Something that I will always bring up in a serious conversation about training is the concept of carryover. In designing a program with a certain objective, I will always look for the exercises and systems with effects that transfer to a wide range of results. For example, if I were looking to put muscle mass on someone, most of that person’s workouts would involve multiple sets of compound movements. A client requesting mass gain can expect to work up to 10 sets of 10 reps of bench presses, or timed sets of front squats. This would ensure that all major and most minor muscle groups would be trained without having to work through a billion different exercises per workout, as an isolation-training mindset would entail.
Similarly, it would benefit someone to train movements with results that would positively improve others. It takes some understanding of exercise science to do properly, but it’s a very good way to improve one’s fitness.
Take the deadlift. There are enough articles on the benefits of the exercise that I won’t bother listing them here, so I’ll just say that everyone could use a little deadlifting in their program. It’s a good measure of overall strength because it requires the use of so many muscles: the posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, spinal extensors) are the prime movers, the quads provide assistance, the upper back and biceps have to tense up, and the forearms have to be able to hang onto hundreds of pounds of iron.
Because of this, the deadlift benefits greatly from improving other exercises. Pull-ups are an excellent exercise for strengthening one’s forearm, bicep, and upper back muscles, which minimize grip problems. Single-leg work such as pistol squats are a weight-free way to build lower body strength – including strength in the posterior chain, which obviously improves one’s deadlift.
To prove the point, I pulled 160kg / 352.64lbs yesterday despite not having deadlifted in over a month. My previous 1RM was 145kg, meaning I added 15kg without actually working on the movement. In that month, I focused on bodyweight strength, mainly pistol squats and uneven chin-ups. Now this isn’t the heaviest I’ve ever deadlifted, but the last time I pulled 160kg, I weighed 85kg. This time, I weighed 75. Pound for pound – or kilo for kilo, as the case may be – I’m stronger now than I’ve ever been.
This is something worth reflecting on outside the gym as well. When was the last time you developed a skill that helped out somewhere unexpected?
30x 4-way JJ
Alternating 10-1 ladder
TRX Chest Press
Alternating 10-1 ladder
Bench Press @ 2x60lbs
TRX Row (deep as possible)
- This workout is an abbreviated version of something I did in late 2013 as part of my Man of Steel Mass Gain experimental program. It’s one of the best upper body pump workouts I’ve ever done, but requires a considerable level of strength endurance. Worth a look now that – while I appreciate my strength – I am trying to put some mass back onto my arms and shoulders.