Variety is the spice of life. That and Korean chicks dressed like Catholic schoolgirls. And really dark beer. Oh, and big screen TVs. In fact, if we had Korean schoolgirls serving us dark beer while we watched the game on the big screen, heck, we'd die happy. And drunk. And horny. And maybe a little fat 'cause dark beer is chock-full of calories.
Anyway, what were we saying? Oh yeah, variety.
We often remind readers that variety in weight training is one of the factors that keeps the gains coming. But exercise variety also plays another role: it keeps you excited and entertained in the gym. Is that stuff really important? You bet it is. Just "going through the motions" in the gym won't get you anywhere. You'll get bored and your progress will stagnate.
That's one reason we created this article series, to provide you with plenty of effective and novel options in the gym. If these unique exercises don't get you excited about training, then nothing will, expect maybe Korean schoolgirls serving beer, and they don't let you bring those to the gym. Bastards.
There are several versions of this abdominal movement, including Swiss ball and "ab roller" variations, but here's a version from Ian King that requires no special equipment.
Kneel on the ground, placing a barbell loaded with small plates in front of you. Grip the barbell with your hands at shoulder width. Keeping your arms relatively straight, roll the bar out in front of you and lower your trunk down towards the ground. If you can, go all the way down until your body is nearly touching (but not resting) on the ground.
Keep the hips and trunk in line as you lower and lift. That is, your body should form a straight line between your knees and shoulders at all times. Resist the temptation to stick your butt in the air, particularly during the up phase.
Control down for about two to three seconds then lift as fast as you can without losing the appropriate line between the knee and hip. This is tougher than it looks. Try not to pee your pants.
Lying Rope Extensions
This tricep exercise from Coach Alessi targets the innermost medial head of the tri's like nobody's business. Just use a rope and mid-pulley and don't plan on brushing your teeth for the next few days.
The Clap Chin-up
Remember when you could first do explosive push-ups with a hand clap at the top of each rep? You probably thought you were a bad ass, huh? Well, you weren't. You're a bad ass if you can do clap chin-ups.
We learned this one from T-mag contributor Don Alessi. Don says to try clap chin-ups only if you can bang out six or more standard reps with 70 extra pounds strapped on. If you can't, then use one of those Gravitron-type machines for assistance.
Here's how to do it. Grasp the chinning bar with an underhand shoulder-width grip. To begin, lower your torso and stretch the lats quickly. When you reach the bottom, without hesitation, pull and thrust yourself up explosively. Gain enough speed so that you can let go of the bar at the top (you don't really have to clap, but if you get enough "hang time," try it). On the way down, re-grasp the bar and repeat.
Now you're a bad ass.
We didn't have a picture of this movement handy, but we figured it was pretty much self-explanatory. As such, here's a picture of Claudia Schiffer getting all srcubbly bubbly instead.
Ballistic Bench Press
We never thought we'd see the day when a big name strength coach recommended using a Smith machine, but with this exercise we understand why the Smith is suggested!
Christian Thibaudeau uses this plyometric movement to improve bench-pressing strength. The objective is to lower the bar to the chest, throw the load in the air, then catch it and start again. The load you use should be light, because the goal is not to just be explosive, but to be ballistic.
There are a couple of different versions of the classic plate drag. Here's "The Thib's" favorite variation.
This extremely simple movement is a fantastic way to develop hamstring strength and power in a very sport-specific manner. Furthermore, since it doesn't have an eccentric (negative) portion, this exercise will lead to little micro-trauma and thus little, if any, soreness. For that last reason it's a favorite of several track athletes since running on sore hams is brutal and dangerous.
Lie down on the ground and hold on to something to brace yourself. Your legs are fully extended and the working leg is sitting on a weight plate (25, 35 or 45 pounds), preferably with the heel in the plate's hole. While keeping your body stable, slide the plate towards you by contracting the hamstring muscles of the working leg. The opposite leg stays extended.
Here's a powerful torso builder from yesteryear that's been resurrected by Coach John Davies.
The see-saw press starts with the weight held at chest/shoulder level and palms facing towards you (like an Arnold press). As you raise your one hand, twist it inwards while simultaneously bending from your hip to your opposite side. With the weight fully extended and you bent over, begin the movement to the other side.
Here's yet another killer movement from Coach Thibaudeau. This one is for the traps.
Hold the bar overhead (intermediate grip) as if you've just completed a shoulder press. Stretch your traps by bringing your shoulders down. Keep the arms locked and the bar overhead. The trunk must be kept tight. While keeping a tight posture, bring the shoulders up by contracting the traps; the shoulders must go up in a straight line. Hold the highest position for two seconds.
You'll perform a single set of twenty reps on this exercise. Chances are that after ten reps you won't feel your upper body and after fifteen you'll feel like you're about to enter the Twilight Zone. Then you'll know it's working!
Here's a great lower body exercise you don't see performed very often.
Attach an ankle strap to the low cable. Holding the machine for support, lift the active leg and flex the knee 90°. Simultaneously extend the hip and knee on the active leg to its end range. Lower slowly and keep tension on the hamstring as you reverse this sequence. Be sure to keep the foot straight as it'll have a tendency to "toe out" due to weak semi-membranosus and tight biceps femoris muscles.
Flat Bench Hammer Curls
Still curling a barbell for your biceps? Come on, try something new like flat bench hammer curls!
Lie on a flat bench with a pair of dumbbells. Using a semi-supinated grip and with elbows firmly planted into your sides, extend the elbows fully and flex up to the original position. Ouch.
Sorry, we're still fantasizing about Korean hotties dressed like schoolgirls serving us Guinness and can't think of a damned thing to write here. Just go try the new exercises, okay?
Bring us another round, Sung Hee!