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C5. M(a)(i)cro

We've established color of pour into the funnel. Let's add size to the mix.

Bigger pours into the funnel are macro exercises. They involve a lot of muscles and joints and thus have widespread global stress implications.

Macro-squat = back squat, front squat, most squatting with a barbell.

Macro-hinge = conventional deadlifts, romanian deadlifts, snatch grip deadlifts, most pulling from the floor with a barbell.

Macro-push = bench press, overhead press, parallel bar dips, most pressing with a barbell or pushing your body away from a fixed object.

Macro-pull = chin-ups, pull-ups, barbell rows, most things that have you hugging a barbell or moving towards a fixed object.

These are your typical compound multi-joint exercises done with a barbell. I specify the use of the barbell because barbell exercises tend to be more stressful.

Below macro exercises are micro exercises. They are smaller in terms of widespread-organism stress, not necessarily smaller in terms of importance.

Micro exercises match their macro category in color (muscular stress), but typically either…

A) Only hit a piece of the full pattern. Think isolation [single joint] exercises. A biceps curl is a single joint isolation exercise that hits mostly the biceps. And the biceps fall under the pull pattern, so it’s a micro-pull. A leg curl hits the hamstrings. Hamstrings fall under the hinge pattern, so it’s a micro-hinge.

B) Don't deliver as holistic of a stress. Micro exercises can also be multi-joint movements that hit the pattern in a macro way, just at a lesser intensity.

The push-up (once mastered) is a great example because it’s initially a macro-esque exercise. It’s a multi-joint movement that involves the entire body.

But, once you get good at push-ups, it shifts from macro to micro because you’re left doing reps with bodyweight, which isn’t on par with the widespread macro spirit.

When you can only do five push-ups, then push-ups are a macro exercise that stresses your body a bunch.
When you can do thirty push-ups, then push-ups are a micro exercise that aren’t as stressful.

If you wanted to take push-ups back to the macro side, you’d have to find a way to add weight to them or some kind of challenge so that you were once again struggling to finish a lower number of reps.


This is where things get tricky. Say you’re doing a bodyweight push-up variation where you can only do five reps, like the one-arm push-up.

This might seem macro because you can’t do a lot of reps, but it’s not macro because the overall stress on your system isn’t that huge.

Bodyweight exercises WITHOUT added load, where difficulty is increased via leverage or torque, aren’t always as GLOBALLY taxing as their relative rep challenge makes it seem.

Goes back to the effects (even butterfly effects) that effect the global reach of an exercise.

In general, when bone (especially the spine) is loaded with supergravity, your body is more GLOBALLY stressed. Bodyweight exercises scaled with variations that DON’T add supergravity, even though they may be INSANELY difficult, don’t usually carry the same global stress baggage.

I wouldn’t do a one-arm push-up as a macro exercise because there's another bottleneck besides arm strength (which is one of the main reasons for doing push-ups.

Often times, the difficult part of doing one-arm push-ups is stabilizing the midsection due to the offset loading. Meaning you're going to be held back by your midsection rather than your arm strength.

Not saying this isn't important information and something that's useful to know (strengthen your midsection), but it doesn't accomplish what I'd want a macro press to accomplish: stress a certain set of structures with high(er) total organism involvement.

As I said before, categorizing exercises isn’t always clear cut. It’s a science, but not necessarily an EXACT science.

Micro-squat = unweighted pistol squats, dumbbell squats, split squats.

Micro-hinge = harop curls, back extensions, reverse hyperextensions.

Micro-press = push-ups, dumbbell pressing, triceps isolation exercises.

Micro-pull = bodyweight rows, dumbbell pulling, biceps isolation exercises.

Some people call micro exercises “assistance exercises.” But the word “assistance” has baggage.

To a powerlifter, a front squat is an assistance exercise because it’s assisting (duh) the improvement of the back squat (which is the contested lift). But, to a bodybuilder, a front squat can be THE kingdingaling squat because it targets the quadriceps more.

Exercises always have ends. You have to consider the end.

They’re micro because they deliver less of a holistic organism stress hit, not because they’re less important. Avoid the “assistance” label.

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