Low Skill v High Skill Exercises

In a sedentary world regular resistance training is becoming an increasingly beneficial pursuit. By adding some extra horsepower to our muscles we can become leaner, stronger and more capable whilst fending off the worst effects of age-related muscles loss.

Importantly the benefit isn’t doing resistance training. The benefit is the strength which resistance training provides. Once acquired the strength can be put to use enhancing all the other movements, sports and activities in our life. 

This is a key point. Over the last decade high skill exercises which require lots of muscular coordination and balance have become increasingly popular under the guise of functional training. Online these exercises form powerful social media currency, on gym floors they capture peoples attention and on workout trailors they produce sales. But novelty aside are they better at providing the actual benefit of resistance training? I would argue not.

Low-skill exercises which require significantly less muscular co-ordination have minimal wow-factor but are easy to learn, less impacted by body proportions, often easier to overload and typically much kinder on joints.

An example from my own training experience is single arm push ups v regular push ups. There is no doubt which one is more impressive from a visual and kudos standpoint. However the added muscular coordination (skill) required for the single arm push up means I spend half my energy trying to maintain a decent body position during the exercise.

On the flip side when I reduce the skill requirements and perform regular push ups overloaded with a weighted vest or resistance band I’m able to focus all my energy on working the targeted muscles with less overall strain on the rest of my body.

Similar things happen when wobbling on a balance board or trying to combine multiple exercises into one movement. You either lose the ability to overload the target muscles or waste resources trying to manage an unnecessarily complex movement. The only thing you develop is a skill which has no practical application outside the context of working out.

Since the benefit of resistance training is the strength, not the exercise it makes sense to achieve this strength using the simplest and safest means possible.

Unless your goal is the skill, keep strength training simple!