I know what you're thinking. Amazing? New? What kind of hyperbole (hyperbole being the polite word) is that? New supplements, yes; it seems that every month brings a new pill or powder promising
to turn mollycoddles into muscle monuments. New foods, maybe - if you're counting olestra. And new machines, sure; hydraulic, computerized and electrodynamic numbers - although most follow the
basic moves of their predecessors. But actual new exercises that all of us could perform in a typically equipped gym? Dream on. It's the same old presses and curls and extensions that have been
done and documented to death. In this arena, there's nothing really new. Right?
Wrong. The untold truth is that there are unique and valuable exercises of which most bodybuilders are not even aware. These are neither purposely esoteric lifts (like hanging isometric
sartorius pulls) nor merely small variations of old favorites (incline presses ... with a reverse grip!). They're the real deal: exercises that stress your muscles in ways other lifts don't. They
either pack on brawn or etch in details, and chances are you should be including them in your routine, if only for occasional variety. NEW MOVES FOR YOUR TORSO Let's start with the upper back. By
sheer breadth, the musculature of your back is your largest single bodypart and, with the possible exception of your thighs, it's also your most complex. The bands of the infraspinatus, the
lumps of the teres major and minor, the valleys and ridges of the trapezius, the sweeping grandeur of the latissimus dorsi: There are a lot of details to bring out, and it takes a wide range of
movements to properly do so. Standard variations on rows, pulldowns and chins will simply fail to delineate the maximum quotient of lumpiness.
CROSSOVER ROW / PULLDOWNS
This is a great exercise for stressing the back in new ways. Actually, the cables don't "cross over" at all, but you'll need a cable crossover apparatus. Grab the high handles and step back two
to three feet from the center. In this starting position, your arms should be held up, pulled wide apart and forward; the weight stack should already be somewhat raised. Now pull your arms down
and back in a combination of a front pulldown and an extremely wide-grip row. Bring your elbows as far back and close together as possible at the end, contracting your mid-back region. Release
and let the weight pull your arms up and forward again.
Crossover row/pulldowns stretch the lats far apart at the top position and constrict the lower traps at the bottom. This is the best single exercise both for broadening the lats and chiseling in
the details of the hard-to-blast inner back. You'll feel it the next day. Weights should be kept moderate to light, and the reps should be slow and in the 10 to 12 range. Careful concentration is
required to stay in the groove. The stretch and the constriction are more important than poundages. That said, with a little practice, you should be using 50% to 100% as much iron as you do for
(chest) cable crossovers. You may need some hefty weight stacks.
CLOSE-GRIP ANGLED PULLDOWNS
This is another great exercise for furrowing in upper-back peaks and valleys. It may sound fairly ordinary, but this rarely performed variation on a behind-the-neck pulldown will plow details
into your back musculature like nothing else. While standing, grab an overhead bar with an overhand grip at least 12 inches wide. Step back four feet and bend forward at approximately a 45-degree
angle. Face the floor. Now, pull the bar to an imaginary spot six to 12 inches above your trapezius.
The key to close-grip angled pulldowns is the intense inner trap constriction at the end. The weight you utilize will be considerably less than for regular pulldowns. Keep the reps moderate to
high (10-15), concentrating always on the unique way the upper-back muscles flex together. This is a very specific sculpting exercise. For variety, or for a contest finish, nothing burns in trap
details like this movement.
UPPER SIDE BENDS
For most trainers, any serratus or intercostal exercise would be new and amazing, as this area is habitually ignored. The serratus are strips of sinew that lie on your upper sides, under your
chest and between your back and abdominals. Their function is to pull your shoulders forward and down. The intercostals lie between your ribs. A great way to stress both ol these neglected areas
is with an upper side bend. This is similar to a regular standing side bend, in which one shoulder and then the other is lowered, only this time you crunch inward, bending only the upper side.
Don't use the obliques; just the serratus and intercostals. The upper side bend will, by necessity, be a short movement (about half as long as a regular side bend). Concentrate on the contraction
at the end. Flex hard. Dumbbells can be held, but reps should be stressful enough without them. After a few sets of 15 or more, seesawing back and forth, you should feel a cramping pain in this
area. Once you master it, the upper side bend is great for adding the final chisel marks on your flesh-and-blood statue. This is another valuable exercise that blasts a hard-to-hit area like nothing
else, be it a pullover, pulldown or rope pull.
NEW TWISTS ON ARM TRAINING
Wake up, arm trainers. Compared to the chest, back and quads, there is not a lot one can do for the biceps. Sure, you can perform all sorts of curls - barbell, dumbbell, preacher, cable, machine,
one-arm, reverse, sitting, standing, hanging, you name it - but it's always the same motion: bringing the hand to the shoulder, perhaps with a slight twist of the wrist. Is there any way to add
true variety to your arm workouts and stress your biceps from a new angle?
As part of a heavy compound movement, power cleans tax the biceps; trainers report intense bi soreness after cleaning sessions. Likewise, hammer curls (dumbbell curls with a thumbs-up grip) are a
neglected exercise that can hit the guns in a fresh fashion. But wait a minute: This is an article about new exercises. Cleans and hammer curls were around when Fred Flintstone was pumping rock.
SMITH MACHINE DRAG CURLS
Drag curls came along shortly after cavemen. Smith machine drag curls, on the other hand, are a modern variation on a neglected classic. When performing a drag curl (dress and wig optional), start
in a normal standing barbell curl position. Bring the bar up past your chest while dragging it against your body; your elbows will naturally go backwards. The contraction should be especially intense.
This is a pure biceps movement, but it's different from the half-circle kinesiology of a typical curl. (Those with a substantial gut will lose the effect as they'll still have to go in a half-circle
to pull the bar past their donut reservoir.) The Smith machine is ideal for doing drag curls because it locks the bar's path into a straight line. In fact, the line is almost too straight (your wrists
will be stretched backward at the top), but its very awkwardness is the key to its effectiveness. Drag curls break the routine of smooth round "free curls" and will tax your bis in a whole new way.
SMITH MACHINE TRICEPS EXTENSIONS
The Smith machine is a terrific low-tech device that should be used for much more than presses and squats. In addition to drag curls, try Smith machine triceps extensions. These are behind-the-neck
tri extensions in which the bar is locked into a straight line. They feel almost natural, and while free-weight behind-the-neck tri extensions are themselves nearly perpendicular, the Smith machine
will force you to be very strict. Except for jerking the weight up (don't do it), it's impossible to cheat. All the pressure is applied to the back of your arms.
As noted, hammer curls are an ancient upper-arm exercise, but there's a similar movement for the forearms that is quite fresh. Handshake curls are done with a dumbbell held thumb-up, hand
perpendicular, with your lower arm resting flat on a bench. From this position, pull your thumb (and hand) back as though doing a handshake with just your wrist. This is similar to a reverse wrist
curl, but - with your thumb on top - the stress is different. It etches details in the outer forearms and strengthens the wrists in an entirely new fashion, unlike all other lower-arm exercises.
Handshake curls can also be done with two dumbbells simultaneously. For a totally unique variation, handshakes, like all wrist curls, can be performed standing with your arms held at your sides,
thus making the contraction particularly intense.
NOTHING VENTURED, NOTHING GAINED
Exciting new chest, leg and shoulder exercises are harder to come by, but these three areas have benefited most from the development of new machines over the past decade, though such contraptions
(allowing for seated leg curls, press-and-fly combos, etc.) may not yet be standard for all gyms. If you have the access, try every available machine at least once.
Training terminology stresses routines, sets and repetitions - all words that imply doing the same thing the same way. Do not stumble into this semantic trap. In fact, variety, experimentation and
change may be more productive bodybuilding terms. You must be willing to take advantage of new equipment and knowledge. Never stick to the same old routine if it's not producing the desired results.
The exercises we've talked about here, as well as many neglected classics (deadlifts, front squats, reverse curls, etc.), may provide just the jolt your workouts need.
The number of valuable body-building movements may not be infinite: There are only so many ways human joints can move. But there are numerous combinations those joints can move in, and many different
angles at which resistance can be applied - not to mention the unique forms such resistance can take. There are probably crucial exercises that are yet to be tried, yet to be dreamed. Never believe
you've seen it all, heard it all, tried it all. Utilize the movements listed here, and be even more creative. It's no hyperbole (polite word again): The next amazing new exercise is out there, waiting
to be discovered.