Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My Top 5 Favorite Exercises of 2011

2011 was a great year to "invent" or modify popular exercises. With the help of YouTube and a simple opportunistic attitude, people everywhere were creating exercises that added more bang to their buck; or simply made them look "cooler" in the gym. Albeit, not all YouTube fanfare is helpful. Some exercises featured can be crazy, dangerous, and sometimes...downright stupid. To each his own.

This year, with my own facility I was able to "test" out exercises that I have been using with myself and my clients-- and that I had enough nerve to film. I've shared all of these videos in a blog post this year, but I wanted to feature each video exercise that I have chosen as a personal favorite--based on how helpful and how quickly it can be introduced into anyone's training program.

Countdown to #1:

5.) Standing Band Pulls

This is a great drill for (1) people looking to increase range of motion with the absence of impingment symptoms, and (2) increase serratus activation. I performed this drill during my own post-surgery shoulder recovery training, and it worked wonders. Most of today's rehabilitation exercises for the shoulder almost always focus on the rotator cuff complex exclusively. I believe the RTC has its place on the map to recovery, but you cannot ignore the surrounding muscles that enable the shoulder complex to operate efficiently. Category: Warm-Up  or Active Rest Drill

4.) Front Loaded Cable Shoulder Press for Scap Awareness

This is a tricky exercise. Why? Because most yahoo's that try this in the gym are going to load up the cable towers and bang out rep after rep with exactly the form I don't want you to use! This exercise is meant to be performed with accuracy. This is not meant to grow melons for shoulders---although it can be included in any shoulder routine. This is meant to train the scapula during downward/upward rotation. I love this "awareness" exercise, because you can still increase the load and help the cause. 
Category: Warm-Up  or Strength-training

3.) Dowel Cable Rows

Gray Cook made the cable dowel popular with the chop and lift drills; but I wanted to purely try a different route with this tool. The Cable Row with the dowel enables the thorasic spine to work in unison with adequate shoulder mobility. With the proper shoulder kinematics, the movement is fluid--depending on hand placement on the dowel. The exercise is simply a reversal of the chop and lift drill by Gray Cook. Albeit,  the same factors need to be stressed: core stabilization and force production from a standing, tall kneel or half kneeling stance. In the video, I use the standing version because I like it. 
Category: Strength-training

2.) TRX Shoulder Mobility Drill

I don't  think I necessarily invented this, but I have been a shoulder mobility guy for quite sometime. I had the Shoulder "S" Stretch with a dowel many years ago featured on my YouTube Channel (2006); so with the popularity of the TRX Suspension trainer, I had an idea to increase shoulder mobility and increase flexibility in the pectorals. I love this as a warm and really should be progressed based on capability and needs.
Category: Warm-Up/Cool-Down 

1.) QL Stretch on Stability Ball

This drill is for all my desk-sitters. The hip complex really takes a SUBTLE beating each day when it is cemented to an office chair for 8-9 hours. I started using this drill for myself after spending long days writing these ever-popular blog posts ;), but found it to be helpful for clients after a workout. Performed after a foam rolling session (preferably done after the workout--although most published foam rolling is performed before--some before and after). My clients began to give me all the same positive feedback: lower back tightness had subsided or greatly reduced immediately after, and subsequently after, the inclusion of this drill. Clients feeling better? That was good enough for me.

Hope you enjoyed this list!!


  1. Awesome Exercises John. I havent see a few of these and I will be adding some of them for sure.

    I forgot about the QL stretch on the stability ball...I used to do it and I forgot it..great exercise.

    I like the homemade TRX Rip Trainer..smart guy :)

    Next purchase....Free Range Motion Machine. which one do you use again John?


  2. Thanks Rob. Look for more in 2012!


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