Being able to perform classic moves with perfect form is great. It's essential, in fact. But don't let anyone convince you that it's the end of the story. Once you're strong at the textbook version of a movement, there are plenty of small tweaks you can make to any exercise to make it that much more powerful.
What's on the docket today? Abs? Chest? Maybe practice some muscle-ups? No matter what you're doing, MusclePharm athlete B-Strong can help you make it harder and better. Follow him on Instagram, and you'll see he doesn't do anything that isn't customized to deliver maximum payoff.
Take a page from his book, and reap optimal results from every rep and set of your next gym session. Here are a few of his top movement upgrades.
Upgrade 1: Decline Sit-Up With a Twist
The decline sit-up is a great exercise on its own, and it's plenty hard for most people. But once you get strong enough to rep out on this classic, you have more options than simply adding reps, adding an incline, or holding a plate out in front of you. You can also tweak this six-pack-building exercise to do wonders for your obliques and all the muscle fibers deep in your core.
To do this movement, hold a bar across your shoulders. Leave the Olympic bar and plates in the rack; you (and everyone standing around you) are better served by a short fixed-weight barbell or workout bar, like B-Strong uses. As you lean back, begin rotating the bar in circles, first on one side and then on the next as you move down through the eccentric part of the movement.
Looking to mix it up? Crunch from side to side, or slide in a typewriter motion like B-Strong does. It looks easy. It's not. This simple change will have you moving in multiple directions, testing your core strength and control. It will be intense, so be patient with yourself if you can't do it right away. "Once I have the basics down, I go full-out every time. After that, my body will begin to grow," says B-Strong.
Upgrade 2: Muscle-Ups Plus Bar-Dip Ladder
The muscle-up is a great goal on its own. But once you can bust out a few reps, you have far more options than just adding reps or trying to do them for time. You can also focus on specific parts of this complex bodyweight maneuver to wring every last bit of strength-building stimulus you can get from to.
"This movement is all about power and technique, working your back as well as your shoulders," says B-Strong. "When you rotate to press your body up, you'll then focus on your chest as you progress through the movement. This makes it a fantastic total upper-body exercise."
To do this one B-Strong-style, do a strict muscle-up, and once you're at the top position, do a rep of just the bar dip that comprises the top half of the movement. Lower yourself all the way down, do another muscle-up, then do two dips. Another muscle-up, then three dips. One more muscle-up, then four dips.
In no time, you've racked up a lot of upper-body volume while also giving your lats and grip all the work they could want.
Upgrade 3: Dumbbell Squeeze-Press to Fly
Looking for a way to do more chest work in less time? Then you'll love this dumbbell press-to-fly combo.
"This move works the full pec area and gives you the added stretch that the fly brings," explains B-Strong. "Plus, you'll really dial in on that inner-chest muscle due to the position of the dumbbells as you execute the pressing portion of this exercise."
To do this exercise, position yourself on an incline bench, then bring two dumbbells together above your chest. From here, drop them out to the side to perform a fly. Next, move the dumbbells out to the sides in the fly-movement pattern, then back up to the top. From there, lower them directly down into your chest while keeping the dumbbells pressed together—hard. Press right back up, and perform another fly.
This combo is a fantastic way to fully fatigue your chest, especially after you've done some heavy barbell or dumbbell benches.
Upgrade 4: Overhead Lunge
The walking lunge is a classic exercise that's great for boosting lower-body strength and even core strength, no matter how you preform it. You can go unweighted for reps or distance, with dumbbells held at your sides, or a barbell front racked or on your back.
Here's a variation you may not have considered: lunges with a barbell held over your head. You won't need much weight for this to feel seriously challenging at first. "By using a snatch hold above your head with the bar," explains B-Strong, "you can work your legs and core, as well as your shoulder stability."
Whether you're an athlete or just someone who likes every move in your workout to deliver as much as possible, this is an excellent exercise to put in the mix. You'll teach your legs, core, back, and shoulders to all work together, which will transfer over to strength gains in all the other activities you do.
To perform this exercise, bring a barbell up over your head and hold it there with your elbows extended. As you begin walking, keep your torso upright. The weight will let you know if you don't!
Upgrade 5: Ab Box
Ready to transform your boring ab workout into one that really gets those muscles screaming? The ab box will provide the challenge you need.
"I like doing this move to really hit my lower abdominals as well as my obliques," says B-Strong. "It focuses on keeping maximum tension on the muscles throughout the entire exercise."
To perform this one, you'll need a step box placed just in front of your feet while you sit down on the ground in a V-up position, but with your knees slightly bent. From here, begin to perform slight crunches, keeping your torso more or less in that V-up position. The real action is what happens with your legs, which will dart around the box in all directions.
In the video, B-strong moves his feet around the box in the following order: left, right, center, above the box, center, on both sides of the box, then center. How you do it is up to you, but know that with each leg-position change you make, you'll be hitting the lower abs—and every other part of your core—intensely to control the movement.
Only got a few reps of it in you right now? No problem. Keep coming back, and soon your core will be stronger. That's what it's all about—just ask B-Strong.