Coach Caleb’s Corner – 3 Favorite Exercises


Coach Caleb’s Corner

3 Favorite Exercises

I love the start of a New Year, and all the possibilities that brings us. New training ideas, new programs to test and implement for myself and for our amazing trainees.  I reviewed some of our “greatest hits” exercises and made sure to prioritize the vital few that give us some of the biggest bang for our training buck.  I wanted to post a reminder about why learning these moves is so great, and I also love to play games, so why not combine the two. Can you identify these feats of strength just by their descriptions?  Let’s find out in the first ever Coach’s Corner Quiz!

Put your thinking toque on.  (For non-canadians that would be your thinking hat.)  These descriptions are all paraphrased from our StrongFirst Instructor materials and the answers will likely be obvious to you!  Here’s an easy one to warm up on:

1.  “The _________, is the ultimate test of strength and one of the most powerful strength builders for the entire body.  It is the top lower body exercise for athletes who must maximize their strength with minimal muscle gain.”

Wow!  The “ultimate” test of strength.   As if that isn’t cool enough, it’s also one of the best exercises used to build superior strength without adding any unwanted size.  A lower body exercise… that’s a big hint.  Hmm… what could it be?  Did you guess it?

The Deadlift (of course!)


The Deadlift, sumo or conventional, is not only a fundamental skill that almost any trainee in pursuit of better fitness should learn to master, it is also one of the greatest tests of an individual’s overall strength.  Simply picking up an unyielding object that’s sitting on the ground requires such development of the legs, glutes, abdominals, lats and grip, that it represents the most straightforward challenge of one’s general brute force capabilities. That’s why it is one of our favorites at Breakthrough and we never get tired of making it stronger for all our trainees.

Here’s the next one and it’s a bit trickier:

2.  “Not just for special operators, the ___________ is one of the best upper body pulling exercises for all around strength development – with a high carryover to a great number of applications.  It is the prerequisite for many gymnastics exercises and training.”

This bare bones description doesn’t give us much to go on, but then there aren’t too many upper body pulling exercises that are so great for “all around” strength development and also have an overt carryover to gymnastics skills.  Seated lat pulldowns or bent rows, for example, are obviously not it.  We know that this exercise is popular with the military, as well, which is a big clue.  I’m sure everyone is screaming out the answer by now.

The Tactical Pull Up!


To hang from a bar using a palms-forward, thumbless grip and pull up from a dead hang until one’s neck or upper chest touches the bar, using pure strength; no swinging, kipping or other use of momentum, now that’s a feat of strength.  Like the Dead Lift, the pull up represents both a tremendous training exercise to improve body composition and a test of an individual’s mettle with no other equipment than something to hang from.  It’s another Breakthrough favorite, and we will always be enthusiastic about starting a trainee’s journey to their first pull up… or their first set of 20 pull ups!

Time for the last challenge.

3.  “The Tsar of lifts, this exercise is tested instead of pushups in the Russian armed forces.  The _____________ builds an iron back, hips, grip and develops outstanding cardio-respiratory stamina, with impressive carryover to running, jumping, combat sports, hiking etc. It also builds the prized qualities we think of as will power and pain tolerance.”

An exercise to develop will power and pain tolerance sounds a bit extreme.  But that could describe a lot of the crazy fitness activities athletes get up to these days, like obstacle course racing.  Building an iron back as well as hips and grip… that gives us lots of detail, and we know its a cardio strengthener too, and that part pretty much gives it away.  We all have a love / hate relationship with this one, right?  We love what it does for us but it can sometimes be a tough part of our programming until the technique gets super smooth and then this lift is addictive.

The Kettlebell Snatch!


There’s nothing quite like the powerful feeling you get from hurling a heavy kettlebell overhead at a hard driving cardio pace.  At Breakthrough, we get trainees working on this lift as soon as it is appropriate to do so.  It burns calories faster than just about any other exercise and builds all those sought-after power-endurance skills an athlete could ever want for their sport of choice or just for the sport of life.  Testing the number of snatches an athlete is capable of achieving in a given time interval provides an excellent indication of their toughness and work capacity.

Each of the exercises in this little quiz also provides an excellent means to test the associated fitness qualities they help to develop. Put all three together in your programming and you’ve got a means of building and assessing your brute strength, muscle endurance and cardio-respiratory fitness!  If building strength without adding size, promoting a more favorable body composition and developing excellent endurance are your goals, then you needn’t seek out other exercises than these.

Cheers!  Caleb

P.S.  What if there was a training program that developed all these skills and then tested them in a fun and festive competition you could participate in with all your friends?  Well there is!  The Spring Tactical Strength Challenge is just around the corner.  If you’re ready to get results-oriented with your training, while seriously stepping up the fun factor, then you should consider joining us for the spring season. Training starts February 12.  Contact us for more info, and stay tuned for more details soon!

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