Once upon a time, many lifters became angry, outraged even, because magazines began featuring two new workout challenges. These new exercise variations were called unmanly, even undignified.
The exercises? The squat and bench press. Why the outrage? Because they were performed in a RACK. Strength-training purists didn't like that one bit. A real man, after all, would press from the floor and squat a barbell he first cleaned and pressed into place.
Times haven't changed much. Some people today see a new exercise variation and lose their religion. Well, relax. Today's new exercises often become tomorrow's staples.
Here are ten kinda weird but definitely effective moves that you'll probably end up doing someday when you crave a new challenge, need to fix a weak area or have to work around an injury.
Workout Challenge 1: Cable Sissy Squat – Gareth Sapstead
Do these right and they'll bury you!
- Grab your heel wedges or a couple of weight plates. This will keep the balls of your feet comfortably planted.
- There are no rules on cable height. Your knees always travel directly towards the resistance provided by the cable. The lower you set the cable, the more your knees will angle downward. Different heights will give it a different feel, so just experiment.
- Unlike regular sissy squats, you're not looking for your knees to travel all the way down toward the floor. That is unless your cable is close to the floor and you're close into it (which you might want to be).
- Lean back as you squat. The weight of the cable stack will offer a counterbalance, keeping you from toppling over while allowing you to keep your hips as extended as possible.
- Let your knees travel as far forward as you comfortably can and in the direction of the cable. Your heels can leave the wedges just a little, but not so much that you lose stability.
- Focus on getting an intense quad stretch at the bottom. At the top, maintain some tension and get a good squeeze out of it.
Workout Challenge 2: Towel Gun Walk – Tanner Shuck
This will present a unique challenge for lifters who only do barbell or dumbbell curls. Expect your biceps, forearms, and grip to fatigue like never before.
The beauty lies in the isometric hold. The arms are kept under constant tension by holding the weight up at the top for the set's duration. That extra time under tension will mean more strength and hypertrophy.
Rather than doing this for reps, perform gun walks for total distance or total time. Keep your hands apart by not letting your knuckles touch together. This will keep constant tension on the arms. Try 4-6 sets of 30-40 meters.
Workout Challenge 3: Seated Unilateral Row – Merrick Lincoln, DPT
The unilateral loading will give your core a serious challenge!
- Sit on the low-row bench or on the floor in front of a cable machine. Grab the cable handle with one hand.
- While maintaining an upright trunk and staying squared to the machine, do a single-arm row. Keep the non-working arm "punched" forward as a reminder to prevent trunk rotation.
- Complete all reps on one side and then switch arms.
Workout Challenge 4: Landmine Cossack Squat – Dan North
This is a lower-body exercise and mobility drill wrapped into one. Squatting down to your side offers a great stretch in the adductors (inner thigh) and will improve your ankle mobility. Moreover, the goblet position encourages an upright posture while integrating your upper body and core.
Workout Challenge 5: Chin-Up to Lever Row with a Negative Lever – Bradford Cooke
This move borrows some elements from the gymnastics world. Hit your upper back, lats, biceps, and abs in one move!
Workout Challenge 6: Suitcase Squat – Mike Over
You've likely heard of suitcase carries, holds, and deadlifts, but what about suitcase squats?
With a sandbag, this exercise becomes humbling for those with asymmetrical imbalances or noticeable hip impingement. The bag's weight distribution can almost act as a level, pulling you front to back and side to side. It's an anti-lateral flexion king, and if you're paying attention, you'll probably notice where you have some weaknesses.
The suitcase squat can be a standalone exercise. You may be strong, but if you lack a high degree of single-side loading and stability, these will challenge you. Sure, squatting 500 pounds is cool, but if you tip over like the Leaning Tower of Pisa from a 50-pound bag on one side, you have some bigger questions to answer.
Workout Challenge 7: Rope Climb Inverted Row – Gareth Sapstead
This is an ideal choice to improve your performance for military, fire and rescue, law enforcement, and Spartan race events. Don't underestimate how difficult it is, especially for your grip and forearm strength.
Begin with your feet on the floor and allow your legs to help out a little. To make it harder, elevate your feet on a bench and use a weighted vest. Chalk up if needed.
Workout Challenge 8: Ramped Ab Wheel – Tanner Shuck
The standing rollout is the gold standard of ab strength. While you may not be strong enough (yet) to do it, building the requisite strength is easier than you think.
First, master the kneeling rollout. Once you can do 12 perfect, unbroken reps, you're ready for the ramp method.
Performing rollouts up a ramp greatly increases your mechanical advantage, allowing you to do the movement from a standing position with full range of motion.
Be sure to start with the ramp at a conservative height, then gradually work your way down by lowering the ramp's angle. Once you can do 8 reps at a given ramp height/angle, progress by lowering the ramp. Simply repeat this process until you can do it on the ground.
Workout Challenge 9: Kettlebell Plank Press – Gareth Sapstead
This is quite possibly the hardest plank you've never tried. Just grab a kettlebell, drop down into a high plank and start punching straight ahead.
Punching a kettlebell will demand more of your core rotary stability and work your shoulders and scapula stabilizers. Add a chain for extra badass-ness. The chain also loads the anti-extension component of the plank even more.
Aim for reps over duration. Sets of 10-15 heavy presses on each arm are a good start. If you prefer clock-watching, then around 20-30 seconds on each side.
Workout Challenge 10: Plate Delt Uppercut – Gareth Sapstead
Here's a new take on front raises that'll train all areas of your delts and add some extra fire to your shoulder workouts.
To get the technique right, start with a lighter plate until you perfect the move. If possible, use full-size bumper plates because your hands will be the same distance apart even as you go up in weight. And if you go super light, you won't be gripping a teeny plate.
- Get the plate directly over your head on each rep. This helps keep your shoulders and elbows nicely aligned.
- Think of the bottom (pushing arm) as performing an uppercut-type motion.
- Think of the higher arm (raising arm) as doing somewhat of a face-pull motion.
- If you're doing it right, you'll almost be able to kiss your biceps each time.
Do sets of about 20 reps (10 on each side). However, you can go all the way up to 50 reps (25 on each side) to really balloon up your delts.