Train Smarter: 6 Instant Exercise Improvements

Tweaks aren't for the weak. In fact, small improvements can sometimes yield big results. Incorporate these tips into your workout today!

You've got a great diet, a killer workout program, and enough drive to race the Indy 500. You go to the gym, you're getting results, and you feel like a million bucks that could somehow lift a million pounds. Think you've got it figured out? Think again.

Whether you're a newb or long-time gym rat, there are always additional tweaks you can incorporate in your workouts that will kick your results up a notch or three.

By implementing the following tweaks to your exercises, you'll up the intensity, improve your results, and avoid boredom in the gym.

Leg Press Improvement ///
Shift Your Feet

A long-time leg day staple, the leg press can help you turn those baggy jeans into tailored quad-clingers. While there's nothing technically wrong with doing the leg press with your feet in the middle of the footpad, if you place your feet slightly lower, toward the bottom of the pad, you can make it a more quad-dominant exercise.

If your routine already includes deadlifts, and it should, this little change to your leg press will add more balance to your program - you won't overwork your hamstrings or under-work your quads.

When using this foot position, make sure your knees track directly over your toes at all times. This will prevent knee pain and ensure proper exercise form.

Deadlift Improvement ///
Wide Open

To boost your booty, try using a wider stance while performing the deadlift. This will more effectively target your inner thighs and glutes. As you widen your stance, point your toes slightly outward to ensure proper form and a comfortable movement pattern.

Keep all other elements of the deadlift in place as you normally would: Lift with a flat back and think about hoisting the weight with your glutes and hips, not your lower back/lumbar spine.

Push-Up Improvement ///
Press Pause

Although push-ups are one of the best movements you can do to build upper-body and core strength, they're often overlooked in favor of heavy weights. (We know - it's difficult to look in the mirror and do push-ups at the same time).

So make your push-ups even harder. Advanced techniques include triangle push-ups, incline push-ups, decline push-ups, and one-clap push-ups. (Randy Moss would be proud.) Then, whatever variation you're performing, pause for a full count at the bottom of the movement.

Pausing during your push-up will force the muscles to contract longer and harder than normal, increasing the total time those targeted muscles remain under tension. As you pause at the bottom, engage your core. Maintain a flat back at all times to prevent lower back pain.

Crunch Improvement ///
Hands Above Your Head

Everyone wants awesome abs. Doing crunches properly can help you get them.

Many people allow their arms to perform the action when their abdominals should be doing the work. Placing your fingertips to the sides of your head generally increases the chances that you'll swing them forward and use that momentum to help you do your crunches. While crossing your arms in front of your chest might keep you from using their momentum, it doesn't add much resistance to the exercise.

For best results, hold your arms above your head when you do your crunches. Make sure you don't swing them or allow them to help your abs with the work.

Dips Improvement ///
Get off the Bench

If you regularly include bench dips in your workout routine, consider switching to upright dips.

Unless you are a beginner and haven't built a base level of strength, performing dips by hanging between two bars will place far more stress on the triceps than doing them with your hands on a bench.

If you're trying to build triceps horseshoe, upright dips are the right way to go. By not leaning forward, you keep the emphasis on your triceps and off your chest.

Triceps Push-down Improvement ///
Lat-Bar Love

Another awesome tri-ercise is the rope pull-down. The problem with this exercise, however, is that some people may feel pain in their hands and wrists as they begin to up the working weight.

To help ease this pain, use the lat pull-down bar. This bar gives you a more stable pushing surface that will allow you to direct more force straight toward the triceps, taking stress off the wrists and joints.

When using the lat pull-down bar, you'll have the option of using an underhand or an overhand grip. Each stimulates the triceps in a slightly different manner. Incorporate both grips into your workout for optimal results and maximum shape.


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