Okay, so let me begin by saying that hybrid exercises aren’t new. Trainers like Alwyn Cosgrove, Nick Tumminello and Pat Flynn have recommended hybrids or variations on the theme for a while now. I’m sure I am forgetting other notables in the fitness industry, but as I write, those three are the only ones that come to mind. I will be honest, I never really gave them much attention, outside of the clean and press, until now. And after having played with them more recently, I’m starting to see the attraction.
What is a Hybrid exercise you ask? It’s a combination of two or more exercises. The aforementioned Clean and Press, which is or should be a staple in the program of anyone capable of doing it, is an example. A Squat, Curl and Press using dumbbells is another example. A Push-up into a “Renegade Row” (that would be the exercise pictured above as I couldn’t find a good one depicting an actual hybrid exercise) is a third example.
Now that we have established that, why would one do this you might ask? Based on my own experience, here is what I can tell you.
- They are time efficient. If you have been reading any of the stuff that goes out in the newsletter (which you can sign up for on the homepage btw), you know that time efficiency is a big deal for me. As a married man, father of two and business owner, I don’t have a ton of time available to me. So the time I do have to invest in my health and fitness has to be productive. I need lots of bang-for-my-buck exercises. I need lots of muscle stimulated in a relatively concise time frame. Working multiple patterns, like a Clean and a Press, in one fell swoop does that for me.
- Hybrids work the body as a unit. This one is a benefit based on my philosophical stance. Teaching more of the body to work together, in my opinion, leads to better mobility and athleticism. I also think it is generally more applicable to life outside of the gym. Not that single joint movements don’t have a place. But for a guy that isn’t a body builder and really just wants to strong, fit and healthy, working as a unit is much more attractive than standing in one place attempting to “isolate” a muscle group. (Side note: Isolation doesn’t actually happen regardless of how hard you try. Not a sermon. Just a thought.)
- Hybrids burn a ton of calories. Now this is why my opinion is what it is. The higher your heart rate during a workout, the more calories you are going to expend. Not sure you believe that? Get yourself a decent polar heart rate monitor or one of the fitbits that checks your heart rate. Now go and do something like 400 kettlebell swings in 15 minutes. You’ll be able to see your heart rate sky rocket, along with your caloric expenditure. What does this have to do with hybrids? Well, given recent experience, your heart rate will get pretty jacked while using them. Ask any Crossfitter how they feel after a serious set of thrusters. (Side note II: They’ll answer too because Crossfitters love to tell you about Crossfit. Kind of like vegans.) So, the higher that heart rate gets the higher your calorie burn gets.
- They can act as a great conditioning tool in addition to helping you get stronger. I already touched on this in number 3 but it bears repeating. If you challenge yourself with a hybrid exercise, your heart rate is going up. This is important because your heart is the most important muscle you have. You can live without a big bench press or a big deadlift (Side note III: I’m not sure it would be worth it if I couldn’t deadlift). You can’t live without your heart. So you need that to be strong. I know that’s not a new revelation or anything. Sometimes we need to hear the obvious stuff because we can get lost in minutia.
To get an idea of what a hybrid exercise might look like, take a look at the video below. This particular combo is one of my favorites right now.
After having covered what hybrids are, let me tell you a bit about what they aren’t. They are great for metabolic strength training (for all the reasons I outlined above) but they aren’t great for maximal strength. What does that mean? Well, you will get stronger. If you start out doing the Split Squat-Press with a 50lb kettlebell and graduate over time to a 70lb bell, you HAVE gained strength. But if you are looking to improve your 1 rep max on a kettlebell or barbell press (meaning the absolute most weight you could lift for 1 repetition), I’m not sure how great of a tool this would be as a primary driver of that strength. You could certainly use it as an assistance exercise but, if you want that 1 rep max to go up, you would need to train that lift. Strength is the reward of specificity.
Now the only thing limiting you when it comes to hybrids is your creativity and your capability. If you don’t squat well, don’t try the squat, curl and press that I mentioned earlier. Other wise, if you are like me and have time constraints or if you just want something a little different give hybrids a try. I don’t think you will be dissappointed. Have a great day!