There’s no such thing as a must-do exercise.
This is the truth about fitness, even though not everyone understands that. Walk into any gym, and you’ll see a host of guys doing barbell deadlifts, for example, and somewhere in that gym, there will be one or two guys who insist that if you can’t do a barbell deadlift, well, you’re just not fitness-ing the right way.
Why? Because a long long time ago, the barbell deadlift was established as a must-do exercise that every guy just had to do, well, just because. Over the years of bodybuilding and exercise, a handful of movements have gotten this level of love, ascending from just another exercise to “staple movement” territory.
But the more time you spend training, the more you realize that not everyone needs to do every movement. Yes, the back squat is the gold standard of all squats, but that doesn’t mean you need to do it. Not all exercises are for all people, so skip these “staples” for exercises that will work better for your body.
Focus On Movement Patterns, Not Movements
Understand this about training: Your body needs to work through certain movement patterns. You need to be able to push things away from you (as you do in a bench press). You need to pull things toward you (as you do in a pullup or a row). You should be able to bend at the knees (like you do when you squat), and you want to hinge at the hip (which you do when you pick up your keys from the floor — or when you deadlift).
Now, if you’re a competitive powerlifter, then you need to do the barbell deadlift as your hinge movement. But if you’re just trying to stay healthy, why can’t you do dumbbell deadlifts, or other versions of the move? Truth is, you can, so don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can’t.
This is similar even if you’re training specific muscles groups. Take your triceps for example. Yes, plenty of guys do dips for triceps, but there are a host of other moves that let you isolate the muscles on the backs of your arms. So if you can wind up with shoulder pain when you do dips, swap them out for more shoulder-friendly moves. And yes, your tris will still be able to grow to epic proportions.