Most of your training probably consists of the big lifts and their variations. Good deal. But sometimes adding a little variety to the mix is nice.
Variety can break up training monotony to increase motivation and mental engagement. It’s also good to have a few tricks up your sleeve if you’re stuck in an ill-equipped hotel gym or you’re forced to train in your garage. Combining a few staple exercises can amplify the training effect.
The problem with most combination exercises is, well, they suck. You rob one portion of the exercise to challenge the other. Barbell thrusters? You should be able to front squat a hell of a lot more than you can press overhead.
But here are three combo exercises that actually make sense:
1 – Inverted Row + Leg Curl
By elevating your feet, you’ve already upped the ante on both exercises because you’ll be handling more of your bodyweight.
Your hamstrings do more than flex your knee – they also work synergistically with your glutes to extend your hip. So not only are you holding tension in your glutes during the row, as you perform the leg curl your hamstrings are pulling double duty to help maintain that hip extension while flexing the knee.
From an upper-body perspective, as you row you’ll smoke your lats and upper back of course, but during the leg curl portion your lats now have to isometrically contract to keep your shoulders from creeping up into your ears, similarly to how they’re stressed in a deadlift to keep the bar from drifting forward.
You’ll stress all three muscular contractions of your entire posterior chain: concentric, eccentric, and isometric. Try these for 2-4 sets of 5-8 reps.
2 – Chin-Up + Leg Raise
When you lift your legs up during a leg raise, you’re mainly using your hip flexors, not your abs. It’s when you lower your legs that you challenge your abs as you fight to keep from extending at the lumbar spine.
Your lats are actually a core stabilizer as well, as they attach on your spine from T6 to your sacrum, your pelvis, and your lower ribs. Your core musculature is always challenged during chin-ups. Doing the leg raise while the lats are in a shortened, contracted position takes this challenge to the next level.
This also adds time under tension to the chin-ups. Great for lat growth. Do 3-4 sets of 5-8 reps.
3 – Single-Leg Deadlift + Reverse Lunge
While reverse lunges are more posterior-chain dominant than forward lunges, they still stress the quads. Single-leg deadlifts hammer your glutes, hamstrings, and adductors, and they challenge all three planes of motion.
If you only have one dumbbell or kettlebell and want to hammer the obliques a bit more, you can tweak this by loading just one side to really challenge your ability to resist rotation at your trunk. Load these up for 2-3 sets of 4-6 reps each.