Michael Reid
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“Just Do This”

michaelreid.ca          WaterPoloTraining.net

Although the information contained in this article is very valid for most people but it does not replace a consultation with your medical professional in your area.

NOTE: this article was originally published on www.proanox.com in November 2011.

Many things in life are about efficiency. We drive more energy efficient cars, have energy efficient homes and offices, take a short cut to work or school because it’s more efficient and many other things. In training whether for high performance, recreation, rehabilitation, fat loss or some other activity related pursuit being efficient with your training means getting to your goal quicker.

   Efficient (definition)

  • performing or functioning in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort; having and using requisite knowledge, skill, and industry; competent; capable: a reliable, efficient secretary.

Source: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/efficient


This is a true story about a day I was in the gym training while also watching a fellow coach doing a really good job of teaching some athletes the Turkish Get Up. I walked by and and commented to the athletes, “just do this”.

What the heck does this mean?

I literally meant to just do this one exercise and you will be fine. You must understand that these athletes have asked this strength coach to look over a program they were doing because they could not understand why it took so long to complete. The coach tells me that the program in question had 15+ different exercises with most of them being isolation, single joint or machine based.

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Turkish Get Up (TGU) demonstrated by Dr. Mark Cheng

It got me thinking that there are many exercises that fall into this “just do this” category like Deadlifts, Squats, all the Olympic lifts and Kettlebell Swings. These are exercises that work multiple joints and muscles, require high energy demands and train foundational movements that commonly occur in sports and everyday life.

The biggest mistake I see athletes doing is not focusing on the “just do this” exercises but instead they are doing all these supplemental exercises like biceps curls and sit ups! If you are not doing at least 70-80% of your training on “just do this” exercises then you are not using your time in the gym efficiently.

  Key points of Efficient Strength Exercises

    • multiple joints are used
    • whole body involvement
    • require high energy demand, focus, concentration and effort
    • utilizes free weights but also includes body-weight training
    • large range of motion (most of the time)

Of course this can also be applied to your sport training and not just the weight room. The thing I like about this concept is that it can fit many different modes of training.

If you like training with barbells great, do lots of squats, deadlifts and the Olympic Lifts.

You don’t go to the gym but still want to develop a physique and improve your strength, great. Do Push Ups, Pull Ups and Single Leg Squats.

You love your Kettlebells, great. Do Turkish Get Ups and Swings (an entire book and DVD has been published detailing a program of just these two exercises).


There is research supporting my concept of “just do this”.

First is an article researching the metabolic demands of Kettlebells. It concludes that Kettlebells burn ~20 Kcal/minute which is a HUGE number. This is 2-4x greater when compared to other popular forms of exercise (e.g. swimming, walking, jogging, weight training). download the article for FREE: http://www.acefitness.org/getfit/studies/Kettlebells012010.pdf

The lead researcher from the study says:

“We estimated oxygen consumption and how many calories they were burning aerobically, and it was 13.6 calories per minute. But we also measured the blood lactate, so anaerobically they were burning another 6.6 calories per minute,” explains Porcari. “So they were burning at least 20.2 calories per minute, which is off the charts. That’s equivalent to running a 6-minute mile pace. The only other thing I could find that burns that many calories is cross-country skiing up hill at a fast pace.”

The exercise used was the Kettlebell Snatch which is an intermediate Kettlebell drill, but beginners can get similar benefits from performing Kettlebell Swings.

Kettlebell Swing Video


Kettlebell Swing

What this means is that the Kettlebell Snatch or swing is an extremely efficient exercise to use in many strength and conditioning programs because you can perform a tonne of work in a very short amount of time which leaves the athlete time to do other things like recover, study or practice their sport.

Another example would be abdominal training. We know it is important to have strong abdominal and trunk muscles, which has become known as the “core”. But do we need to be doing isolated exercises for these muscles or can we get away with just doing whole body lifts that work everything?

Well I will be the first to admit that I use to think you need to do separate exercises for your trunk muscles to fully develop them but maybe we don’t? The study below sheds some light on the issue.

Hamlyn, N., D.G. Behm, and W. B. Young. Trunk muscle activation during dynamic weight-training exercises and isometric instability activities. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 21(4), 1108–1112. 2007.

“The purpose of the following study was to determine the extent of trunk muscle activation during dynamic weight training and isometric instability exercises.

Sixteen subjects performed squats and deadlifts with 80% of 1 repetition maximum (RM), as well as supermen, sidebridges, squats and deadlifts with body weight only. Electromyographic (EMG) activity was measured in the following muscle groups: lower abdominals, external obliques, upper lumbar erector spinae, and lumbar-sacral erector spinae.

The results of the study indicated that EMG activity of the lumbar-sacral erector spinae during the 80% 1RM squat significantly exceeded EMG activity for the same muscle during the 80% 1RM deadlift, bodyweight squat and deadlift, superman, and sidebridge. EMG activity of the upper lumbar erector spinae during the 80% 1RM deadlift significantly exceeded the EMG activity for the same muscle during the 80% 1RM squat and all body weight exercises. There were no significant changes in EMG activity for the lower abdominals or external obliques.

The researchers concluded that because the lumbar-sacral erector spinae and upper lumbar erector spinae muscle activation during the 80% squat and deadlift exceeded muscle activation during body weight exercises, instability exercises may not be necessary to augment core stability training, so long as individuals perform upright, resisted, dynamic exercises.”

So, maybe you can ditch those 10-15 minutes of abs at the end of your session and just do some more deadlifts and squats.


Now is the time to look into your training log and see what you are doing. Are you wasting your time or being efficient with your training in the gym?

Is it filled with machine based exercises or free weights?

Are you training to become a better athlete or are you neurologically putting your body to sleep?

In the past 15+ years of coaching, I have had only one athlete that I had to almost exclusively use machines. He was a very special athlete who was recovering from a severe head injury. He could not walk, had to use a motorized wheel chair and had many motor and mental issues related to his injury. With him, I had to use machines for most of his training.

I believe that if you can walk then you can learn to squat or deadlift or any of the other exercises I mention above.

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If more athletes just did this one exercise (Deadlifts) they would be so far ahead of the rest of the pack. This is a lift that you are definitely NOT wasting your time on!

“Just do this!”

Michael Reid is an experienced professional strength & conditioning coach from Canada. He has been employed as a full-time Strength & Conditioning coach in various settings in Canada and Europe, most recently in European professional basketball. You can find out more about his training techniques, philosophy and some of the latest research he is reading on his websites www.michaelreid.ca and www.waterpolotraining.net.