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The Risk:Reward Ratio of Exercise Selection

A few days ago I was inspired to write  this post in response to a fellow coach informing me that a team he trained were leaving him so they go to a training camp based around a particular piece of equipment. Needles to say I thought this was nonsense and say as much in the post.

It has however got me thinking some, and while I’ve made my point about equipment, what about exercise selection?

How do we choose what exercises an athlete should do?

I commonly read other peoples blogs espousing the awesomeness of their favourite exercises, but what happens when that exercise doesn’t fit the athlete?

A fine example is the Barbell Front Squat. I love it. I love to have my guys do it. I believe that it is a safer and potentially more effective method of squatting than the back squat. However I have a number of people that the lift is simply not suitable for. The most common problem preventing the front squat is the strength or mobility of the upper back. For others the needs of their sport simply means the back squat is more appropriate for them. Is the squat even appropriate if their glutes aren’t firing right? Maybe, but only under close supervision with the right activation and mobilisation work to ensure safety and progression. I also love single leg training. Yet one or two my guys simply can’t tolerate it and must stick to bilateral lower body lifts.

It all comes down to what I call the Risk:Reward ratio. How much do the rewards outweigh the risks of any given exercise?

Do I take the guy with horrendously internally rotated shoulders and make him do overhead work simply because I advocate kettlebell lifting and that what you do with kettles?

No f@*king way! He does floor pressing or push ups. Why? Because of the Risk:Reward ratio for that individual. The risks for him on the overhead press without first correcting his posture far outweigh the potential benefits of that exercise. So we substitute it with a more appropriate drill.

This is the job of the coach, hell it’s why we have a job in the first place. While yes, we all have our preferences, we must put the needs of our athletes ahead of them.



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