Here's something to think about for people who strength-train, which, I imagine, makes up most of this crowd: which exercises are you including in your workout and why?
Simple question but worth giving some thought to. If you look at it, most people are going to have some combination of "exercises I like" and "exercises I don't like but think I'm supposed to do" and then a handful of "exercises I neither like nor understand nor think I'm supposed to do but keep doing anyway."
There's not a lot of "exercises I'm supposed to do AND like" on that list. One of my goals as a trainer is to get everyone on THAT plan, which means that I have to do a lot of tweaking for each client.
Now, some fellow-trainers will accuse me of being too soft--that as the trainer it's my job to get a person to do what's good for them, enjoyment be damned. Everyone needs to squat. Everyone needs to deadlift. Everyone needs to sprint.
I used to think this way; now I don't. My list of things 'everyone' needs to do is actually pretty small: yes, if you're strength training, you've got to work your whole body, at some point, somehow. And you've got to do some kind of row, probably; some kind of push, probably, a couple of closed-chain lower-body movements, and then some core exercises.
There are so many ways to put those elements together, based on the goals--and the tastes--of a client that to say, "Everyone needs to _______," ever, is, in my estimation, just pretty darn unimaginative.
For instance: on pushing exercises. Sure, you can bench press. And if you're a guy who likes that move, I'll throw it in. If the guy REALLY wants to feel his pecs searing that day, I'll even have him do them bodybuilding style once in awhile, with the elbows out. Is that 100% grade-A safe all the time? Nope. Is it fun? Does the client LIKE it? If so, doing it once every couple of weeks isn't going to kill him.Â
Then you can do any of the zillion bench press variations out there: incline, decline, dumbbell, barbell, alternating dumbbell, single-arm dumbbell. Add grip and tempo variations (for all intents and purposes I say there are three tempos) and you've got easily a couple of dozen moves there. And if for some reason you're partial to machines (Christian Thibaudeau has an interesting article here that, among other things, actually vindicates the use of machines for muscle growth, so--never say never.), you can do all those crazy variations as well. Now and then I'll even--gasp!--use a fly machine (though not unless we've done another compound version first).
Pushups, another push-variation, are the same way--only if anything you may have even more variations. Incline, decline, flat. Weighted. On a Swiss Ball. On a medicine-ball. Travelling. Explosive. Renegade-style.
Then you can do hybrid push variations that also involve the lower body: standing double-or-single arm cable presses, partner pushes, car or prowler pushes. You can do med-ball push-passes into a wall or with a partner. In our gym, there's a massive heavy bag which I'll sometimes have my clients push explosively as if they were doing linebacker drills. People love that one.
And I haven't even mentioned vertical--or overhead---pressing variations. So really these are just half the possibilities.
So, violating my never say never rule, you NEVER have to bench press. Of all those variations, just about everyone will find a few that they find fun, doesn't cause them pain, and does the job of working a horizontal-pushing motion. And most people will be able to do just about all of them. Unless someone is REALLY focused on a particular goal--powerlifting, for instance--I see no need for any particular version of the horizontal press. I'm just not that attached to it.
When a client complains about a given movement, I almost always listen. Again, enjoyment is, if not paramount, at least as important as my somewhat arbitrary attachment to a given movement.
Recently my mother-in-law said she was tired of lifting weights. She didn't look forward to it. She wasn't seeing progress. And her gym membership was expiring soon anyway. I asked her if there was any form of exercise she was interested in trying, and off she went on a rhapsody about a local fencing club with a cool trainer and the nifty outfits and the swords and the fun. I said, go for it. It's fast-twitch. It's a new skill. It sounds like she'd have a lot of fun doing it, which she's clearly NOT having at her current gym. And if she's having fun, she'll play/work hard, and she'll make progress.
Regardless of what any fitness expert says, this one included, life's too short to spend it doing something you hate--and in your precious spare time, too! Too many options not of be having fun.