At most gyms you see, trainers seem to be doing the same old, tired, typical exercises. These are also the trainers who complain about the fact that they’re not making any gains. Of course, the standards and basics are absolutely important and should still be done, but anyone with an ounce of knowledge about training should know that variety is the key to continual gains. So if you’ve been training for three or more years, it’s time to expand your repertoire and ramp up your muscle building. Here are 10 exercises that you’re probably not doing, but should start to incorporate into your routine.
Exercise 1 - Reverse Grip Bench Press
The reverse grip bench press is something that’s rarely seen in the gym, but it’s a lifesaver if you’ve ever experienced shoulder pain or wrist pain whilst doing heavy bench presses. As with any exercise, it does require some time to get used to, but it’s a great way to remove strain and leave you with plenty in the tank for other chest exercises. Because the exercise also works the triceps moreso than the regular bench press, it can be a nice segway exercise between working your chest and triceps.
How to Perform a Reverse Grip Bench Press (RGBR)
Lie back on the bench, ensuring your mouth is under the bar rather than your eyes. Grip the bar with a reverse grip (palm facing your face) so that it is resting on the fleshy part of your palm. Lower the barbell down, maintaining your elbows close to the side, pause, before raising the bar back up. Avoid locking your elbows and start off with an unweighted barbell before attempting to go heavier.
Exercise 2 - Front Squat
The front squat isn’t the most unknown exercise, but very few people will incorporate it into their legs routine. However, the front squat helps to focus more on the quads with less emphasis on the hamstrings. It’s not the most comfortable exercise, which is probably why people avoid it, but it does wonders for quad development.
How to Perform a Front Squat
Rest the barbell onto your front deltoids with your forearms crosses and raised so that they’re parallel to the floor. Grasp the bar and raise your head slightly. Slowly squat down, pause and raise your body up without leaning your body over. To make it harder, once you’re at the bottom of the movement, go up half way, come back down and explode up again.
Exercise 3 - Face Pulls or Rope Pulls to Your Neck/Face
If you want an exercise that works both your upper back and rear delts, this is an excellent exercise to throw into your routine. You don’t have to go too heavy with this to feel it working, and it’s a great balancing exercise for those who train their chest too much and are starting to experience rounded shoulders.
How to Perform Face Pulls
Using a rope attachment to a high pulley, grasp the rope with both hands, step back and slowly pull the rope towards your face/neck by squeezing your shoulder blade together. Hold the movement when your shoulder blades are fully retracted before slowly letting the rope go back to its original position. If you don’t have access to a rope attachment, seated rows pulled towards your neck are a suitable alternative.
Exercise 4 - Leaning Lateral Raises
The shoulders are an incredibly hard muscle group to grow and most people seem to have an uneven build of the delts with greater anterior development and lagging middle and rear delts. The leaning lateral raises are a great movement which provides a greater range of motion, which will in turn help support greater side delt development. If you want wider shoulders and rounder delts, this is one to start doing more of.
How to Perform the Leaning Lateral Raise
Holding onto a bar or pole with one hand, slowly lean your body away from the bar/pole by extending your arm without moving your feet. Your entire body should have a slight slant. Your other hand should be gripping a dumbbell. To initiate movement, imagine you’re trying to raise your arm sideways. This will focus the tension on your delts rather than your traps. Once the dumbbell is roughly perpendicular to the floor or slightly above, pause for a second before lowering the dumbbell back to your side. Leading with your elbows can help focus the tension further towards the rear of the delt.
Exercise 5 - Dumbbell Preacher Curls
Again, this exercise isn’t the most uncommon, but it ranks quite low on the list of biceps exercises to do. Most people end up sticking to the usual ones such as a barbell bicep curl, EZ bar curl, standing dumbbell curl or the seated incline bicep curl. While those are all good, the dumbbell preacher curls has some excellent benefits. It doesn’t place excessive strain on your wrists like barbell curls, it limits use of momentum and you get to find out if you have any imbalances.
How to Perform the Dumbbell Preacher Curl
Sitting down at a preacher bench and holding two dumbbells, perform the same as you would a barbell preacher curl. To make it easier, push the dumbbells together so they touch. Avoid using momentum and focus on a slow eccentric.
Exercise 6 - Standing or Seated Overhead Barbell Triceps Extensions
Overhead tricep extensions are most commonly seen done with the dumbbells or not at all since they’re not as popular as push downs, dips or skullcrushers. However they are a great exercise for those who want to add bulk to their triceps, especially since it works the long head of the triceps. If bigger arms is what you’re after, start doing this exercise more often.
How to Perform the Overhead Barbell Triceps Extension
Using a straight or EZ Bar, get yourself in the starting position by sitting or standing up and holding the barbell above your head. You can choose to use either grip (palms facing forward or palms facing backward). Slowly lower the weight behind your head until your arms are just past perpendicular. Pause, before lifting the weight back up to the start position. If this exercise starts straining your shoulders, perform on a high incline bench.
Exercise 7 - Single Leg Calf Raises Without Weight
Besides the odd standing calf raise and the seated calf raise, most trainers rarely train this muscle group. It’s often left by the wayside after a heavy legs session, but having defined, well built calves will make you look much more impressive, since most people rarely get to see your quad and hamstring development. When training calves, most people will focus on heavy weight, but this tends to dampen the range of movement, which is not ideal for calf development. In addition, because of the muscle fibre makeup of the calves, you want higher reps, which can sometimes be hard with a heavy weight. The no weight, single leg calf raise is an excellent exercise you can do anywhere to help you maximize calf development. It may be simple, but it works!
How to Perform the Single Leg Calf Raise
Depending on your level of balance, you might like to hold onto something, however, not holding onto anything will help recruit your ankle stabilizers more. Keeping your knees fairly straight, slowly raise your heel up as far as it can go in a slow and controlled movement. Pause at the top, before slowly lowering yourself back down. Your aim is to perform up to 20 reps. Most people won’t be able to perform 20 with perfect form or without cramping, so build up slowly.
Exercise 8 - Close Grip/Crush Grip Dumbbell Press
If you want an exercise that hits the chest, triceps, shoulders and back at the same time, the Crush Grip Dumbbell Press is the rarely seen movement that will do just that. Super simple to perform, the key to performing this exercise is to reduce the tempo and to actively press the dumbbells together. This will increase the isometric contraction component of the exercise, which can help boost a more solid upper body in the long run.
How to Perform the Crush Grip Dumbbell Press
Lying on either a flat or slight incline bench, raise the pair of dumbbells above you and press them together lengthways. Your palms should be facing each other at this point. Slowly lower the weight towards your chest whilst maintaining active tension trying to push the dumbbells together. Pause at the bottom of the movement, before pushing the weight back up to the starting position. This is a great superset exercise to do after a regular pressing movement.
Exercise 9 - Glute Ham Raise
Most leg day training sessions tend to be quad intensive. Squats, leg presses, lunges and leg extensions tend to work the quads slightly more than the hamstrings. Which is a shame since it eventually leads to uneven development and potential injuries further down the track. The Glute Ham Raise isn’t an easy exercise to do and something that you might need to work on for a couple of weeks, even months. The exercise can be done anytime throughout the leg workout, but might be best performed after weighted exercises.
How to Perform the Glute Ham Raise
If you have a training partner, get them to hold your legs as you’re kneeling. If you don’t have a training partner, tuck your feet underneath the pads of a lat pulldown machine with your knees resting on the seat. Crossing your arms over your chest, slowly lower yourself down to just above parallel. Pause, before raising yourself up by contracting your hamstrings. Most people aren’t going to be able to do this exercise, especially the concentric up phase. If this is the case for you, focus on resisting on the down phase and get ready to catch yourself to avoid smashing your face on the ground.
Exercise 10 - Jump Rope or Skipping
While most of this list has focused on resistance exercise, let’s not forget that incorporating some cardio into your routine is vital if you want reduced body fat and improved fitness. With high intensity interval training all the rage lately, skipping with a jump rope might just be one of the best cardio exercises you’re not doing. Not only is it a fantastic heart rate booster, it is a calorie burning powerhouse. It’s less straining on the joints than running and portable, making it the perfect travelling exercise equipment.
Tips on Jump Rope
The technique for jump rope is fairly simple. If you’re a complete beginner, you might find that you’d be more coordinated jumping with two feet. Once you’re more advanced though, you can start skipping by alternating your foot taps. A good way to try to improve technique is to work on toe taps without the rope. To increase intensity, try tricks like double unders or high knee skips.
Time to Make Some Gains
The more years you’ve been training, the less results you’re going to see, especially if you’re going through the motions with the same old exercises. It doesn’t take massive changes to help make an impacting difference to your gains. Incorporating one or more of these exercises into your training routine will help you build more muscle and burn more fat, and who can complain about that?