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Train To Gain: Advice From Barney, the Purple Dinosaur

?You are special, you?re the only one, you?re the only one like you.?

Unless you have kids, you may not have heard Barney’s pearl of sagacity, a celebration of individuality. Think about it. You really are the only one like you. That means you need to determine for yourself which exercises are most effective for you. Even though you’ve heard from dozens of writers (myself included, I confess) that there are certain exercises for each bodypart that will produce results for everybody, that isn’t entirely accurate. Take squats, for example. How many times have you read that they’re the absolute best exercise for building size and strength in the thighs? For most people that’s true. For others the squat will forever be awkward and uncomfortable, difficult to make any progress on and more of an exercise in frustration than muscle building. That could be due to the individual’s bone structure. Tall trainees generally don’t respond to squats as well as shorter men and women, due to their relatively unfavorable biomechanics. It could also be a result of a past injury, such as a herniated disk in the low back. Without a strong, injury-free lower back, it’s very difficult to use meaningful weight on the squat. If that’s your situation, you should explore other options, such as the leg press or hack squat.

You may have heard that you’ll never develop great legs unless you squat, but the truth is, I’ve known plenty of bodybuilders with great wheels who rarely, if ever, squatted. They found another movement that allowed them to work very hard with a lot of weight and proceeded to beat their legs into ever-increasing levels of size and strength. If squats don’t feel right, don’t feel obligated to do them.

That applies to any exercise for any bodypart. The barbell bench press works miracles for many, but some of us get better results from using dumbbells or Hammer Strength machines. Try every piece of equipment in the gym, and note the feeling in your muscles as you do the exercise. Invariably, you’ll discover that your muscles connect more with certain exercises and machines than with others. It will seem as if a particular movement stimulates every last fiber of your muscle group down to the bone. That’s the best indicator that an exercise is right for you. Don’t worry that someone might come along and try to tell you that you need to be doing something else instead. If your muscles are responding and growing, that’s all the proof you need. Since we’re all unique, it’s ultimately up to us to learn which tools will best work our own little masterpieces. Do what works for you, and don’t worry about what anyone else tells you. IM

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