One of the most common questions we get here at T-mag is "Can you send me naked pictures of Tim Patterson?" The answer is no. Sure, Tim runs around naked all the time, trains that way too (squat day is particularly frightening), but we don't take pictures and stuff. That would be weird. However, the second most common question is "What's the best exercise for this or that muscle group?" That we can accomodate!
While there are some movements that are clearly superior to others, it's fair to say there's no real "best" exercise. In fact, the "best" exercises are probably the ones you aren't currently using! Why? Because the human body is a very adaptive mechanism.
Sometimes the most powerful thing you can do to stimulate a muscle group is to simply switch exercises. Throw your body a curve ball. "Keep it guessing" as the old school guys used to say. That's one of the reasons why we created this series of articles – to provide you with plenty of options when it comes time to change up your program. Try a few of these little known exercises and keep those gains coming!
Here's an exercise guaranteed to freak out the skinny ACE certified personal trainers in your gym.
Swings can be performed with either a dumbbell or a kettlebell (if you're one of the six guys in the country who actually own kettlebells). This multi-joint exercise is easy to learn and really hits the posterior chain and improves the grip. It's also perfect to use as an active recovery exercise since there's little to no eccentric (negative) movement.
For the two handed version pictured below, hold a dumbbell with both hands, legs in a wide stance. Start from a neutral back position with the buttocks back and begin the acceleration of the weight by pushing the hips forward. Really try to explode the weight up. Show control of the weight and gradually increase range of motion such that the weight moves from waist level to above the head. You can also perform a single-handed version of this lift.
Avoid dropping the weight on your head. If you do, then you may find yourself with an ACE certification yourself and that would be a goddamn travesty.
Overhead Cable Curl
Here's a biceps exercise even we had never tried until Don Alessi introduced it to us.
Position yourself on a shoulder press bench facing away from the high pulley machine (back toward the machine). Grasp an EZ swivel bar overhead with the elbows extended and close to your ears. Next, flex the elbows behind the head. Return to extended position, then wait patiently for some dweeb to ask you what the f%*k you're doing!
Coach Davies is known for two things around here: unique exercise suggestions and making a six pack of MGD disappear faster than you can say "Renegade Training." Here's an exercise that's part of his very effective Man of Steel program.
Simply hold a plate across the chest with legs apart roughly shoulder width and knees slightly bent. From an upright position, bend forward until you're at 45 degrees. (The movement from rotating forward comes from the hips and is quickly felt in the hamstrings.) Then simply explode back to the starting position.
Incline Russian Twist
This ab exercise, popularized by Christian Thibaudeau, will leave you moaning and groaning. Oh yeah, and it'll build some bulletproof abs and obliques as well!
Anchor yourself on an incline board (or Roman chair), then do a half sit-up so that your lower back isn't in contact with the board. Keep that position during the whole exercise. The execution is simple: rotate your torso from side to side. The arms are fully stretched out in front of you and they stay locked in position – only the trunk is mobile. Try for the longest range of motion possible. Do 8 to 12 reps per side, or 8 to 12 full rotations.
Limited-range Dumbbell Pullover
We picked this one up from T-mag contributor John Paul Catanzaro.
To increase chest size, you have to train both the pec major and minor. The minor tends to get overlooked since it's not as glamorous as the major. The limited-range pullover will target the pec minor, which in turn will "push out" the pec major, thus making it look bigger. Think of it as a natural pec implant.
Cup a dumbbell between both hands and lay back onto a flat bench. With your arms fully extended above your face, carefully lower the weight until your outstretched arms are in line with your body. Keep the small of your back pressed against the bench and brace the abdominals throughout to protect your lower back.
Make sure the elbows stay in (don't let them flare out) or else the lats will kick in. Elbows should be directly beside your ears in the bottom position. Raise the dumbbell in an arcing motion only about six to eight inches, or 45 degrees from horizontal. Keep your arms straight throughout and keep the abdominals tight!
If your chest development has stalled, try limited-range pullovers!
Haven't tossed your cookies in the gym in a while? That's a shame really. Here's an exercise to help you properly throw up while training. As a bonus, jump squats will build a great pair of quads, as well as causing that all important retching and gagging effect!
Using a much lighter load than you'd use with normal squatting, squat down with a fast (but controlled) eccentric. Shift to the concentric (lifting) phase with as little delay as possible. Jump for maximal height and land with knees bent, absorbing the shock. Pause, reset mentally, and repeat. The passwords are speed and height. Shoot for six to ten reps per set.
Decline Dumbbell Extension
This one isn't all that exotic, but most people use an EZ-curl bar extension on a flat bench to train the tri's. Try this variation instead. The decline makes it more effective by keeping constant tension on the triceps and targeting all three heads of the triceps. Additionally, the dumbbells make it more comfortable on your elbows compared to using a bar. In fact, many who say they "can't" do barbell extensions can do this version quite easily.
Lie back on a decline bench holding two dumbbells in a hammer-style grip. Lower them to your ears and come back up. You can point your elbows up towards the ceiling or back behind you just a bit, whatever feels best for you.
Single-leg Leg Press
This one makes our legs throb just writing about it! Situate yourself in a standard leg press machine. Using only one leg, explode the weight up but avoid full lockout on extension. Here's where the "fun" begins. Lower the weight slowly. As you do, make three stops along the way and hold the sled steady for about three seconds each stop. That's one rep. Don't get carried away with load the first time you try it. Start light and shoot for eight to ten reps per leg.
If your progress has slowed, try a few of these unique exercises and get ready to buy some new clothes! Let's hope Tim Patterson does the same.