4 Old-School Bodybuilding Exercises Every Woman Needs
There are plenty of great exercises to choose from today, but don't forget about the ones that built the great bodies from years ago! Use these 4 blasts from the past to perfect your own classic physique.
When it comes to building a standout body, sometimes it's best to go back to basics. Just ask IFBB bikini pro and EAS Myoplex athlete Annie Parker. If you did her lower-body bikini workout, you know she believes in carving her curves with the classics: squats, lunges, deadlift variations, and a little selective machine work for the details.
But she also performs other movements that are straight out of the golden age, and she says you should, too. "Classic bodybuilding moves aren't just for the guys," says Parker. "I incorporate a lot of classic moves into my workouts."
To help you get back to your roots, let's look at the top old-school bodybuilding exercises Parker says every woman should be doing.
1. T-Bar Rows
"The T-bar row is an absolutely classic move that is always great to include for the back," Parker explains. "There are so many variations of rows, and I would say this is potentially one of the harder ones, which might be why I like it so much."
T-bar rows are more than a back movement, of course. Your arms, core, and rear shoulders will also get in on the action, particularly once you get a little weight on the bar. And one nice thing about the T-bar is that while it allows you to work with a barbell, the diagonal angle makes it slightly more lower-back friendly than, say, a fully bent-over barbell row. "Not only do you have the weight of the bar to lift, but you have whatever weight you add," says Parker.
If your back training is currently limited to bent-over single-arm rows, she suggests you swap this one in for a change. One nice thing about it is that it can be done both as a double-arm movement or one arm at a time. Parker does both variations.
"Even with one end of the bar anchored on the ground, proper form is still crucial here," says Parker. "And you don't need to go super heavy. For women, starting out with lighter weights and higher reps still helps with building that V-taper of the back, which can also help your waist look smaller."
2. High-Rep Squats
Few moves in the gym burn like high-rep squats, but if you are serious about building a killer lower body, you need to bite the bullet and bust these out.
"Who doesn't love squats?" exclaims Parker. "Squats work both the legs and glutes for that awesome shape we all want. And they definitely don't have to fit into that '3 sets of 10-15' formula."
Of course, performing squats early in a workout is a great way to build strength and muscle, but Parker likes them just as much as a finisher on leg day. When she does them this way, she uses a small box or stepstool to ensure she goes down low enough, since it's at that bottom segment of the move that the glutes really get targeted. She then turns up the reps like crazy.
"Because it's such a complete leg exercise, I do 4 or 5 sets of 20," she says. "Trust me, you'll have a great booty pump after you're done!"
When doing high-rep squats, she recommends paying special attention to your breathing. Create intra-abdominal pressure by holding your breath; this will help you find the strength to keep those reps going. But don't hold your breath the entire set! Breath shallow but strong, and just keep going.
3. Cable Pull-Overs
"Cable pull-overs or pull-downs are awesome for the whole upper body and back," says Parker. "I like to superset 20 straight-arm pull-downs, which hit the back nicely, with 20 bent-arm triceps push-downs for a complete upper-body workout."
When it comes to these classic lat and triceps moves, the mind-muscle connection is key. Too many people load up the bar and let momentum take over. Before they know it, they're swinging the bar up and down, and who knows what muscles they're working? Instead, Parker says light, slow, and steady should be the name of your game as you perform this exercise, constantly focusing on squeezing the lat muscles to guide the movement pattern.
Not quite sure if you're hitting the right muscles? Try having someone film you doing this move, and compare it to Annie's footage. It can be hard to know for sure how you look when doing these two exercises. Video footage can be a great help.
4. Posing and Flexing
Most noncompetitors don't consider posing and flexing to be part of a workout. They'd probably feel silly! But in the old days of bodybuilding, it was a crucial part of many muscle-building regimens. And if you think it's only for competitors, think again! It can help you really hammer home that mind-muscle connection, especially when your muscles are fatigued toward the end of a workout, and help you maintain proper form and maximize your results.
"Of course if you're a competitor, posing after your workout should definitely be considered part of your workout," says Parker. "How you present your body on stage is just as important as your body itself." You worked so hard to build your physique. The last thing you want is to lose a contest because you didn't devote enough time to showcasing those muscles properly.
Even if you aren't competing, you can still benefit from a little extra flexing post-session. Don't be ashamed! "Even if you're not a competitor, don't be afraid to flex those muscles at the end of your workout, while they're pumped. It's a great way to give them one last blast of intensity. Plus, you worked hard for them!" says Parker.
Will it feel weird at first? Maybe. But it gets easier every time. And just remind yourself that what you're doing worked wonders for many athletes before you. Do it right, and it'll work for you as well.