Yesterday I was talking with a colleague about exercise programming and the concept of progression/regression as it applies to choosing the most appropriate exercise variation, load, and intensity for relatively sedentary population vs. athletes. This discussion happened in part due to a client remarking a day before that she seemed to be doing similar exercises as the two other people she is training with even though her goal is to gain muscle, while they are primarily trying to lose fat.
I explained a concept often lost of many seeking to improve their level of health and fitness, which is there are fundamental movement patterns we all should do: squatting, hip hinging (kettlebell swing), pushing, pulling, rotation/anti-rotation, and that none of these movements are exclusively for fat loss, or gaining strength, but what differentiates them is the application.
At what intensity, range of motion, volume, or particular variation of a squat is determined by the individual’s particular capabilities, training status, and goals.
And this is where many people get lost in confusion by one person saying everyone should barbell squat, or single leg squat etc… It all depends.
When I get asked questions I may frustrate people with the “it depends” answer, but that’s because no one exercise choice will work for everyone at all times. Some people may be fine moving into single leg squats off of a box, but others may need to focus on just sitting down and standing up from a box. It’s the same exercise – hip and knee flexion/extension, just different.
There is nothing special about either, which echos Bruce Lee’s quote:
Before I studied the art, a punch to me was just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick no longer a kick. Now that I’ve understood the art, a punch is just like a punch, a kick just like a kick.
Just choose the most appropriate to each situation.
With that in mind I have been working on installing a system of training tools at EFL that allows for a large number of progressions/regressions which work many movement and training qualities simultaneously. Of course I didn’t invent any of this, but just took good ideas from other sources and combined them into a series of transitional exercises.
One particular variation is the traveling rings, which seems to be making a tiny bit of resurgence in a few gyms, namely Jon Hinds’ Monkey Bar gym in Madison and Chigago. Jon does a great job in re-establishing good movement patterns with his clients through challenging and fun exercises such as this.
A regression from the traveling rings would be working on chin-ups, inverted rows, and simply hanging from the rings to improve strength and stability through the core, back, shoulders, and arms.
A progression would be to mix the rings with rock rings and ropes I designed to hang from the same attachments. A further progression is to switch out all the rings for rock rings, and finally ropes, which would be extremely challenging for just about anyone.
The take home point with all of this is to learn how to determine, or seek a coach qualified to help you figure out what are the optimal exercises for you right now, and how to transition as you improve.