My Favorite Exercises To Hate

A favorite part of my week is doing personal training sessions with my nine year old son. Since March when the schools went remote he has joined me once or twice a week. It is great to spend the time together and I think it has been really good for him since most of his extracurriculars have been canceled.

Yesterday my coach gave us an option of two exercises to choose from and my son asked which was harder because that was what he wanted to do. That was a great response and it made me think about some of the exercises we choose to avoid or do halfway. We are all guilty of cheating a bit but that is the reason I love fitness so much. It is honest. If you slack off your fitness does too. You can’t fake your body into doing more pushups or running more miles. Either you do the work or you don’t.

So while it hurts and is hard to do, sticking with the things we are weak in helps us the most. Because triathlon is really a full body event I work all areas on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean everything is uniformly strong though. In fact there are a number of exercises I cringe at but know they are the ones that will help the most.

First up is lunges. There are many variations of these but my least favorite is reverse lunges with a dumbbell in each hand. I’ll normally do 15 per leg for three or four sets. These work my hamstrings, something I have neglected for most of my life. Playing catchup is hard but worth it.

My next up is the squat shoulder press. The key to this is using your legs to push the weights up, but when you are tired, this is hard. This exercise will also drive my heart rate up quite a bit. Keeping the shoulders and back strong is a plus for swimming, while the core and legs benefit you in all disciplines.

Another fun one that I learned of lately and have been doing quite a bit are ‘man makers’. What is a man maker? I can best describe it as Burpess 2.0. You start in a pushup position with a dumbbell in each hand. You do a weighted row that goes straight into a pushup. After that you bring your feet in, stand up and do a shoulder press with the weights. Back down into pushup position and repeat until exhausted. This works the whole body and drives the heart rate up quickly. It is hard because it incorporates other things that are hard for me, and there is constant movement the whole time. Nothing gets a break.

A surpise addition to this list are frog jumps. I like to finish these quickly and will normally jump as far as I can each time. That hurts more but is for less time. I’ll often do these with a weight as well, because, you know, I need to feel the burn. This is another good one for hamstrings, quads, and glutes.

A last one for this list is the kettlebell swing. I will often do this for time and it seems to hurt from the start. It works basically everything and for me the only relief is the downward arc of the swing. By the end of my set my forearms are just about to explode and send the kettlebell across the room.

These are the things I have the strongest love hate relationship with. I know they count the most because they are the hardest for me. I could avoid them but instead I try my best to focus on them and do them right. Working my weaknesses makes me stronger and less prone to injury. It is something I see alot of people struggle with. Swimmers focus on the swim and runners focus on the run too much. People head to the gym and go right to the equipment they are best at. If you are going to put the time in, you may as well make the most of it.

Spending time on your struggles will yield more growth and improvement vs. the same amount of time invested on your strengths. Knowing you can push through the pain and being more well rounded is just icing on the cake.

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