Back when gyms still existed, you could scan a training floor and find a few guarantees, no matter what time of day you arrived: a line (more of a clump) waiting to get onto the bench press, a row of folks hammer-curling to their heart’s content in front of a mirror, someone doing 300 sit-ups at a time on a yoga mat. None of these moves are going to hurt you. But their ubiquity is a function of popularity: the exercises we all want to do are those we turn to most often.
Unfortunately, they also tend to do the least to shock the body out of stasis. Track coaches like to preach the efficacy of the everyone’s personal “most effective workout.” It’s always the workout you dread the most. This credo applies to the gym, too. Left to our druthers, we all prefer to build the hero muscles, in quick, comfortable fashion. But we’d be better served taking the time to perfect something strange and unfamiliar, like, say, barefoot lunge walks with weighted torso twists, or drop-set dumbbell flies on a flat bench. You can worry that the lunges will make you look wacky, or that the lighter weight will make you look weak, but learning something different — and doing it correctly — is the best kick in the pants a fitness routine can get.