Not only does training with the same exercise lineup over and over get boring, it can eventually impact your results. To get the most out of your hard work in the gym, you have to occasionally hit your body with new stimuli, angles, and tricks.
If you change your exercises as often as you paint your house, try adding some variety to your routine with these nine unique movements and techniques from the fit athletes of Team MusclePharm!
1. Incline Banded Dumbbell Press Supersetted With Incline Banded Fly
Courtesy of Asa Matthews
About The Moves: This multijoint and single-joint chest superset makes use of training bands, which differ from traditional weighted movements; the resistance increases as you raise the weights and decreases again as you lower them. This is especially useful to focus on the top portion of the range of motion (ROM), because it takes on a greater load than at the bottom.
Training Tips: Use a training band than ranges from 20-50 pounds, pulled taut at the bottom position of the ROM but still yielding almost no additional force at that point.
Because the weight at the top of the lift will be more than at the bottom, you'll have to reduce the dumbbells proportionately. Loop the band around the middle of the handles so the load is distributed evenly. The movement may be challenging at first (especially toward the top), but maintain control and use a deliberate motion. Once you reach your target rep, drop the weights and immediately do incline flyes with just the band.
Remember that the load increases as you raise the bands, so taking each rep to full extension becomes the most challenging aspect of this exercise.
2. Cable Pull-Through
Courtesy of Shannon Henry
About The Move: The motion is similar to a Romanian deadlift (RDL), but instead of the line of pull being dictated by gravity, it's coming from behind you, right from the cable stack. Like RDLs, this is a great exercise for the glutes and upper hamstrings. For some people, the rope may be easier to grip than a barbell when doing RDLs.
Training Tips: Step away from the stack, so there's tension even in the bottom position. All the form pointers you follow when doing RDLs apply here—keep your knees soft, use your arms as hooks (don't pull with them), and don't round your back.
You may be able to use a longer ROM here than with barbell RDLs, but never pass the point at which your back rounds. Allow the weight to bend you over as your glutes move rearward, and come up by pressing your hips strongly forward.
3. Plate Hammer Curl Supersetted With Plate Overhead Extension
Courtesy of Brandon Strong
About The Moves: This is a biceps and triceps single-joint superset that requires a single piece of equipment. The trick is to use a weight that puts you in the optimal rep range for both movements. Your choices: the 25-, 35-, or 45-pound wheel. If you're stronger than that, you'll have to increase the reps, but that makes this a finishing-move choice when you're training for a pump later in your workout. With the hammer curl, the brachialis assists the biceps long head, while the overhead triceps movement best focuses on the long head.
Training Tips: Maintain a hammer grip (palms-in) on both exercises. On the latter exercise, keep your elbows pointed up, and don't let them flare to minimize pectoral involvement. Having a spotter handy can help you with some forced reps as well. MusclePharm's Brandon Strong does these for 5 sets of 20 reps of each movement.
4. Dumbbell Lateral/Front Raise Combo
Courtesy of Shannon Henry
About The Move: This is a great burnout combo for the end of your shoulder workout, because you alternate single-joint motions for the middle and front delts, and you benefit from the increased time under tension. Each arm works independently of the other; while one side is doing a lateral raise (for the middle delt), the other is doing a front raise (albeit with a shortened lever) for the front. You simply repeat the motion to the alternate side, swapping motions so each side gets worked completely.
Training Tips: For simplicity, Henry keeps both arms pointed in the same direction, whether it's to the right side or left. Use lighter dumbbells to increase your reps—and the burn!
5. Smith-Machine Vertical Leg Press
Courtesy of Kimmy Lynn
About The Move: The vertical leg press was a staple machine back when Arnold competed, but you won't find it in most gyms anymore. This version on the Smith machine comes close, but I wouldn't recommend going incredibly heavy. The vertical press is a variation of the lying leg press, but don't expect to use the same poundages, since you're pushing directly up against gravity rather than at an angle.
Training Tips: Place a padded mat on the floor under the unit. You'll want to try a variety of body positions, but you'll want your hips directly under your feet. Make sure you adjust the safeties on each side of the apparatus, if your unit has them; set them below the bottom of the ROM but at a point where you can safely bail.
Because it's critical your feet remain flat and level with the floor throughout, don't use extremely wide foot positions; your feet might become angled, which could possibly allow the bar to slide off. The bar should rest stably between your midfoot and heel, but not too close to the edge of your foot. Use your hands to push up through your thighs to get the bar into the start position.
As you rep, pay attention to the stability of the bar, not only to prevent an accident, but to ensure it doesn't roll, which could allow the hooks on the bar to interfere with the motion. Take your reps deeper to put more emphasis on the glutes. A slow negative is a great way to better recruit the hamstrings.
6. Band Overhead Dumbbell Press Supersetted With Banded Overhead Fly
Courtesy of Asa Matthews
About The Moves: This is another multijoint to single-joint superset that takes the triceps out of the latter move by highly reducing elbow extension. Again, the bands increase the tension as you raise the weights, so what might have been a 50-pound overhead press at the start might become 70 at full extension. This allows you to better work the lockout portion and increase your strength at the top of the ROM. The overhead fly is a more unusual way to focus on the middle delts (and in this case, even the rear delts to a lesser degree).
Training Tips: You can do this superset seated (run the band under the bench) or standing (stand on the midpoint of the band). Adjust dumbbell weight according to band limits (which could range from 20-50 pounds when fully stretched).
Since you won't be using dumbbells on the overhead fly, you may find the bottom of the ROM is pretty easy, but take the second half of the superset to muscle failure. Remember to lock a slight bend in your elbows to restrict the motion to the shoulders.
7. Sliding Reverse Lunge
Courtesy of Lindsey Robinson
About The Move: This is a variation of the reverse lunge, but instead of taking a step, you simply slide one foot backward and descend into the lunge position. You need a small, smooth towel and a smooth, even floor like wood or vinyl. Holding the barbell across your delts in front puts a bit more stress on the quads; you could also hold it like a back squat and get a bit more glute activation. You can also use dumbbells for this lower-body burner.
Training Tips: Keep the movement smooth and under control at all times. As usual, descending deeper into the squat position better triggers greater glute and hamstrings activation.
Make sure your trailing knee doesn't contact the floor. Push up through your front leg to return to the start position. Do all reps for one side before switching to the other.
8. Dumbbell Hammer Holds
Courtesy of Brandon Strong
About The Move: Most underhand biceps exercises neglect the brachialis (which lies underneath the biceps but can enhance arm girth), but that changes when using a hammer (neutral) grip. The protocol here is quite a bit different than usual hammer curls. When one side is not working, it's held not at your side but rather in an isometrically contracted position while the opposite side is being actively trained.
Training Tips: Raise both forearms unitl they're about parallel to the floor, keeping one side locked in this position, and do 5 reps for the opposite side. Switch sides for 5 more reps. Then, do 10 reps with both sides. Repeat the drill 4 more times. As you fatigue, you may be inclined to use more body English, but try and keep it to a minimum.
9. Decline Exercise Ball Reverse Hyperextension
Courtesy of Ashlie Perez
About The Move: The reverse hyper on a Roman chair or elevated flat bench is already a good upper-hamstrings and glute move (the lower back gets some isometric work too). If those are still too easy, however, you can up the ante by positioning your body more vertically, which makes you work harder.
You may have to experiment with this exercise, depending on the type of decline bench you have available, adding the ball so your legs hang freely without touching the ground.
Contract your glutes and hamstrings to raise your feet as high as possible, keeping your legs as straight as possible, as you spread your feet to form the letter Y.
Training Tips: Make sure the ball is placed high enough on your midsection so you're able to achieve a full ROM. Because the ball can be used to help you spring up, use a controlled motion without bouncing.
You can also elevate the bench to make the movement more difficult. Contract your glutes hard at the top of each rep.