In high school I wanted to bench press 300 lbs.  Why?  What is the purpose of bench pressing anything?  Even in a football stance on the line in front of another body the bench press seems like such a waste of body movement.  As a father of 3 I am working out the least I have in my life yet I have continued to slowly progress in strength for the past 2 years.

That is how powerful diet is.  I work out much less but I’m gaining so much more health and even strength because I’m feeding my body so much better.  Do 2 things for yourself today.  Stop trying to starve and limit the food in your body.  Your body needs you to feed it; not starve it.  Force yourself to eat a few foods everyday simply for the nutrients they provide.  Leave the excuses about how it tastes and just do it for 3-4 weeks.  Your palette will adjust and your body will respond.

Once you make some of those foods a habit; then, and only then, start thinking about how you exercise in a different way.  Without fuel in your body, exercise is really a waste of time.  My previous 267 lb body that I pushed until my feet literally started to hurt was proof.

If you are busy like me, you don’t have time to waste with exercise.  It needs to be powerful, efficient and to make you feel good.  Drop any type of exercise that you do on a bench or sitting down.  If you are like me, you don’t have time to allow your core to be disengaged.  And forget about your abs.  Many of the core muscles essential for overall strength are located below the muscles you are used to training.

These are the muscles your body uses to stand straight and to complete so many daily functions.  Muscles like those around the lumbar spine, the abdominal wall, extensors, the quadratus lumborum, the latissimus dorsi and psoas are so much more important than pecs and abs and biceps and triceps.  These muscles allow you to move.  They connect your trunk to everything else.  Check out page 1 to learn more.

These muscles must be strong for the rest of your body to be strong.  Ditch the bench and engage in standing exercises.  Standing forces your trunk to be engaged.  Standing requires balance.  Your core muscles engage to create balance in your body.

What does this mean for exercise?  We need to focus on full body movements that cause the core muscles to compress.  This doesn’t happen with isolated exercises and it definitely doesn’t happen on a bench.

The Squat is a great exercise to start engaging your core.  Forget about weight and how much you can squat to start.  Keeping balance throughout full body movement is more important than how much weight you can squat.  Strong form with balance will cause greater gains in the long run.  A focus on weight before the core is ready to balance might actually lead to injury.

Start with a comfortable stance.  Feet should be about shoulder width apart or perhaps a bit wider.  Point your feet about 30 degrees out.  Practice squatting without a bar until you find the comfortable spot for you.  It is much more important that you keep a balanced form.  The weight will come quickly if you have balanced form.

Lift your chest and arch your back as you prepare to squat down.  Keep your head inline with your torso.  Focus on keeping your body balanced while you make the movement down and up.

Make sure to squat deep enough that you break parallel to the ground with your thighs.  This is essential as your core must work hard to keep balance as you go all the way down.  Focus on form until you can break parallel to the ground with your thighs before you start to add weight.  Your body in balance during the full movement is more important than how much weight you put up.

Don’t just take my word for it.  See some examples in this article from stronglifts.  Even better, do your own research and find the sweet spot for you.  Who am I but an overweight guy in his mid 30s who is slowly taking back his body and health?  I squat 3 times a month at most and in less than 2 years I’ve brought the weight back to 225 lbs at 6-8 reps.  But unlike in high school, I have decent form this time.  Form is essential.  Form forces your core to create balance.  Focus on form and you will see gains.  Probably even faster than me if you are eating well!