Q: Chris, I don’t want to buy the blast straps and I want to do bodyweight exercises that I can perform anywhere, even at work. I am having a challenging time finding an exercise for the back. Can you provide me a few examples?
Michael from Illinois
A: Hi Michael. I've got a few favorites for "equipment-less" back exercises.
I like stick-ups a lot and I find them great for posture. You can view a video of them here...
==>Stick-Up Exercise Video (within a bodyweight circuit)
I also like doing YTWL's for posture and find that this sequence is great for your upper back. Here's a video for that sequence...
==>YTWL Postural Video
Unfortunately, if you want to pack some muscle on your back (a HUGE muscle group), then you can't do much better than chin-ups and various rows. If lack of equipment is an issue, my suggestion is to go to a playground and do your FitAndBusyDad workouts there (using the monkey bars as your chin-up apparatus). You could also do inverted rows if there was a low parallel bar around OR you could even use the swings for some suspended inverted rows.
I hope that helps. Good Luck!
Re-think Parallel Squats
Q: As an older trainer (60 next month), I have learned over the past several years that working with older clients (over 45) is a different animal. Going past parallel is something that, in most cases, will create problems in the knees. Even those seniors who have trained for years begin to complain about the knees. I can usually trace the problem back to deep squats and/or too heavy lifting. In my training, I spot everyone doing the squat so that they maintain at least a 90% angle opening behind the knee at all times. Please be aware that to recommend anything deeper will introduce a higher probability of knee issues. I see it time and time again.
The benefits of a deeper squat are far outweighed by the long term negative of knees that 'talk to you' every day. If you want better glut and ham development, go to the lunge (if the knees allow you). In my own case, I lunge 120# for 20 reps on the 4th set. By the way, one rep = 2 steps, left and right.
Certified Personal Trainer from Georgia
A: Hi Rick, thanks for your comment. I find that issues related to the inability to squat below parallel actually result in poor upper back, hip and ankle mobility in older adults (actually in everyone - old or young) and that knee issues can be cleared up (somewhat) by addressing these restrictions in mobility. I also work with a fair amount of 45+ adults all of whom couldn't squat below parallel when we first started.
By using foam rolling/soft tissue techniques and increasing mobility in these areas using various drills/exercises, I can usually get them below parallel eventually (the time frame depends on the individual).
An important point to make is that I won't have them squat with load until they can get below parallel using their bodyweight and we won't touch load until they can do a PERFECT 20 reps.
Also, because of compression issues in their spine, I won't get older adults to do back squats (where the bar is resting on their back). I prefer to stick to front squats, dumbbell squats or kettlebell squats.
I guess the take home point is that people shouldn't be afraid to squat below parallel. Everyone's been scared into thinking that going lower will cause their knee caps to explode or something.
I agree that some people do in fact have structural limitations that won't allow them to squat below parallel, but for the bulk of us, old or young, I think going below parallel is definitely realistic if not necessary.
Let me know if you have any questions!