Bodybuilders, being perfectionists by nature, always strive for the ideal training routine. They gain wisdom (not to mention additional size and strength) with experience. Some advanced trainers have discovered
through patience and diligent effort the exercises that work well for them, which ones to avoid, what rep ranges are effective and how much volume and workout frequency their bodies respond to best. Unfortunately,
this is often the stage when common mistakes can be made. Smug in the knowledge that they have mastered the keys to training, they no longer feel the need to experiment with new techniques or exercises. The
result? Their progress slows down or grinds to a halt.
No matter what your level of experience, by regularly modifying your training regimen, you are ensuring that your body must adapt to new stimuli. To jump-start your program, let's examine some factors in choosing
new exercises, then look at some underused sure-fire growth-stimulating exercises guaranteed to make routine routines both fun and brutally effective.
The first consideration in choosing exercises is, obviously, the muscles you want to target. Choose exercises that provide direct stimulation to the target muscle groups yet cause minimal joint and connective tissue
stress. Certain movements are more apt to place potentially excessive stress on anyone's joints, but the impact of many movements varies from person to person. Since we each have unique structures and leverage
limitations, we need to be conscious of physical feedback during and after a training session. An exercise that causes a sharp stabbing pain or a progressively worsening ache in joints and connective tissues should
be replaced with pain-free alternatives. Stay vigilant for messages your body sends you.
Next, eliminate "weak links." A weak link may be a secondary muscle group or stabilizer in an exercise. If these bodyparts give out on you first, the one you are trying to blast (the prime mover) will not be fully
stimulated. Examples of limiting links are the biceps and grip in rowing movements for the back, triceps in pressing movements for the chest or deltoids, the grip in deadlifts and the lower back in squats.
Use these three factors as yardsticks when measuring any exercise in your training arsenal. The four exercises that follow might not be fashionable, but they are effective and can dramatically aid your progress.
Incorporate one or all of them into your workout regimen whenever you feel you need something new. Don't be afraid to experiment - that's how you get results.
EXERCISE 1: BRADFORD PRESSES
I'm not certain who Bradford was, but chances are he had impressive cannonball deltoids. Although this form of press is not widely used, I believe it is the single most effective exercise for building massive
Performance: This is a compound movement. Standing or seated, start with a barbell held across the upper chest/collarbone area as in a regular military press. Press the weight upward but stop the movement
midway, the point at which your elbows are at roughly a 90-degree angle. At this point, carefully loop the weight backward, tracing the top of your head, before lowering the barbell slowly to the base of your neck.
This constitutes one rep. Then press the weight upward again, as in a behind-the-neck press, but stop at the midway point and move the bar forward over your head to the original position. Continue pressing from front
to back until the set is completed.
Why it works so well: By cutting out the top half of the press (the portion of the movement in which stress is often reduced on the deltoids), the deltoids can be worked harder without the triceps limiting the
number of reps.
Benefits: After heavy overhead presses and/or side laterals, Bradford presses make an excellent deltoid finishing exercise. The short range of motion seems to lend itself to higher (10 or more) reps, done in a
rhythmic manner. Safety key: As for any pressing movement, make sure you are warmed up.
EXERCISE 2: Fly PRESSES
Compound movements, such as fly presses, were popular with lifters prior to the '50s. Unfortunately, most of those earlier compound movements were simply two exercises performed alternately, such as a dumbbell curl
blending into a palms-facing-inward overhead dumbbell press. In most cases, these maneuvers made little sense; in those days, most lifters had little knowledge regarding which muscles a particular exercise was even
supposed to work! The fly press, though, is a logical compound movement that can help you push your pecs beyond their previous limits.
Performance: Begin with a pair of dumbbells at a weight that you would be able to handle for 10 reps of flys. Using either a flat or incline bench, perform a strict dumbbell fly movement. At the top, carefully
rotate your wrists so your palms are facing your feet and do a slow controlled dumbbell bench press. Alternate between presses and flys until you complete the set. A moderate rep range of 10-12 (five or six reps of
each portion of the exercise) seems to work best.
Why it works so well: The weak link when performing presses is often the strength of the triceps, particularly when the lifter has long arms. By alternating a pectoral isolation movement (the flys) with a press,
the fatigue rate of the triceps will be cut in half, allowing the pecs to receive greater stimulation.
Alternating between the two motions also makes it impossible to get into a steady exercise "groove" or arc of movement. The necessity of controlling the dumbbells requires more concentration and, perhaps, a greater
Benefits: Fly presses make an excellent second exercise in a chest program, when you are warmed up and your triceps have not yet become a limiting factor. You will find that your strength in the traditional fly
exercise is greatly increased after a period of specializing in this exercise. Safety key: Because shoulder joints are delicate, strict form is necessary. Make sure that the two parts of the exercise remain distinct
and that hand position changes only at the top resting position.
EXERCISE 3: DUMBBELL FLOOR TRICEPS EXTENSIONS
I came across this one while suffering from chronic elbow tendinitis. The problem with normal barbell triceps extensions is that, unless someone hands you the weight, you have to either clean it and sit back with it
or arch backward while lying on the bench, reach back and fumble around for it. Both of these were options I wanted to avoid due to my achy elbows. I decided to perform the exercise while lying on the floor (to
eliminate the excessive stretch). I also chose dumbbells, since a 35- or 45-pound plate would hit the ground before I had achieved a decent range of motion. I discovered that this version had a variety of benefits,
which made it a triceps-program mainstay long after my elbows had healed.
Performance: Lie flat on a rubber mat holding two dumbbells straight overhead with your palms facing each other. Slowly and under control, lower the weights until they kiss the mat on either side of your ears. Press
the weights back up to an arms-fully-extended position, keeping your upper arms perpendicular to the floor.
Why it works so well: Remember that I mentioned having to control a weight can help increase the benefits of a movement? The first time you do dumbbell floor triceps extensions, the weights will likely be "swimming"
all over the place. Do your best to keep the performance strict, as this will pay off in huge sleeve-stretching dividends.
Benefits: These can be used in place of traditional triceps extensions or as an addition to them. Here is an insider's trick to get more out of the exercise: As you tire, let the weight drop at the last inch of
lowering to slightly bounce off the rubber mat. This will allow you to grind out a few extra reps. Safety key: Keep the movement strict. Nothing will ruin a workout (and make you look stupid) like bashing yourself
in the face because you can't keep the dumbbells under control.
EXERCISE 4: KNEELING SHRUGS
Sometimes a very subtle adjustment to a common exercise transforms it into a strength and mass-building gem. Kneeling shrugs are an example of this.
Performance: Place two heavy dumbbells at the sides of a small pad. Kneel on the pad, sit back on your haunches, grasp the dumbbells and return to the straight-up kneeling position. Keeping your arms hanging straight
at your sides, raise your entire shoulder girdle by contracting your traps. Pause at the top for a squeeze and then lower the weights slowly. Be very careful about maintaining a flat back and stable spine when picking
up and putting down the dumbbells.
Why it works so well: If you are working these shrugs hard, the poundage required will get quite high. The kneeling position also seems to place less strain on the lower back.
Benefits: Great for thoroughly destroying your traps. You can also take full advantage of the Weider Rest-Pause Training Principle by setting the weights down for a short break when you reach failure. After releasing
the weights, take two or three deep breaths and then extend your set with additional reps. The rest-pause principle could have been designed for kneeling shrugs. Safety key: If you are worried that your grip might limit
the number of reps you can perform, wear wrist straps.
Now you have learned four new exercises targeting four different bodyparts. Experiment with each of them. Most important, apply the basic principles listed at the start of this article. Use them to evaluate other new
exercises that you can work into your training program. By constantly "shaking up" your training, you will be rewarded with impressive levels of strength and size.