No matter what exercise you do, it’s important to use great technique at all times. Period. You might be able to get away with sloppy form for a little bit, but eventually, it’ll catch up with you. That’s why it’s so valuable to have someone by your side, making sure you’re in the correct position and using the correct muscles.
But if don’t have the luxury of hiring a personal trainer, consider doing exercises that are difficult to do incorrectly. It’s not that these movements are easy — it’s just that they force you to use proper technique, otherwise you can’t do them at all.
Welcome to the world of “self-limiting exercises.”
HOW SELF-LIMITING EXERCISES WORK
Most exercises require you to use strength and power to move weight. Self-limiting exercises, however, focus on correct posture, muscular activation, movement, balance and coordination — the moment you do things incorrectly, you won’t be able to do the exercise.
Suddenly, it takes your strength out of the equation. You can’t muscle your way through an exercise or even cheat; instead, these movements challenge you in different ways and force you to do things correctly.
For example, you might bench 250 pounds, but if you struggle to balance on one knee or one leg, you’ll struggle to move weights in that position.
By using self-limiting exercises, you’ll develop better coordination, balance and total-body muscular control, which helps you build a stronger and more powerful body.
5 SELF-LIMITING EXERCISES TO ADD TO YOUR ROUTINE
SINGLE-ARM, BOTTOMS-UP KETTLEBELL PRESS
By holding a kettlebell “bottoms-up” (with the large part above the handle), it instantly turns an exercise into a self-limiting exercise. That’s because, to keep the kettlebell balanced, your entire body — posture, core, etc. — needs to work in sync, otherwise the kettlebell will fall. (Even if you tried to squeeze the handle as hard as you could, it will still fall if you’re not balanced.)
By doing a press while balancing a kettlebell, you’ll build shoulder strength while targeting your stabilizing muscles.
The move: Stand and hold a kettlebell in the bottoms-up position by your shoulder. Press the kettlebell up without it falling, squeeze your glutes and tighten your abs throughout. Don’t think about pushing the kettlebell away from you; think about driving yourself into the ground.
SINGLE-ARM FARMER’S CARRIES
Farmer’s carries are a simple way to build a strong core and develop endurance. Once your grip gets tired or your posture breaks down, you won’t be able to go any further. (How’s that for self-limiting?
The move: Grab heavy dumbbells or kettlebells, stand tall with your chest up and shoulders back and walk. Try using just one arm for extra core work or varying your grip. For example, wrap a towel around each dumbbell and hold the towels instead of the handles.
Want to build strong legs and great lower-body stability and balance without worrying about hurting yourself? Skater squats are a great addition to your workout routine. Just go down and come back up. If you lose your balance, you’ll naturally stop; if you lack the strength, you’ll be stuck at the bottom.
The move: Start from standing and bend one foot behind you. Then, squat down while trying to touch your bent knee onto the ground behind you. Lean your torso and reach your arms forward as you descend. If you can’t reach the ground with your knee, that’s fine — just go as low as you can.
SINGLE-LEG ROMANIAN DEADLIFTS
The single-leg Romanian deadlift is one of the best exercises to strengthen your glutes, hamstrings and hip stabilizers. Even better, it encourages great technique, balance, coordination and muscle activation. To perform the exercise, you’ll have to do everything correctly — if something breaks down, you’ll automatically stop and put down your weights.
The move: Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell in your right hand. With your right leg, reach back as far as you can while sitting into your left hip. Keep your shoulders pulled back and imagine crushing your right armpit. Go down as far as you can while maintaining the natural arch in your lower back. Perform all your reps and switch sides.
HALF-KNEELING KETTLEBELL HALO
This is one of the best core exercises you’re (probably) not doing. First, halos hammer your core from many different angles while keeping your body neutral. Second, by getting on just one knee and reducing your “base of support,” it puts all the emphasis on your core, posture and balance — you simply cannot cheat this exercise.
The move: Get on one knee while keeping your feet in-line and hold one kettlebell in both hands with the large part over your hands. Keep your lower back neutral and make big circles around your head with the kettlebell. Do all your reps one way and then switch directions. Then, switch knees.