Resiliency & Pliability

Two words that usually don’t come to mind when you think of the benefits of exercise, right? That’s all right, neither did I for years of working out, competing, and instructing.


  • Resiliency: The power or ability to return to the original form or position after being bent,
    compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
    A material that can return to its original shape or position after deformation that does not exceed its elastic limit. …kind of interesting when you view the common dogma of stretching..more range is better…NOT!
  • Pliability: Easily bent; flexible; supple adaptable. Easily bent without breaking.

Although these definitions are describing the properties of an object they can and should be applicable to the human body as well. It should be able to reach, bend, twist, squat and even fall or trip with the ability to return to its original form instantly. Sitting too often, unawareness of posture, carrying extra weight, inactivity, dehydration, poor nutrition selections, pharmaceuticals, stress, and unfortunately injury or disease, are the prime reasons most people become less resilient and pliable.

Everyone has different goals when beginning an exercise program and hopefully goals change with new ones being added constantly. Unfortunately, these two components, Resiliency and Pliability, seem to take a back seat during the planning phase when really they are two of the most important characteristics to be aware of when creating a program and performing exercise. They are of particular importance when you consider what happens to the human body as we age AND/OR choose the wrong type of exercise: Injury – Stiffness – Stagnant Results. As a Personal Trainer, I am sure to include components that promote them in each and every workout, (even if my clients complain: “this exercise is useless” or “I don’t feel it”), to create a full spectrum of bodily stimulus that keeps the body free from injury, maintains an optimal range of motion at each joint, and trains muscle and nerve to move the body efficiently.

In addition to muscle that lengthens and contracts, there are a few other players that go along for the ride during movement: tendons, ligaments, nerves, arteries, veins, lymph tissue, fascia, and even organs to a certain extent. These behind the scene supporting actors are really very prominent and when not addressed correctly through exercise selection, proper progression, respect for range of motion, rep tempo, variation, rest, and proper resistance, can actually hinder progress.

I hold the belief and know for a fact that proper exercise selection and NOT passive stretching is the key to promoting an everlasting resilient and pliable body. Please read my article: Stretching the Truth for more info on the fallacies of passive stretching.

The exercise industry has four general, marketing dictated classifications:

  • Cardio
  • Weight Training
  • Stretching / Flexibility Training
  • Mind-Body Training…aka Yoga & Pilates

To me, every exercise contains components from all four. It’s just different intensity and what you choose to emphasize or focus on. A well-rounded workout should include varying components of emphasis and focus from each genre without bias or label. In fact, ALL of the above should come under the heading of Resistance Training.

  • A treadmill, stairclimber, rowing machine, cycle? – Overcoming Resistance (of the machine and your bodyweight)
  • Bench Press, arm curl, deadlift, ball crunch? - Overcoming Resistance
  • Touching your toes, lifting your arms overhead, twisting your torso, pulling your arm behind your head? - Overcoming Resistance (and self-imposing force)
  • Down Dog, Reformer training? – Overcoming Resistance (weight of limbs & body, gravity, spring-loaded apparatus)

The exercises that I recommend below are certainly not all the ones that sit on the Resiliency and Pliability platform. In fact there are an unlimited number if you are creative enough and able to manipulate resistance appropriately. Each exercise will be added one-by-one/posted eventually and described in detail with pictures on my Exercise Analysis page. If you have any specific questions, limitations, or comments, do not hesitate to shoot me an email. As always, it is optimal to seek the advice of a qualified Fitness Professional to analyze the specifics for you.

Some of my favorites:


This guy gets a bad rap because for years, (and in the Olympics), it means to bend over and lift as much weight as possible. And, true enough, if performed the ‘traditional’ way, with straight legs and a rounded back, you are setting yourself up for injury and premature spinal disk degeneration. NO. . . weight belts do not help but in fact make you weaker and give a false sense of security. But, if performed with slightly flexed knees, appropriate resistance, good posture, great form, and different types of resistance, its benefits are immense.

Why It’s Great: lengthens and contracts the prime muscle groups of the posterior aspect that aid in good posture. The hamstring group, gluteals, calf, erectors of the spine, and forces the abdominals and upper back muscles to maintain neutral spine.
How: Dumbbells at sides, initiate movement by pushing butt backward, keep weight on heels, bend over keeping spine in neutral and shoulders back, keep pushing butt back, do not go below parallel, (90°), feel tension in hamstrings, come upward to standing position with shoulders back.

Version #2 Cable Stack

Same form and idea but you are reaching in more of a forward direction than downward. You will notice that your knees will be further behind your ankles due to your body fighting the forward force creating friction.

Version #3 Rubber Tubing

Same form and idea as cable but the modality of resistance changes.
Different is good!


This is a total body exercise. I have it performed from high to low and low to high, in both directions, sometimes with two tubes from slightly different directions.

Why It’s Great: Trains rotation with squatting throughout the entire body
How:Attach or loop a tube about 7 or 8 feet in the air, stand parallel to tube, grasp tube in both hands pointing at origin. Squat and rotate downward making sure to turn the head with hands. Return to the starting position.


Some idiots and equipment companies call this a ‘Hyper’-extension but ‘hyper’ is the Latin prefix for too much. Do you want to do ‘too much’ back extension? I didn’t think so.

Why It’s Great:This exercise is so much more than lower back and really is just a Deadlift from a different position using a Roman Chair apparatus. I prefer the 45° chair vs. the 90° because the end/top position is more in line with gravity creating less torque and creating somewhat of break between reps.
Variations:I like to do these with a slight twist on the way up and even on my side calling it a side crunch, which brings in more of the Internal Oblique and Quadratus Lumborum. Always with control and adding the resistance of a medicine ball or dumbbell for progression.


I don’t pretend to be a Yogi Master nor approve of all of their ‘moves’ because I have a rule: “Just because you can go there doesn’t mean you should”, to borrow a quote from T.P. Many of the positions Yoga teaches are just not safe, violate the human skeleton, and promote outrageous ranges of motion that you do not need and can actually promote ligament laxity or even premature arthritis. Unless you are auditioning for Cirque De Soleil next week, don’t put yourself in ridiculous positions! That being said, this sequence is pretty cool and safe. Look at the pix and head positions.


This is a nice move requiring balance and great strength in the abdominal wall.


I believe maintaining 180° of shoulder flexion, (arms straight over head), is one of the most important ranges to keep for a lifetime.

How: I prefer to stand and actively stabilize myself with a staggered stance. The key is to not just push the weight overhead but to actually reach with the arms and shoulder blades without arching the lower back. Many shoulder injuries and limitations result from people just moving and lifting from their arms when in fact the shoulder blade has to rotate upward 90° to achieve the straight overhead position.

Variations: Alternating while keeping the torso absolutely straight and neutral.


Another great exercise to maintain that 180° range discussed above.

How: Use a cable preferably with webbed handles or straps which allow you to get past the body unlike a bar does. Bend over, start with arms up, pull arms down being sure to keep the elbows locked and your torso in neutral, don’t crunch.


The king of ab exercises. Why do them on the floor? All that does is eliminate the elongated position. It’s like doing a bicep curl but only going half the way down! The ball has that stability factor, gives you great range, provides resistance coming in the form of the inflated structure your lower back has to push into to anchor the torso for the rest of the trunk to flex.

Tips: Don’t go too high. If your pelvis moves and tilts those are your hip flexors not your abs. Slow down and treat it like every other exercise. If 15 reps becomes too easy add resistance. 50 or 100 crunches are absurd and does not/will not flatten your gut.
Variations: Endless, but feet up at various heights and distances apart, different diameters of balls, cross-over/twist, are a few of my favorites.

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