No small thing

I’m a fan of basic, compound movements that work large muscle groups. Beyond building bulk, power movements like squats and deadlifts cause the body to release a flood of growth hormones, stimulating further gains.

However, sometimes due to choice, but mostly due to necessity, gym members spend a great deal of time focusing on smaller body parts.

Here are five examples of the exercises I’m talking about:

5. The hamstring curl machine pull and jerk: The poor condition of gym equipment often makes self-maintenance unavoidable. For example, when you want to extend the pad on a hamstring curl machine to fit your height, you’ll first build your forearms trying desperately to unscrew the knob that has rusted and stuck. When that fails, you’ll build your rear delts by lifting up a 5 lb weight plate and smashing it down on the knob.

4. The treadmill isometric neck hold: It’s one thing to flip through a magazine while riding a stationary bike. It’s a whole different kind of workout to do some reading while bouncing up and down on a treadmill. This activity requires tremendous neck strength in order to lock your gaze in place. The woman I saw recently performing this feat was even reading some dense academic journal with a tiny font. I couldn’t do it.

3. The diaphragm and breath control drill: I stay far away from this one guy at the gym, but I’m still able to observe from a distance his astonishing verbal stamina. He doesn’t stop talking when he’s lifting his weights, he doesn’t stop when someone is talking to him. He doesn’t stop talking when he’s taking a sip of water. It’s a cloud of noise, like a leaf blower, that annoys more or less depending upon your proximity.

2. The jump and sprint for calves: The explosive fibers in the back of the leg often come in handy jumping out of the way of – or running away from – fellow gym members. For example, the guy lifting weights while perched on a swiss ball is a danger to himself and the people around him. Likewise, I’ve hightailed it out of the gym’s sauna when a fellow member began the process of burning the whole place down.

1. The barbell plate remove and return: You could perform an entire workout just putting other people’s weights back where they belong. Pulling heavy plates off barbells is quite taxing on your forearms, biceps, and front delts. I’ve never understood the mentality of loading up a barbell for squats or bench presses, completing your sets, and then simply walking away. The silver lining is that since no one can tell if the station is in use or not, even in a crowded gym I can jump right in without missing a beat.

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