The biggest reason a guy will stop going to the gym is for 1 of two reasons:
- He runs out of time.
- He gets hurt.
The first one is an excuse for someone who forgot the reason why they started in the first place. The second one can be a very real, crippling reality for the dude who is desperate to bench press without pain.
Fortunately for you, if you do the following exercises you aren’t going to be in pain forever.
The bad news is that these exercises are almost always so boring you’d rather watch paint dry.
Not quite, but these exercises won't garner you a ton of likes on instagram. You won't be doing anything with an inhuman amount of weight, or crazy circus tricks.
But what they WILL do is give you a solid foundation to get you out of pain, and back on the PR train as it heads for Gainsville. Population: YOU.
It's time to punch your ticket. If you use these simple, even "boring" exercises you’re going to be back pushing heavy weight in no time.
Pain free training isn’t as crazy and impossible as it seems.
The first key is making sure that your pain isn’t long term. Go see a physical therapist to make sure you’re clear for exercise. You don't want your joints to be in imminent danger of permanent injury.
Ready to rock? Perfect. Let’s get into these exercises.
1. Banded Hip Thrust
The favorite exercise of Instagram models everywhere. The glute bridge is as good at making great behinds as it is helping you get rid of back and knee pain.
With stronger glutes, you’re going to decrease lower back pain AND the hip flexor strain you feel at the bottom of the squat. With strong glutes, you now have the most powerful hip extensor to push you up out of squat purgatory.
Related: The Real Benefits of Stronger Glutes
The beauty of the band is that it has accommodating resistance. That means the tension increases as you stretch it. Unlike the barbell hip thrust, you're only going to get max tension at the top where your glutes are fully squeezed. This means that as you get more tired, your body won't sacrifice form to squeeze your glutes.
How to Do this Exercise
The easiest way to set this up is by using the power rack, and throwing your band on the hooks on either side.
If you don't have that luxury because your gym is always busy, grab two heavy dumbbells, put them on one side of a bench, with the band going across it like the video below.
To perform the exercise, put the band on your hips and brace your core. Keep your neck in line with your back, have your shoulders on the bench. Drive your hips up, squeezing your butt at the top. Do for 12-15 reps, and feel the deep burn in your glutes.
2. Face Pulls
How many different upper body pressing movements do you have? I can name 5 just off the top of my head with push-ups, bench press, incline press, dumbbell shoulder press and barbell overhead press.
But how many do you have that train the back of your shoulder, aka your posterior deltoid? One, MAYBE two?
I know bench press might be your favorite exercise. It makes your chest and shoulder look AND feel amazing.
But what happens when the front of your shoulders get achy? Do you continue to train these exercises that cause pain?
What if this one exercise could help fix that?
When we do pressing movements, our shoulders are being pulled into internal rotation (hands end up pointing towards your waist). You might know this as the "Douchebag Shoulder Syndrome". When we don’t focus on opening up our chest and improving the EXTERNAL (where your thumbs point behind you) rotation, your shoulders are going to be waving the white flag sooner or later.
The beauty of face pulls is that they strengthen your back, rear deltoids, AND improve the external rotation of your shoulder. With open shoulders, that pretty girl in the bar you want to go talk to won’t think you’re a mindless gym rat. She'll see a man with confidence, and the posture to prove it.
How to Do this Exercise
You can do this with bands, but it’s easier done with a standing cable machine with the rope attachment. Keep the weight low, and reps high. If your lower back is rounding to compensate, stop it. Keep that butt and core squeezed to keep your back neutral.
With the rope at face height, grab the rope with one hand on either rope, and palms facing up. Squeeze your shoulders together FIRST, then point your thumbs back like you’re showing off the gun show. Do 12-15 reps. Watch how great your shoulders will feel over the next couple weeks.
3. Sled Push
This might be the least boring of the four.
It's not as cool as doing a max clean and jerk, or max bench press, but it is cool enough for an NFL legend put it on his instagram.
To do this, you put one foot in front of the other.
Ridiculously simple, but if you're coming back from injury this is a must have in training. And we'll get into some science about why.
There are 3 ways the muscles contract. Eccentric (lengthening of the muscle), isometric (muscle stays the same length) and concentric (shortening of the muscle).
Eccentric force can handle more, while concentric force can handle much less. This is why when you go down for a squat, you can control it on the way down, but sometimes get stuck on the way up. Your muscles were strong enough for the lengthening (Lowering the weight), but not strong enough for the shortening of the muscles (taking it back up).
When you are just coming from injury, or your knees/back bother you in squats and lunges, it often is the fact your body can't handle the eccentric motion yet.
THAT is why we're including the Sled Push. IT IS ONLY CONCENTRIC movement. This means you can allow your body to get stronger without worrying about if your knees will hurt lowering the weight. If you can't even do a box squat without irritation in your knees, this one is going to be a go to for you.
4. Band Resisted Deadbug
Learning how to keep a neutral spine is imperative to any exercise you do in the gym. It keep you safe from injury, and allows you to transfer force through your body to the object you’re trying to move.
Plus we all know how great a chiseled 6 pack looks.
Your rectus abdominus, obliques, and transverse abdominus don't do all the stabilization themselves. They work with the lats to keep the trunk stable during heavy movements like squats, deadlifts and overhead press. To create a strong functional body, resilient to injury, we need to teach the core and lats to work together. This is one of my favourites to teach this.
It's not fancy, but if you're doing this correctly, you're going to feel your abs the next morning when you sneeze.
How to Do this Exercise
Set up a band on an upright bar. A power rack will work well.
From there, line up in parallel with the band, with your lower back and head on the ground. Before you lift up your feet, press your lower back into the ground and imagine pointing a belt buckle up to your nose. Now lift your legs so they're in a 90/90 position, with your knees and hips making 90 degree angles.
Pull the band, with hands facing together, over your shoulders with hands straight. Then lift your feet, and begin your dead bugs. Don't rush through your bugs, but do them controlled and with purpose. Your core will notice. Perform 10-12 reps total, for 2-3 sets.