Regressing and Progressing Exercise

What You Need To Know About Exercise Selection

So you want to bust out a Good Morning for your glutes and hammies like that Columbian Minotaur on instagram?  All you have to do is go grab a bar and bend over right?

Well yes…but no.

One concept that is poorly understood by young trainers and the general public alike, is the ability to regress and progress an exercise based on an individuals unique ability to perform that exercise.

If a client wants to do a power clean but they cant do a back extension without their lower back seizing up, they’re not power cleaning with me any time soon.   Its called a duty of care based on years of experience.

I progress and more importantly regress you, because I care.

What is Progression and Regression

Here is a non exhaustible example of all the progressions and regressions for the bend pattern starting at the easiest bend pattern and ending with the hardest.

  • Kneeling bend
  • Swiss ball hip extension feet on ball
  • Supine hip extension feet on floor
  • Supine 1 leg hip extension feet on floor
  • Un-weighted good morning with stick
  • Swiss ball reverse hyper
  • 45 degree Back extension
  • Dumbell Deadlift
  • Deadlift from above the knee
  • Deadlift from below the knee
  • Sumo deadlift
  • Fixed knee deadlift
  • Good morning
  • Single leg barbell deadlift
  • Single leg barbell fixed knee deadlift
  • Hang clean pull
  • Clean pull
  • Power clean

Look at that power clean there.  One of the most technically difficult bend patterns one can perform.  Look at the progressions you need to master to get there.  See the problem now. If you came to me wanting to learn to power clean i’d write a program that would have that as the end goal, but only after determining where you are on the above scale.

Most people sit at a desk all day for 8 hours and have bad posture so starting with a power clean is potentially hazardous!

What to do? Where to start?

I don’t write a single exercise for someone until I have seen them overhead squat, lunge, bend, push, pull, breathe and move.

Now this isn’t some kind of scare piece designed to make you fear exercise in case one of your vertebrae goes shooting across the room during a Good Morning.  Not at all.

All I’m saying is there are some rules .  And by rules i mean you need to be able to stand before you can run.

Strength Coaches and smart PT’s will talk for hours about the differing biomechanics of a given lift.  How to modify them to emphasise certain muscles, what foot placement, hand placement, bar path and speed of execution does to the lift and why.  It’s serious nerdville!

The average gym goer however thinks in terms of

“I just bend over and pick it up right?”

And that’s ok!  You’re not supposed to know the intricacies of strength curves, force development and how a camber on a machine changes the exercise.

That’s why if you’re serious, you should eventually hire a professional.  A human being that can modify an exercise to your unique mobility and strength requirements.

That being said DO take it upon yourself to learn a little bit.  Place a little bit of value in this thing we call weight training.  Start to want to master what you’re currently doing in order to progress to the next stage of your fitness workout.

Here are some cool search terms to get you started :

Proper squat biomechanics
Proper chin up biomechanics
Proper bench press biomechanics
Proper ways to dispose of a body.

Or contact me and we can go over any exercise you like.

These are all useful, educational searches that will simplify even some of the most technical of exercises!

Movement Quality Is Everything

It may come as a surprise but what we as trainers see the general public do in most commercial gyms is so bad that after a while we just tune it out and hope you don’t hurt yourself.

Physio’s and Chiro’s stand around elbowing each other in the ribs going –

“Hey, look at that one!  That’s at least a holiday to Fiji!”

Your ability to control your body in space and have the correct patterning, or muscle sequences fire in the right order, whilst doing an exercise, is the science of exercise.  I know most people think I was born, I can run, lift, throw and punch things no problems.  This doesn’t
apply to me.

But it is interesting what you learn when you learn something that you didn’t know you didn’t know.

That’s when quantum leaps in performance occur.

I remember back in the early 2000’s when i was a new trainer going for a job at globo gym, i was doing a workout prior to meeting the manager.   I had just read in a magazine ( remember them?) about packing on mass with some fancy full body exercise called the deadlift or something and I was executing it like a boss.  Knees straight and doing my best harbour bridge impression.

Oh dear

This trainer at the gym with a haircut that was far too sharp for my liking obsiously saw my terrible form and approached me and offered to show me how to do them properly after he finished his session.  Me ego was bruised so i politely declined…

Trust me knowing what I know now, I should of waited for the guy and got him to show me a thing or two.  But that young man ego was bruised so I brushed it and wasted a lot of time deadlifting poorly and getting nowhere.


Doing the latest trendy exercise is cool and keeps things fresh but we must understand that weight training is a skill based sport and you must develop the necessary skills  first in order to EARN THE RIGHT to do certain exercises.  Yoga has progressions.  Gymnastics has progressions.  Olympic lifting has progressions.  Chances are what you do for work has progressions.

So does exercise.

So if you’re starting to pull some serious weight deadlifting or are seeing a bunch of new and fancy things on instagram, start to invest a little time in your exercise choices.


For knowledge never entered the head through and open mouth!

See you in the gym!

Brad Stocks
Personal Training
Bondi Junction