Fillers: The Secret To Training Productivity

A “filler” is any movement or drill paired with a strength exercise as part of an active rest period. Instead of sitting down and checking your phone while waiting for the next set, you perform another low-impact exercise to improve mobility, activation, stability or positioning during a lift.

As an example, pairing up sets of deadlifts with thoracic mobility drills can improve your initial set-up for the pull. Alternatively, you could choose to do banded pull-aparts to prep your shoulders for upcoming sets of bench press.

This method of training accomplishes a few things.

First, it increases your productivity by cutting down on time spent warming up and doing endless mobility drills.

Secondly, it allows you to incorporate active rest periods into your training without cutting down on the energy needed for your heavy strength work. This is especially useful for lifters who either rest too long in between sets, or for those who don’t rest nearly enough.

The way to do it is simple: choose an exercise that will enhance but not deteriorate your training performance, such as mobility or activation drills or other corrective, ‘prehabilitative’ work.

Pairing lower body lifts with upper body drills (and vice versa) is a great place to start. Keep in mind fillers should not take away from the energy needed for the meat and potatoes of your program.

Below are some of my favorite exercises to pair with big lifts.

Yoga Push-ups

Yoga Push-ups work not only upper body strength, but also scapular mobility, shoulder stability and hamstring flexibility. All in all, it’s a great move for virtually all lifters as it gets the shoulder blades moving in upward rotation, waking up the often-neglected serratus anterior – a muscle that hugely contributes to scapular health and stability. Pair these with squats, deadlifts, or other lower-body strength movements for a full-body training effect.

Kneeling Dynamic Hip Flexor Stretch

This dynamic mobility drill opens up the front of the hips while also addressing ankle mobility . If you spend most of your waking hours sitting at a desk, this one is an absolute must. Do it before squats, lunges, or other quad-dominant exercises.

Lateral Banded Walk

Everyone’s favourite #bootybuilding side shuffle. This exercise works great as part of a warm-up, but can also be added in between sets of bench press or squats to fire up and recruit the stabilizing muscles of the hip. Keep in mind, the goal here is to activate, not decimate, so keep it low-intensity at 10-15 reps per side.

T-spine Rotations

A great chest and upper/mid back opener. Throw these in during sets of bench press or deadlifts to improve your set-up.

TRX Face Pulls + Rear Delt Flyes

Face pulls are key for strong and healthy shoulders. They build and strengthen the external rotators, which are small muscles most people don’t really ever pay much attention to – but are crucial for proper shoulder functioning and stability. These score low on the fatigue scale, so pair them with lower body and full-body lifts.

World’s Greatest Stretch

Another great hip opener, though this one also targets thoracic rotation. Pair it with deadlifts, squats, or any other full-body lift.

To your strength,

Coach B.

About The Author

Barbara M.

Since 2013, Barbara has helped women of all fitness backgrounds get stronger, leaner and more confident, both inside and outside the gym.

Her passion lies in educating, empowering and encouraging women to find out what they’re capable of, and more.

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