In the weight room, it’s easy to get accustomed to the same old routine. Even in a search for “variety”, people will often stop at simply “choosing new movements”. The truth is, to shock your muscles into development and to scare plateaus away; sometimes it calls for greater methods to stir the pot. Here are 5 movements you've probably never used, but should.
Exercise 1: Cobra Pulldowns
Benefits: The cobra pull-down is a great way to get the lats through a larger range of motion than a regular pull-down. Because of where the hand rests in the start position (almost directly above the head), the lats have to contract from a much more lengthened position.
The How To: Start by ensuring that you're slightly in front of the cable pulley, and "unlock" your shoulder blade while stretching your arm. Next, set your shoulder down and pull through the lat, remembering to keep your elbow in line with your wrist and not behind it. At the finish position, squeeze the snot out of your lats. Use a 20X1 tempo. (Squeeze for one second at the end of each rep, lower it in two seconds, don't rest at the relaxed position, and pull for one second.) This exercise doesn't require you to set the pin at the bottom of the stack for you to really feel the reps, so we recommend using high-rep sets.
Exercise 2: Kettlebell Preacher Curl
Benefits: A kettlebell for biceps curls is a great idea, and when it comes to preachers, they become even more effective. Since the kettlebell is on a handle, most of the load rests below your hand. As you curl the weight, your biceps can stay fully contracted for more of the lift without becoming inactive at the top. Compare this to a regular barbell or dumbbell and you’ll notice that the load has no effect on the biceps when fully curled at the top of the lift. This new shift means you're optimizing the length-tension ratio by changing the position of the actual load.
Remember: Squeeze the weight up through the pinky finger as you pull to ensure you’re using your biceps fully, and try to keep a slight break in the wrist, in order to minimize the use of the forearms.
Exercise 3: Barbell Z Press
Benefits: A Z press is a great way to expose virtually any deficiency in the body in minor muscle groups that can prove to be major factors in big lifts. This simultaneously challenges the mobility of your hip flexors, the extension of your mid back, your shoulder rotation, low back stiffness, hamstring flexibility, and abdominal strength.
The How To: Sit on your butt with straight knees and no back support. Simply perform a standard barbell shoulder press with good technique, while maintaining proper, upright posture the entire time. This exercise can also be performed with a dumbbell (unilaterally) to double as a great stability exercise for the obliques.
Exercise 4: Zercher Squats
Benefits: The Zercher squat involves much more abdominal and lower back stimulation, without as much compressional forces on the spine due to the placement of the bar. The Front load can also promote a deeper depth, which can train you to have a better quality back squat in the long run.
The How To: Set up a bar in the squat cage at waist level, and position yourself so that the bar is loaded right in the crook of the arms. Link the fingers and make sure that your knuckles point to the ceiling for the entire time. Set the feet just outside shoulder width and maintain an arch in the low back. Slowly lower yourself to the bottom position while maintaining an upright torso and keeping the bar close to the body. Fire the glutes and abs hard and return to the starting position. Don’t expect to use the same weight you back squat or front squat in this exercise. It won’t take much to hit the muscles hard.
Exercise 5: Eccentric Glute Hamstring Raises
Benefits: The Eccentric GHR taps into the negative strength of the hamstrings. That means a new way to pack muscle onto your wheels using only your bodyweight to do it. Since the hams have so many fast twitch muscle fibers in their bellies, it’s even more effective for strength gains.
The How To: From a kneeling position on the floor, secure your heels (not your Achilles tendons) under anything sturdy enough to handle your weight. Make sure you’re as comfortable as you can get. Maintain a tall posture and “fall” forward. Now, the catch is to slow your rate of descent as much as possible – the longer you can make it take to reach the floor, the better. Break your fall with your hands (in a push up position) and assist yourself back up to the beginning position. Do no more than 8 reps per set; this is a tough one.
5 Move Wrap Up
Putting these key exercises to practice can make a world of difference to your program and your results. If you’re not feeling a “challenge” from your workouts on a day to day basis, there needs to be a change. Don’t fall asleep on your progress. Do the right thing, and your body will thank you for it in the long run.