If you always do the same exercises using the same rep and set scheme, you'll end up stagnating in the gym. But forget about all the physical reasons why you should include variety in your training; let's talk about the mental reasons instead.
No matter how effective an exercise is, if you get bored of it and dread performing it, it won't do you much good. It's like being forced to sit in a class. If you're not interested in the subject, if it's boring and no fun, you won't learn much.
On the flip side, a new exercise is exciting and mentally stimulating. It turns your brain on, excites the nervous system and breaks you out of the training blahs. Below you'll find seven fresh exercises. Try a couple out today and get excited again about going to the gym!
The Plate Loaded Lateral Raise
We picked up this lateral raise variation from T-mag contributor John Paul Catanzaro. Using a bent arm to improve the leverage, place a weight plate over the elbow. Hold it there with one hand while raising it to the side with the "loaded" arm.
This is a great exercise to add to your arsenal of shoulder "widening" movements!
The Low Barbell Raise
This looks like a curl that doesn't know when to stop, but it's actually a delt exercise we learned from Don Alessi.
Grasp a barbell with an underhand (supinated) regular-width grip. Flex the knees slightly and start with the bar resting at mid-thigh level, elbows at 15 degrees of flexion. While maintaining elbow flexion, raise the bar overhead by using your delts. The movement should be explosive and smooth. At midpoint (with the bar overhead) the bar should be in vertical alignment with the ears, hips, and ankles. Reverse this pattern to return the weight under control to the starting position.
Just try not to drop it on your head. People will laugh.
One-Leg Good Morning
As if normal good mornings weren't challenging enough, now we have a one-legged version from Coach John Davies! This is a great hamstring and posterior chain exercise.
Stand on your right leg with your left leg extended back and parallel to the ground. If needed, maintain balance by holding on to something. Hold a dumbbell or plate with your right hand to the outside of your right foot. Rise up by pulling hard on the hamstring and stand perfectly upright.
Don't forget to do the other leg or you'll walk funny. Also, don't drop the weight on the dog or we'll sick those wacky PETA folks on you.
The Iso 1-Leg Squat
This is an evil exercise. Why? Because a Canadian came up with it, and as we all know, Canadians are evil.
Okay, we're just kidding about Canadians being evil, but this Christian Thibaudeau movement will kick your butt! Place your back leg on an elevated object and bring the front leg forward as shown. Bend your front leg at the knee so that the upper leg is close to parallel with the floor and the knee in line with the front foot. Your trunk should be kept upright with hands on your hips.
The objective is to hold that position for 60 seconds per leg. If you can handle that length of time, you can hold a dumbbell in your hands to make it even harder.
Thibaudeau recommends you use this exercise as part of a superset with a basic quadriceps movement. Just make sure to do the heavy basic exercise first.
Incline Dumbbell Shrug (a.k.a. the Bench Humper)
This one makes us feel funny on our special places, but it's also a damn good exercise for the upper and middle portions of the traps.
Lie facedown on an incline bench while holding a dumbbell in each hand. Let the arms hang down perpendicular to the ground. From that position, shrug the bells up in a straight line. Get a good stretch at the bottom as you lower them down.
The bald head is optional, but it does help you get into the right mind set!
Lean-Away Eccentric Dumbbell Curls
Here's a classic biceps blaster from Charles Poliquin. Holding dumbbells, sit with your back and triceps resting against the side of a Swiss ball.
Perform the concentric (lifting) range of a seated dumbbell curl.
Once you curl the dumbbells to the top, raise your hips so that your thighs are parallel to the floor. Your upper body should then be literally on top of the ball.
Lower the dumbbells down and away from you.
Lower the hips and repeat until you hit your target number of reps.
This really stresses different points on the strength curve and hits the bi's in a unique way! Try it!
One-Armed Eccentric Chin-up
This one is for bad asses only. The one-armed eccentric (negative) chin-up is tough, but it can really help advanced trainees overcome sticking points in strength development for the lats. Note: Most people will need to use one of those assisted dip/chin machines.
To perform this bad boy, pull up with two arms, pause, and slowly transfer the load to your non-dominant arm. From this point, lower yourself under control until the lats and elbow flexors of the working arm are fully stretched. Reset your dominant hand on the handle and pull yourself up for another rep. Repeat the process until you reach eccentric muscle failure.
Try to use very slow eccentric lowering, about 8-10 seconds per rep. Try six sets of two to four reps. Try not to cry like a big baby after you're finished.
No more excuses. Weight training doesn't have to be boring. Now go try these exercises before you chicken out!