"Adjust or fail" is the mantra of self-limiting exercises. Requiring balance, core stability and mental focus, they give you immediate feedback. If you're not doing them right, you know it quickly, because your body tells you in the form of fatigue or discomfort.
As long as you listen to your body, these exercises will help you improve your strength and protect you from injury. Do not cheat around your weaknesses with straps and belts; embrace and improve them!
Here are five great self-limiting exercises and some guidelines for doing them.
1. Barefoot Running
When running barefoot, you must have good form and listen to the feedback your feet and legs give you, or you will end up with a serious injury. Running with too long a stride will lead to a heavy heel strike, and without the luxury of the big heel cushion found in many running shoes, you will feel pain and be forced to adjust to shorter, forefoot strike patterns. Be careful to limit your running distance until you are sure your feet can handle it.
2. Single-Leg Deadlift
This one is great for balance. If you don't focus on balance, you fall over! But even when you are focusing, your core needs to be stable. Because this exercise is unilateral, you only work one side at a time, so you can see and fix any imbalances between your left and right legs.
The Pull-Up is limited mostly by your grip strength and your back muscles. If after a few repetitions your hands cannot hold the bar, you let go. Set over. You cannot stay off the ground and continue pulling once your grip gives out.
Work to improve the limiting factor—in this case grip strength—and your pull-up numbers will increase.
4. Bottom-Up Carry
The carry requires grip strength, shoulder joint stability and coordination from both sides of the abdominal muscles to stay balanced. If any part is not in sync, the kettlebell falls and the exercise is done. This is a full-body exercise that will not work if you have any weakness, from your hands to your feet.
5. Goblet Lunge
This lunge variation uses a kettlebell or dumbbell supported by both hands held at chest level. If your core muscles are not constantly working to keep your torso erect and perpendicular to the floor, and the weight gets too far away from your torso, it will fall forward. Your grip must be strong enough to hold the weight tight, and your shoulders have to stay retracted for tall posture. Your abdominal muscles also work to keep your torso erect. Keeping your legs balanced and working through the Lunge requires a lot of different groups to work together just for a single rep. Keep your chest up and shoulders back to build better posture.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock