Don't try to reinvent the wheel

At Styrka we're all for variety in training modalities, and we think our emphasis on varied, functional training makes us one of the best gyms in Tulsa for hard-working athletes. But too often, the desire to avoid stagnation can lead to overly complicated exercises that sacrifice efficiency on the alter of novelty.

Take, for example, Zercher squats:

Outside of the sheer novelty, there's little reason to incorporate this movement into your workouts. The awkward position in which the bar is held prevents heavy loads from being used, making it vastly less effective than conventional squats (or even front squats) for strength development. The exercise places a good deal of stress on deep core stabilizers because the bar must be held away from the body's center of gravity — out over the toes, instead of over the midfoot as in a traditional squat. But there are more effective exercises for training core stabilization, including the conventional front squat. The problem here lies in the fact that the shoulders and biceps are being recruited to stabilize the bar, and that's neural and metabolic energy that could be directed toward core stabilization and lower-body force output.

Years ago I did some continuing education with a strength and conditioning expert who conceptualized the body's energy pathways as a garden hose. You can focus all the water on one end, or you can poke holes in the hose and distribute water over a wider area, but the total pressure does not change; by incorporating balance, instability, and ancillary muscle recruitment, you're reducing force output from any one specific area in exchange for more widely distributed energy demands. 

I'm not suggesting that you should never do movements like Zercher squats — there's nothing wrong with variety! But the foundation of your program should be simple multijoint exercises. It's far more efficient to do some heavy squatting followed by stability specialization and some focused metabolic conditioning than it is to do a workout full of exercises that spread their demands too broadly. If you want to get stronger, lift heavy. If you want to get leaner, do some intervals on the Assault Airbike. If you want to build muscle, increase your time under tension. If you want a stronger core, do some stabilization and transverse-plane work.

These are the tried and true principles of athletic development. There are no secrets in this industry. Your program ought to have enough variety to keep your mind engaged, but it doesn't need to be filled with overly complicated exercises. It's hard for industry marketing gurus to package and sell you the truth: stick to the basics and work your ass off. That's how you get results.