How to optimize your exercise selection from the gang of nine - Part 1

The back squat, deadlift, parallel-grip deadlift, leg press, front squat, ball squat, hip-belt squat and sumo deadlift are grouped together because they are major exercises for the thigh (front and rear) and hip musculature; and other than for the leg press, ball squat and hip-belt squat, they heavily involve the lower back, too. Each of this group of eight works over half of the muscle mass of the body. The thigh, hip, and lower back unit is the foundation of bodybuilding, and mobility.

The partial deadlift can be included in a routine in some situations, to make the ninth member of the group.

No matter how effective an exercise may be for someone, if it doesn't suit you, it will do you no good, and perhaps do you harm. When considering the preferences of a trainer, coach, or author, consider your limitations and technical proficiency. “First cause no harm” is the medical prime directive that's equally applicable to training.

The back squat and the conventional deadlift commonly lead to problems. These exercises are technically demanding, and their performance is strongly affected by body structure, flexibility, and any past injuries.

But most trainees who feel they can't do some exercises safely haven't been performing those exercises correctly. Through improving their technique (which often necessitates improving flexibility), and using weights that permit correct technique and rep speed control, most of these trainees will be able to train safely on formerly unsafe exercises.


The back squat and the conventional deadlift are potentially highly valuable — two of the very best exercises. Each works about two thirds of the body's muscle mass.

I strongly recommend that you use both exercises provided that correct technique and bar speed control are used, all safety measures are taken as described in Chapter 12, and a sensible progression schedule is applied.

Although some people have better mechanics than others for these exercises, most can squat and deadlift well enough to obtain terrific benefits from them provided that they master the technique.

Even if you think that you don't squat and deadlift well, don't give up on them because of initial difficulties. Once you've mastered their form, you may be able to squat and deadlift much more effectively.

If, however, you've followed all the recommendations in Chapter 6, have done your best to apply the squatting and deadlifting technique as described in Chapter 12, have used a controlled rep speed, and yet still have joint or back problems, then substitute alternative exercises.

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