.
This shouldn’t be detrimental to your lifting for the day. It’s part of your warm-up but it’s much more effective/ fun than walking on a treadmill for 5 minutes. Unless you need that time to get caught up on Jerry Springer.
With finishers, anything goes. Feel free to mix it up and go wild. It's the perfect time for exercise variety. Do supersets of two or three exercises, maybe in a circuit. Barbell or dumbbell complexes work great as finishers as well.
Drag a sled and superset with farmer’s walks or waiter’s walks. You could do supersets of pushups then rows and get a nice pump and finish the session strong; or band pull-aparts and bicep curls. Get it done quick and have fun with it.
One important note is to keep any technical exercises to the beginning of your workout, like the olympic lifts.
Sled dragging, battle ropes, and jump rope are great at the end of training sessions because they don’t require supreme concentration and there is less risk of injury.
You don’t want to be snatching a maximum effort while in a fatigued state.
Do some farmer’s walks, push-ups or goblet squats. Hey, you could even do all three in a workout and it would be a solid day at the gym. A tweak here or there can make a big difference in how much you enjoy your training and that's a big part of staying consistent.