Pick out a good exercise for the triceps. How about close-grip bench press? Cool. Now, do it every week at the gym for, say, two months.
At the end of the two months, ditch the close-grip bench presses and start doing "wiener" triceps kickbacks.
What will happen? Well, even though the close-grip benches are widely believed to be a superior triceps exercise, the switch to kickbacks will very likely trigger some new soreness and muscle growth.
Maybe that's why the "Exercises You've Never Tried" article series has been one of our most popular over the years. Experienced lifters know that changing their training program up every six weeks or so leads to new growth.
Need some change in your exercise selection? Then enjoy our 19th installment of this series!
Two-Position Dumbbell Shrug
Here's a killer new trap exercise from Coach Christian Thibaudeau.
Grasp a dumbbell in one hand and hold onto some fitness babe's nipple, or some likewise relatively stationary object and lean away. With your palm facing forward, perform 8 to 10 reps with a two-second hold at the top of each rep. Then, without rest, set your sights on 6 to 8 additional reps with a neutral grip. Follow this with one set of crying for mommy.
The Gunthar Row
Another killer movement from Thibaudeau. This exercise works the whole posterior chain hard. The hamstrings, lower back, glutes, and upper back all receive a powerful stimulation. As the saying goes, "An athlete is only as strong as the back of his body." So, this movement is extremely effective at improving athletic performance, posture, and strength in movements such as the deadlift and the Olympic lifts.
This one used to be a staple in the training of the former shot put world record holder, Werner Gunthar, who could power clean over 450 pounds as if the bar was unloaded and jump hurdles like an antelope!
Basically, the movement consists of performing a back extension, and at the top of the movement, rowing a barbell or dumbbells.
As you can see by the photo above, Gunthar was kinda short on material. Nowadays, we have solid back extension benches, so you won't have to have Mario hold down your ankles (apologies to his former coach, Jan-Pierre Egger)!
While a barbell can still be used, Thibaudeau does prefer to use dumbbells. You can even perform the movement unilaterally to work on trunk stabilization at the same time. The key point is to avoid trunk rotation at all costs.
Dumbbell Alternating Lunges with Front Reach, From Step
Bodybuilding guru Scott Abel gave us this strange but effective variation of the lunge.
As you can see in the video, this is performed off a high step. The "reach" comes in the middle of the movement: just reach forward with the dumbbells until they're just in front of the feet.
Keep your Snuggie handy; you won't be getting off the couch much after this one!
The Eccentric Reverse Curl
Here's a unique exercise from the mind of Charles Poliquin.
The idea here is to "cheat" the weight up (concentric range) so you lower a heavier load than you can lift, focusing on the negative or eccentric portion of the curl. This type of negative-only training can be used to stimulate new growth.
One application of this is the eccentric reverse curl. All you do is bypass the concentric range with a power clean, then lower the bar under control in reverse curl fashion.
Try not to rupture your spleen as you lower the weight.
Athletes know that push-ups are a good exercise. Bodybuilders know that the flye can help with chest hypertrophy. So why not combine them? Nick Tumminello, owner of Performance University in Baltimore, MD, taught us just that.
The combination push-up and flye really maximizes chest and shoulder recruitment. You'll soon find out that this movement demands a lot of torso strength and control. A weight vest can be added for additional torment. Tough!
Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift, Off Box
We learned this one from trainer and kinesiology expert Mark Young.
Mark likes this off-the-box version of the unilateral Romanian deadlift because it allows the lifter to regain balance between reps and use more weight. It also takes away the ability to use the stretch shortening cycle (the bounce) at the bottom of the movement, resulting in greater muscular contraction of the glutes and hamstrings.
To perform this exercise you'll need to place two dumbbells on a low box (about 8") or aerobic step. From here you'll bend forward at the hip, bringing one leg straight out behind you in line with your body.
Now, slightly bend the planted leg and grasp the dumbbells. Stand up by strongly contracting the glutes and then drive the hips back as you lower to the starting position to avoid falling forward. Make sure the dumbbells come to a complete stop on the box between reps.
The trailing leg and the body should move as one unit. Balance will be difficult at first, but over the course of a few weeks this movement should become much easier and your weights should increase dramatically. Make sure to start with your weaker leg!
The Lunge-Position Calf Raise
To hit all the muscles of the calf, you need more than just the standing calf raise; you need to perform a bent-leg movement too so the oft-neglected soleus muscle gets some love.
Here's a home gym-friendly exercise we picked up from New York trainer Chris Colucci.
Be sure to sit tall, not slumping on the heel of the support leg, and have the working leg on a step or block. Place a dumbbell on the thigh, not on the top of the kneecap, of the working leg and proceed with reps.
Barbell Curl Drop, Catch and Lift
Here's one guaranteed to get you kicked out of Planet Fitness. Christian Thibaudeau, the Bulging Butcher of Canada, taught us this one.
This is a plyometric exercise for the biceps. You drop the bar from the starting position and let it free-fall down. You catch it with the elbows bent at a 90-degree angle.
Now, the key point here is to abruptly halt the bar. In other words, stop it immediately after catching it. You do so by contracting the biceps and forearms as hard as humanly possible, as soon as your hands contact the bar. Once you've caught the bar stiffly, you lift it back up to the starting position.
Feet Elevated BOSU Ball Push-ups
Coach Mike Boyle says this might be one of his favorite core exercises. "Can you believe it," he says, "a Testosterone author who actually has a use for a BOSU ball? No wonder at least half the readers will immediately question my masculinity!"
We think the BOSU ball is goofy too, but Coach Boyle is on to something with this exercise. "Don't knock it 'til you've tried it with your feet 18 inches off the ground and a twenty pound weight vest on," he notes.
Great for the core and for the overall shoulder girdle. BOSU push-ups will work the anterior core — the deep sleeping abdominal muscles.
The Squeeze Press
Simple but effective new stimulus for your chest! Just press the dumbbells together as you simultaneously lift them.
Ten new exercises to make people look at you funny in the gym and stimulate some new muscle growth. That's a two-fer-one deal. Go give 'em a shot!