Self-Limiting Exercises I Have Known

Are you hardcore?

Like… are you super, super hardcore?  Do you LOVE challenges and thrive on displaying your physical and emotional grit??  Maybe while listening to deathmetal???

Then do I have the exercise for you… WALKING WHILE HOLDING HEAVY WEIGHTS!!!!  IT’S SO HARDCORE!!

No?  Not what you had in mind?

I love deadlifts as much as the next guy.  I love getting my ass kicked in a killer metabolic resistance training circuit.  And while I don’t really listen to deathmetal per se, lemme tell you… you haven’t LIVED until you’ve done that final set while blaring “Ease on Down the Road” from the Broadway musical The Wiz!

But sometimes simpler is better.  And some exercises have a way of keeping you safe, because you can’t really fuck them up (much).

Self-limiting exercises can do amazing things for movement quality.  When loaded appropriately, you literally can’t complete the movement wrong.

Most gym veterans have experienced pushing through a few ugly reps in a bench press at the end of a set.  But when you’re WALKING WITH HEAVY WEIGHTS HARDCORE!!!! you’ll just drop the weights if your grip gives out.

Another value in using self limiting exercises is the cost-to-benefit ratio.  You’re more likely to get injured when highly fatigued.  And if you’re training for fat loss and creating a full body training effect… you’re gonna be fatigued sometimes.

This is NOT the best time to do a technically demanding exercise that allows for sub-optimal movement.  However, self limiting exercise can allow you to enjoy the calorie-burnin’, ass-kickin’ you crave, all the while reducing the risk of orthopedic injury.  Hooray!


Carries are a very well named exercise.  You carry shit!!

Simple?  Yep!  But don’t conflate simple with easy.  Carries rose to prominence thanks to the fitness industry’s Warrior Philosopher Poet King, Dan John.  Based on how and where you load them, they offer a myriad of benefits.

If you load one side, it becomes a walking side plank.  If you load the weight on your chest, you’ll have to resist the body’s desire to lean back.  If you load the weight overhead, you’ll have to find a good shoulder position (which means having enough mobility in the first place, desk jockey be ware!).

You can use carries to warm-up, and you can use them to kick your ass as a finisher after your workout.  You can also use them as fillers in fat loss circuits.  If you load it up right, it’s gonna be a cardiovascular challenge.

Another important benefit of carries is developing mental grit.  It’s not easy to fight through fatigue and finish a set of carries, particularly if you’re already gassed.  Once again, self-limiting exercises allow us an opportunity to develop mental fortitude safely.

You can certainly develop some grit doing 200 burpees in a row, but I’d be nervous for your joints.  Carries let you demonstrate your Inner Ninja, but don’t nearly pose the injury risk. Winning!


Crawling patterns are another useful tool.

Without getting super geeky, crawling patterns allow you to use your upper body in a way that’s very different than push-ups, rows, or bench presses.  While one arm is stabilizing, the other arm reaches.  This can lead to better mobility then always doing exercises that require a stiff upper or thoracic spine.

And I know that’s kinda boring for you.  But appreciate this; if you shoulder and upper spine get super tight, it could lead to fucked up backs and/ or shoulders.  No bueno!

By varying your point of contact with the floor (hands or elbows, feet or knees), playing with the direction (forwards, backwards, sideways, rotating), and altering your point of contacts proximity to your torso… you can do some crazy shit!  So fun!

Turkish Get-Ups

You know how there’s that silly game where you go to an island and you can only bring one exercise?  My exercise choice is “getting off the fucking island exercise.”  My second choice may very well be the Turkish Get-Up.

TGU’s are old-timey and bad ass.  Although I’ve seen various theories as to its exact origin, this move is old school and has recently come into prominence as a go-to choice in progressive training circles.  And with good reason!

The simplest way of thinking about a Turkish Get-Up is getting up off the ground while holding a weight over your head.  This is laughably simplified but… that’s kind of the gist of it.

To do the movement properly, you’ll need to display a reasonable amount of mobility and stability throughout the body.  Furthermore, you’ll quickly become hip to any glaring asymmetries as you work through get-ups on both sides of the body.

Although a detailed analysis of TGU form is beyond the scope of this here post, you can check out this YouTube series with MFF adjunct faculty member Neghar Fonooni to get you started.  NY Ninjas can keep your eyes peeled for a TGU workshop coming up in mid-June with another beloved adjunct, Clifton Harski!

Limitless Awesomeness

I hope these exercises got you a little boned up about adding some variety into your workouts.  Self-limiting exercises are an important piece of an overall training regime.  Not only do they keep you honest when training under fatigue, but they’re an excellent way to check in with your body’s current limitations and movement needs.

Also, you should seriously workout to “Ease On Down The Road” from The Wiz.  Soooo fucking hardcore…


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