Are you one of those guys who go to the gym and does pretty much the same workout week after week? Do you have exercises you love, are good at and have formed an unnatural attachment to? Has your progress stalled? It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out why! If you always do what you have always done, you’ll always get what you always got which basically means if you want to make progress in the gym, you need to shake things up from time to time and do something new.
Inevitably, exercisers gravitate toward the things they like but this often means that important muscles are neglected. As you are only as strong as your weakest link, this often means that until you address these programming gaps, you are doomed to stagnation.
These five exercises address the most common weak links in the vast majority of exerciser’s programs. Make sure you include some or, better still, all these movements to plug those gaps, breathe new life into your workouts and help you restart your progress.
1. Face pulls
No, not an exercise in looking like a bulldog licking a stinging nettle but an effective way to strength the muscles of your upper back and rear shoulders that will counterbalance all the bench presses and press-ups you do while helping fix your posture.
How to do it: Fix a rope handle to a head-high cable machine. Hold the ends of the handle with your thumbs pointing toward you. Adopt a staggered stance for balance. Pull your hands in toward your face (hence the name of the exercise) while keeping your elbows up at shoulder-height and try and jam your thumbs into your ears. Extend your arms and repeat. This exercise is best performed with light to moderate weights and for 10 to 20-repetitons.
2. Hip bridges
A weak, saggy butt is not only aesthetically unpleasing, it can also reduce your sporting performance and increase your risk of back pain. This exercise is a great butt blaster that is simple to perform.
How to do it: Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Push down through your feet and push your hips up as high as you can into the air. Lower your butt back down to the floor and repeat. Make this exercise harder by using one leg at a time or holding a weight across your hips.
3. Waiter’s walk
Crunches and planks are fine but if you want to provide your core with an unusually effective workout while simultaneously working your legs and shoulders, this is the one for you! It also offers a great opportunity to stroll around the gym looking particularly cool…
How to do it: Grab a medium to heavy dumbbell and raise it above your head. Get your arm perfectly vertical and brace your abs and shoulders. Once you are ready, take a leisurely walk around your training area. You should feel your abs working very hard to keep your torso upright. Continue for 30 to 60-seconds and then change sides.
Of all the exercises you should be doing but probably aren’t, the barbell deadlift is the king. Working virtually every major muscle in your body, if you only have time for one exercise, this is the one to do. It is a fantastic anti-gravity exercise that will help correct poor posture and will build your back like no other exercise can. Learn to love the deadlift!
How to do it: Stand with your feet hip width apart and your toes under the bar. Bend your knees slightly and lean forward to grasp the bar with a shoulder-width overhand or mixed grip. Straighten your arms and keep them straight throughout. Lower your hips, lift your chest and tighten your core; do not round your lower back. Drive your feet down into the floor and then, as the bar approaches your knees, thrust your hips forward to stand up straight. Pause (for applause) and put the weight back down by pushing your hips back and bending your knees. Lower the weight under control rather than bounce and then repeat.
5. Renegade Rows and Press-ups
If, after your deadlifts, you have time for one more exercise, do these. They work your core, biceps, triceps, lats and chest all at the same time; talk about workout efficiency!
How to do it: With a dumbbell in each hand, get down into the press-up position with your arms straight and abs braced. Bend your arms and lower your chest toward the floor and then push back up. Without leaning excessively sideways, bend one arm and pull the dumbbell up and into your ribs. Lower the weight back to the floor and do another press-up. Once your arms are straight again, pull the opposite dumbbell into your ribs. Do not let your hips drop or lift out of alignment – this may lead to injury. Continue doing press-ups alternated with rows for the duration of your set. Make this exercise harder by using kettlebells.
There are literally hundreds of exercises you should be doing but these exercises should be top of your to-do list. Work these exercises hard and you’ll soon see why!