NOTE by Mehdi. This post was written by StrongLifts Member James “atypical1” Grant (42y, USA) who Deadlifts +500lbs, Squats +400lbs and Presses +225lbs.
Some guys ask if they can substitute one exercise for another. When pushed they typically say “well, lift X doesn’t work the muscles I want” and when pushed farther they say “I just don’t like that lift”.
But, is not liking a lift REALLY a good reason not to do it?
The lifts I most hear complaints about are the Press and the Bench Press with the bench really taking a beating. People justify not benching by saying that it only produces beach muscles or that it doesn’t replicate a movement in sports.
But presses are not the only lifts that I’ve heard this about. I also hear this about Inverted Rows, Ab Work, Pull-ups, and even Squats. Typically if there’s a lift we suck at then we don’t want to do it.
Many of us are contrarians and don’t want to do a lift that is popular in our gyms and would rather do something to make us stand out. Doing something like Power Cleans is sexy as are Overhead Squats. If you like doing them then you should. I mean if it keeps you consistent in the gym then why shouldn’t you have some fun too? And they’re great warm up lifts.
Yet that doesn’t mean you should neglect that lift you hate. We can debate whether or not the Bench works better than Pushups or whether or not we should do Power Cleans instead of Barbell Rows. But it has much more than the strength you might gain from that lift. It comes down to willpower.
If you quit a lift because you hate it and are terrible at it, then what’s going to happen when the entire program gets tough?
- Are you going to pack it in?
- Are you going to let that lift beat you?
- Or are you going to tough it out and figure out how to get better at it?
Breaking a plateau is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world. When I broke BW (225lbs) on my OHP I was on cloud nine for the rest of the day because I finally beat that lift. Now it’s my Bench that is giving me problems.
I could stop benching and concentrate on my OHP with the thought that “well, my chest is strong enough” but I know that when I finally make some movement on that lift it’s going to be the best feeling in the world. But if you give up then you will miss that feeling.
Besides, if you give up on a tough lift what else will you give up on?
I’m not saying you should keep doing something simply to do it. If you know a lift doesn’t do anything for you then quit it. I don’t do Dips anymore because they weren’t doing anything for me. I love those things but they were like candy for me. I could consume a lot but in the end they weren’t that great for me.
If you hate Inverted Rows and get more out of Barbell Rows then sub those out. I don’t want to see anyone spinning their wheels. But make sure that it’s not just YOU and that it’s really the lift that isn’t getting you what you need. It’s easy to confuse the two. Don’t substitute a lift for the wrong reason.