Imagine if some exercise scientist invented a machine that could provide you with the ideal training program based on your genetics and goals. Imagine that this machine was never wrong: you get the perfect individualized program, better than any strength coach could provide. Every exercise, every set, and every rep is laid out for you, and since the program is perfect, you'd never have to change it.
It would be amazing, revolutionary, incredible, and... a huge failure.
Why? Because people get bored. Even with the "perfect program" they want to try new things and challenge themselves with fresh exercises. That's one reason we started this article series, now in its fourteenth installment. Add a few of these unique exercises to your "perfect" training program to liven up your next workout!
Kneeling Overhead Extensions
This is a great exercise for targeting the long head of the triceps which, according to Charles Poliquin, is the most neglected head of this muscle group. If your long head needs attention, then kneeling overhead extensions could help you add some quick size and strength to your upper arms.
To perform, place a triceps rope and a chain extension on a pulley. Set up a flat bench on the opposite side of the crossover machine. Next, grasp the rope overhead, kneel and place your elbows and forehead on the bench. Lift the load with an extension of the elbows and lower under control.
For best results, go heavy! Also, avoid performing in prison.
The Serratus Crunch
We picked this one up from Christiane Lamy, who secretly finds the editors irresistibly hot. (Really. What's so funny? Shut up, you're just jealous.)
This is a great way to develop the hard-to-train serratus muscles along with the rectus abdominis and obliques. Strengthening the serratus will help reduce the risk of shoulder injury and will actually increase your bench pressing strength by stabilizing the shoulder blades.
The key point is to keep the arms perpendicular to the floor at all times. As you reach the "crunched" position you should reach for the ceiling, trying to bring the hands as high as possible. Hold that position for 2-3 seconds. Think that's too easy? Try it with the feet off the floor, punk.
Reverse Cable Side Bends
Here's another unique abs/obliques movement we picked up from Dave Tate, who also, quite disturbingly, finds the editors irresistibly hot.
The movement is performed on a standard lat machine with the use of a single D-handle. Begin by standing with your side to the machine. Grab the D-handle and pull it down to your side so your arm is locked. From here, perform the same movement as you would with a one-arm dumbbell side bend. The difference with this is the resistance is now opposite what it would be with dumbbells. The tension is now on the downward phase.
Before you begin, tighten your abs and obliques. Now bend to the side and make sure to keep a controlled tempo. Flex your obliques very hard when you reach the midpoint and keep your upper body erect. Return to the start position slowly while keeping as much tension on the obliques as you can.
Swiss Ball Squat
This is a good lower body exercise for those training without access to a squat rack or for those who can't perform a traditional barbell back squat because of medical reasons.
Position a stability ball between the small of your back and a wall, then shoot the knees directly forward over your toes. Hold dumbbells to add weight. Hold angry Rottweilers if you're a real badass.
Split-Leg Good Morning
This is a killer exercise we learned from Christian Thibaudeau, who's probably going to ritually disembowel the editors for making those comments above about his girlfriend, Christiane Lamy, who still, despite Thibaudeau's objections, finds the editors dead sexy.
To perform split-leg good mornings, stand as if you were going to perform a regular good morning, but have a block or bench in front of you. Place one foot on the block, keeping the leg almost straight. You're going to perform a good morning motion until you feel a powerful stretch of the front leg. At that point you reverse the motion by pushing against the block with your leg.
Low Cable Shrugs
This oddball shrug variation we learned from Paul Chek is excellent for improving the strength of the scapular retractors. These muscles are commonly weak in people with forward head posture and rounded shoulders. Such people are also lacking strength in scapular retractors relative to the protractors of the shoulder. This is commonly seen in those athletes that overindulge in the bench press relative to pulling exercises.
Performing the exercise requires two cable columns side by side. Set the cables to the bottom of the column and take one step back. This encourages a force of depression and protraction from the cables that must be overcome by the elevators and retractors of the shoulder girdle. The shoulders are elevated toward the ear as far as possible and then rolled backward, bring the shoulder blades as close together as possible while you slowly lower the load.
It's important to maintain good structural alignment during this exercise and your knees should stay unlocked at all times. It's natural to lean back slightly, although less is better. The head should never be allowed to protrude forward into forward-head posture, a biomechanical blunder commonly seen among those using the shrug exercise!
Cable Upright Row Press Out
This unique shoulder and trap exercise comes from the bowels of Westside Barbell. Dave Tate calls it one of the most effective shoulder movements he's ever done!
You'll need access to a single "D" handle (or possibly a kettlebell.) Attach the handle to a low pulley device and begin with your arms in front of you. Pull the handle up as you would an upright row until you get to your upper chest. Make sure when you pull that you keep your elbows up.
When you get to the top position, rotate your wrists so your palms face outward and press the handle up and away from you so you'll finish with your arms straight overhead, directly over the line of pull. This is a great movement for a large volume of training (reps over eight.) Try it!
Unilateral Lying Triceps Extension
Here's a "fun" twist to the popular triceps extension. Lay on a bench with one arm straight up in the air holding a dumbbell. Allow the dumbbell to be lowered to the opposite shoulder, going across the chest. Keep the working arm elbow high and still. Avoid dropping the dumbbell repeatedly on your schnoz.
Another great movement from Christiane, the woman who adores us. Honestly, she's practically a stalker. Sigh.
The combo extension pull works the whole posterior chain (hamstrings, butt and low back) as well as the arms. Just perform a back extension and a two-armed dumbbell row at the same time. Simple, effective, and if you're female, it provides the male gym-goers hours of masturbatory fantasy material. Bonus!
There's no "perfect" training program, but even if it did exist you'd still want to add some variety. Hopefully this series gives you plenty of new ideas.