The Exercise Doctor

Over the years, I’ve assessed dozens of prospective clients, and I’ve found that most guys have the same problems (besides work and women). Their main areas of weakness: the lower back, resulting in increased stress on the spine; the upper back and rear shoulders, which causes a slumped-forward posture; and the hamstrings and glutes, a problem that creates a strength imbalance between the back and the front of the thigh. (Research shows that this increases your risk for hamstring injuries.)

The prescription: Try this simple hybrid exercise combining a barbell bent-over row with hip and back extension. It addresses all three problems in one incredibly efficient movement. You’ll need to use a light weight to perform the movement correctly, so do it as a warm-up exercise twice a week, before your main workout. (This also ensures that you work the weak areas when your muscles are fresh.) Do two sets of 8–10 repetitions. Here’s how:

» Grab a barbell with an overhand grip that’s just beyond shoulder-width. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Bend at the hips, lowering your torso until it’s almost parallel with the floor and keeping your back arched. Let the bar hang straight down from your shoulders.

» Squeeze your shoulder blades together (keep them that way for the entire exercise) and pull the bar to the bottom of your chest, then pause.

» Keeping the bar against your chest, lift your torso until you’re in a normal standing position (don’t bend backward) by driving your heels into the floor and pushing your hips forward. Maintain the same natural arch in your back throughout the entire move.

» Hold that position for one second, then lower the bar and repeat. Warning: Don’t round your back at any point during the lift.

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