If you've been training for awhile, you know that the body can adapt quickly to just about anything, stopping your results in their tracks. So if you've been training for awhile and have been performing the same exercises and techniques for years, it's time for a change!
The 10 training tips you're going to learn about here will get your workouts moving in the right direction again. When you try these tips and feel the increase in intensity, you'll either curse me, think I'm a genius or possibly both at the same time!
One caveat: these tips are NOT designed to make you look normal when you're training :) These tips are designed to help you maximize your training and help you get the most out of every ounce of effort you're putting in. Believe me, after you try them, you won't care if people are staring!
1. Anchoring Yourself For Lying Cable Tricep Extensions
In doing lying cable tricep extensions on the low pulley, when you start to use fairly heavy weight, your body may have a tendency to slide towards the weight stack as the weight is pulling your body strongly backwards. To use more weight without sliding (this technique is best done on a cable crossover machine), hook a hip belt or straight bar to the other low pulley and set the maximum weight on the pulley. Hook your heels inside the belt or over the bar and contract the hamstrings to act as an anchor. With your body anchored like this, you will be able to use MUCH more weight without sliding.
2. PlateMates (TM) Dumbell Pressing for Chest and Shoulders
If you have access to the magnetic PlateMates attachments that add weight in very small increments, I've got a tip for you! Stick one or two PlateMates (depending on how many you have available to you) on the OUTSIDE of each of the dumbells you're going to press. I prefer to attach 2 of the 2 1/2 lb PlateMates to the outside of each dumbell to get the greatest effect. It's critical that the PlateMates are located on the outside of the dumbells for this to work.
As you press up (on both chest and shoulder pressing), tilt the dumbells in as though they are pitchers and you're pouring water on yourself. Since you have extra resistance on the outside of the dumbells, you must actively push in order to actually tilt the dumbells. This results in greater tension being applied to the target muscles. You'll notice the difference from the very first rep!
If you have do-it-yourself dumbells that you can put together yourself, try adding a single 5 pound plate to the outside only of each dumbell to achieve the same unbalanced effect.
3. Face Away Standing Calf Raises
When doing Standing Calf Raises, instead of facing the weight stack, turn around and face away from it. Don't worry if you're not able to get the bottom range of the movement - the real advantage comes at the top. When you hit the top contracted position, you'll notice a MUCH harder squeeze in the calf muscles. This is because as you come up, you're actually pushing AWAY from the pivot point rather than towards it, as you do in a regular calf raise. Pushing away adds a whole new element of tension to the exercise, resulting in a stronger contraction.
4. Overhead Dumbell Walking
Starting in a standing position, take two moderate-weight dumbells (something you would normally use for about 12 reps for a dumbell shoulder press) and press them to the top position. Now, hold them in that position and walk around!
Strive to hold the dumbells up for as long as possible as you walk, actively trying to push the dumbells up with each step. Every step you take will jostle the dumbells and every movement you make will force your stabilizing muscles to kick in and work to keep those dumbells up and in position.
As you start to lose the top position, fight to keep the dumbells up as high as you can, getting a slow negative out of it until you're holding the dumbells at your shoulders. Keep walking with the dumbells in that position on your shoulders (with tension - as though you're still trying to push them up) for as long as possible until you can't even keep them there.
You should feel a roaring pump in your shoulders at the end of the very first set. This is an extremely practical exercise for working the entire shoulder girdle. I wouldn't recommend using a barbell for this exercise as not only will there be less of a stabilization requirement, a barbell is harder to maneuver without crashing into something (it's possible that I may be speaking from personal experience here).
5. Lying Barbell Tricep Extensions On The Floor
Looking for a way to do these with heavy weight but don't have a partner to hand the bar to you? Lie flat on the floor instead of a bench and set the bar on the floor behind you. All you need to do is reach back and pick it up from directly behind you - no spotter required, no need to clean and jerk the weight from the floor then lay back on a bench with it. Use smaller plates (25's) to get more range of motion with the exercise.
6. Overhead Calf Raises
These are best done on a shoulder press machine. Stand in front of the machine and press the weight to the full lockout position. Hold that weight overhead in the lockout position. Now take a short step back, setting both feet a little back from the machine - your body should be on a slight forward angle. Now do a calf raise starting from your feet flat on the floor. Holding the weight in that position while doing the calf raise places a very different type of tension on the calves and activates the entire support structure of the body while doing it. [Thanks to my wife Kelly for inventing this one!]
This exercise can also be done holding a barbell or dumbells overhead (starting with your feet flat on the floor - your body won't be angled forward) but you won't get the same tension at the start as you do when you're using the shoulder press machine and leaning forward into it.
7. One Dumbell Hammer Curls
Use only one dumbell but grasp it with both hands. Grip one hand low on the dumbell handle and one hand above it. Only the thumb, index finger and maybe third finger of the top hand will be on the handle - the rest will be over your other hand.
Do a hammer curl from the position, bringing the dumbell directly in front of the middle of your body. This places a unique stress on the brachialis and can help improve the peak on your biceps. Switch hand positions on the next set to keep things balanced.
8. Tilting Bar Dips For Triceps
This is a more advanced version of the bar dip. It's a great alternative to using extra resistance if you don't have that available to use. When you do it, it's almost a one-arm dip!
As you do the dip, try to keep one arm straight while you drop down more on the other arm. This tilts the whole body to one side and puts a lot of the tension on the single side arm that's bending. The other side arm will still bend a little but try to keep that to a minimum. Your legs should stay as straight as you can keep them.
9. Concentration Leg Curls
This body position trick maximizes the contracted position of the exercise. It is best done on a leg curl machine with an angled bench. First, move the ankle pad(s) up a few notches higher than you would normally have them (I like to move it as high up as possible - the change in body position requires this). Use a lighter weight for this exercise (about half of what you would normally use the first time you try it).
Lay down on the bench but instead of bending your body like you normally would, use your arms to push your upper body up like you're at or near the top of a push-up. Hold your upper body up in that position then do the leg curl. Squeeze hard at the top - you should feel a VERY strong contraction in the hamstrings.
The reason this is so effective is that by pushing your torso up, you increase the amount of hip extension (this means having a straight body position, basically - bent over is the flexed position of the hips). The more extended the hips are, the more completely the hamstrings are anatomically able to contract. When the hips are flexed (like when you're bent over doing stiff-legged deadlifts), the hamstrings can achieve maximum stretch - when the hips are extended, the hamstrings are able to achieve maximum contraction.
You WILL feel the difference body position makes...
10. A Shoulder Exercise That Works the Abs
Want an exercise that performs double-duty, working not only the shoulder but also working to tighten up the obliques at the same time? This exercise will do the trick.
Pick up one dumbell (a weight that you would normally use for about 10 to 12 reps in the dumbell shoulder press) and press it up overhead. Hold it there for a second then set your feet close together (touching each other, in fact). Keep your feet solid in that position, keep your knees slightly bent, and keep an arch in your lower back.
Now lower the dumbell and do a one-arm shoulder press with it. As you lower it, you will feel a strong pull in the obliques on the opposite side of your body as they work hard to stabilize the torso against the unbalanced load on your body. Try your best to keep your shoulder girdle completely horizontal. If you let it tilt down, you will decrease the stabilizing tension required of the obliques.
Press the dumbell back up to the top. This is where you will REALLY feel the pull on the other side! It's absolutely critical that you keep your feet pushed tightly together as you do this exercise. If you separate them, the supporting mechanics change and your body will not require as much from the obliques to stabilize. Do as many reps as you can then repeat on the other side.
New training techniques are just what you need to spice up your workouts and get results. If you've been looking for some new stuff to try, these unique tips will help you get more out of every single set you do.
Nick Nilsson is Vice-President of BetterU, Inc. and has been inventing new training techniques and exercises for 17+ years. To view pictures of these exercise tips in action, click here.