The Top 15 Resistance Exercises

David Joyce


G’day Mircea,
I am sitting here in the north of England wondering what season it is. The calendar tells me it’s Summer but my eyes and skin thermoreceptors disagree. It’s about 12 degrees, raining and windy. It feels like an age ago that I was sitting on my balcony in Istanbul writing these pieces wearing nothing but shorts and sunglasses. In order to get some warmth into my bones, I’m going to take the challenge of Bikram yoga today. It’s essentially 90 minutes of Iyengar yoga in a room heated to 40 degrees. I’ve taken a number of athletes to Bikram classes over the years. It’s a great session for helping to increase flexibility and I also love it because it introduces athletes to another key aspect of fitness, and that it flexibility.
I hold to the theory that we need to be able to move well in order to function well. I like to see people that are able to move one part of their body independent to everything else. We see people run into problems when, for instance, they cannot rotate their hips without their whole spine following suit. Sometimes this is a motor control issue (their brains simply haven’t worked out how to activate the programme that dissociates the movements) but sometimes this is because the muscles have insufficient length to be able to allow independent joint movement.

"A long but weak muscle is one that is unable to perform well and also more susceptible to injury"
I think there is a danger, however, of people just stretching without strengthening. In my view, a long but weak muscle is one that is unable to perform well and also more susceptible to injury. This is why studies have shown that simply stretching following hamstring injuries does not reduce recurrence rates, whereas specific strengthening work can. Once we have gained some extra ‘length’ in the muscles, we need to make sure that we can control that length and extra joint range of motion. I put the word ‘length’ in inverted commas because there is some disagreement in the literature about what stretching actually does. Some believe that stretching stimulates extra sarcomeres (muscle cells) to be laid down in series, giving the muscle extra length, whereas others dispute this, saying that stretching reduces the ‘tone’ of the muscle, meaning that it is for all intents and purposes, more ‘relaxed’. Whichever way, I really believe that having joint and muscle flexibility is an important aspect of athleticism, so long as appropriate motor control is evident and muscle strength is maintained.
The research also seems to suggest that dynamic but controlled stretching is best before training and that static stretching may in fact increase the rate of muscle injury if it is performed prior to ballistic athletic activity. Any static stretching I do, therefore, is performed after training or during a dedicated flexibility session.
It’s an interesting topic and one that, no doubt, we will revisit in the coming months. Next week though, we’re going to change tack and examine the psychology of injury and rehabilitation.
‘Til then,
Stay robust amigos!

David Joyce
Head of Performance for Hull FC. Hold Masters degrees in both Sports Physiotherapy and Strength & Conditioning and lectures on the MSc in Sports Physio course at the University of Bath and on the MSc in S+C at Edith Cowan University.