Surgical training: Weak links in the kinetic chain

Every exercise is an assessment. The body is one unit, and as such what’ll limit an specific movement might be only one piece, not the whole structure. This why an excellent complement to the advice “Practice as often as possible, as fresh as possible” is to focus in what they call Weak links in the kinetic chain, and it’s only here where isolating muscle or patterns has sense for someone who is looking to getting stronger. As the saying goes, a chain is as strong as it’s weakest link. Stop hitting yourself against the wall, find your weak link and move further.

How to apply it?

You should be conscious of what is that limits you in a certain movement. Even thought there is a major trend to believe this is always due to a “core” weakness, the majority of the time weaknesses are more complex. For example, for many people the limiting factor in the Deadlift is grip strength, or in the Squat it comes from the glutes not activating in the precise moment. Repeating the activity endlessly is not going to be as effective as going to the weak link in the chain and fix it. Fixing your weaknesses should be a priority in your training. Here you can find a list of common weak links with exercises to fix them. Remember, if this seems extensive it is because I’m trying to give general prescriptions and this are mostly examples, but weak link training should be as surgical as possible when tailored to the individual.

Weak link Exercise to improve it
1 Scapular elevators (Levator scapulae and Upper trapezius) Scapula handstands
2 Scapular depressors (Pectoralis minor, Lower trapezius, Subclavius, Latissimus dorsi) Scapula pull ups,  Scapula dips and Trap-3 raise
3 Scap. retractors or adductors (Middle trapezius, Rhomboid Major and Minor, Subscapularis, Teres Major, Pectoralis Major, Infraspinatus, Tricepsbrachii, Latissimus dorsi, Coracobrachialis) Rear delt pull apart
4 Scapular protractors or abductors (Serratus anterior, Pectoralis Major, Pectoralis Minor, Supraespinatus and Deloid) Scapula push ups
5 Scapular external rotators (Infraespinatus, Teres Minor and Deltoid) Cuban rotation with dumbbells
6 Scapular internal rotators (Subscapularis, Teres Major, Latissimus dorsi, Deltoid and Pectoralis major) Cuban rotation with dumbbells (by the side)
7 Scapular upward rotators (Middle trapezius and Serratus anterior) Shoulder dislocations
8 Scapular downward rotators (Levator Scapulae, Rhomboid Major, Rhomboid Minor, Latissimus Dorsi, Pectoralis Major, Pectoralis Minor) Shoulder dislocations
9 VMO Myotatic front squat, Petterson step-up
10 Grip strength Farmer’s walk
11 Harmstrings Harop curl
12 Biceps Brachii (Coracobrachialis and Brachyalis) Planche lean with fingers pointing backwards
13 Glutes Hip thrusters
14 Lower back Hyperextensions and Gatherings
15 Wrist Wrist push ups and Rice bucket rehab
16 Ankles Ankle squats
17 Crushing grip strength Captains of Crush Grippers, Wire cutting or Farmer’s walk
18 Pinching grip strength Rope climbing, Bag catching, Plates pinching or block weights
19 Elbows Planche press with dumbbells
20 Forearms Inverted hang on a false grip and Wrist curls
21 Individual fingers Fingertip push-ups and chin ups
Weak link Exercise to improve it
22 Harmstrings Jefferson curl y Head to toe
23 Shoulder flexion Back extension
24 Shoulder extension Shoulder flex pulls
25 Hip flexors Gong bu stance
26 Adductors Ma bu stance y Cossack squats
Weak link Exercise to improve it
27 Equilibre Single leg squat, Shrimp squat, Heel pulls y Toe pulls
28 Coordination Locomotion (ex. Lizard walk)
29 Fluidity Feedback (Film yourself doing the exercises or have an outside eye) and Tai Chi
30 Fear Progressions, Deep breathing, Spotters, Learning to fall



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