Training is a lot like nutrition. Healthy foods never taste as good as fattening ones, and exercise is the same way: The best exercises for your body are the least popular—and they seem to hurt the most.
The most popular moves? Anything where you sit or lie down. The whole machine concept is based on appealing to the lowest common denominator of human nature. You can exercise while seated on a padded chair. Of course this is highly ineffective.
The average person’s work ethic in the gym is the equivalent of going to a restaurant, ordering dessert, getting too full from dessert, and skipping the meal. Lots of empty calories and none of the stuff you need.
Most people go to the gym and immediately do the exercises they like. If you’re a guy, that usually means bench presses and curls. If you’re a woman, it often means hopping on the treadmill for a long, slow walk or run.
This mentality contributes to the populations downfall in health and fitness. People always work on the stuff they can’t see or don’t like to do, and they promise themselves they will do it tomorrow, but tomorrow never comes.
As a college strength and conditioning coach, I encountered the same problem early in my career. I came to the early realization that Monday would always be lower-body day. This was done for one simple reason. Every day, I was forced to battle with human nature. Athletes are no different than the average gym-goer. They want to do what they like. I was like the parent who needed to say, “No TV until your homework is done.”
When we first began developing training programs for athletes, they were just like the folks described above. Athletes who were not on a program would wander into the weight room, do a couple of sets of bench presses, and then wander over to the curl bar for a few sets. After this, they would leave.
My solution to this problem was simple: The first day of every week was lower-body day. This meant that athletes would return the next day to do the stuff they really wanted to do. A simple but effective solution.
The solution for you, if you’re not an athlete, is even simpler: Perform a full-body workout every time you go to the gym. Do your lower body and pulling exercises (like chin-ups) first. Save the bench presses and curls for last. If you just did a squat or squat variation, a pull-up variation, and then benched and curled, the result would be a vast improvement in your physique since it would correct common strength imbalances, which improves posture as a result.
Michael Boyle is one of the world’s leading experts in the area of performance enhancement and the owner of StrengthCoach.com. Michael is also the author of Functional Training for Sports.