Note: I wrote this post last week, but never had a chance to take my own video clips of exercises. I saved it but never posted it, but I decided to use videos from other people and post it. Sorry for the weight, and for living in a cave recently. (Yes, that’s a bad joke, but not a reference to the events of this weekend.
Variety is the spice of life, isn’t it? Monotony is boring, and diversity keeps things interesting. This applies to music, to food, and to anything else you can think of. Sure, I like Miles Davis and scrambled eggs, but I need to listen to my own playing and have a crappy breakfast every once in a while, or I won’t appreciate the better things in life. The same applies to exercise; routines can become boring. The same exercises used week in and week out grow old, and the sameness becomes stale. We need change to keep things interesting and to stay engaged.
When it comes to exercise, variety is just as important. If you’ve been following your favorite bench-and-biceps workout 3 days a week for the past 3 years, you might need to move on to better things. While that’s true, it’s just as important that you stick with a program for a while before you decide it just doesn’t work for you. This doesn’t mean 2 weeks and 4 workouts, this means that you should spend a few months (3) tracking your progress until you tweak anything. If you’ve been consistently training for a while now, or you’ve reached a plateau with your current training program, then it’s important to add variety. Choose new exercises, follow different set and rep schemes, and get stronger. This may include changing exercises, changing equipment, or changing how you load yourself (symmetrical or asymmetrical.) Variety is important, but I think it should begin and end with the barbell.
The barbell should be the staple of your programming, regardless of your training goals. The best strength and conditioning programs in the world base their work around the barbell. The strongest men and women in the world base their training around the barbell. Sure, it’s simply a 7 foot long metal pole, but the barbell is the most versatile piece of equipment in the weight room.
The basic strength training exercises are undisputed. The strongest of the strong squat, press, row, deadlift, and bench. Let’s say that you can do chin-ups from a barbell secured in a rack. Add some rollouts, and that’s a barbell-only workout. However, you know about those exercises. You might not do them, but you know about them. If that’s the case, then learn the basics: Squat below parallel, deadlift with high hips and a neutral spine, and press overhead in a power rack. You’ll thank me.
If you already use those exercises, and you like heavy sets of 5 over pump sets of 12, you might need some barbell variety to keep things interesting for your conditioning or hypertrophy work. As important as the barbell basics are for building strength and developing power, it’s equally as important that you try new exercises and add some variety to your training. To support your curiosity, I’ve included some videos of non-traditional or uncommon barbell exercises that you can include in your programming for variety. Sit back, enjoy, and think about how you can creatively use the mighty barbell.
Rainbow Deadlifts are a great full-body lift, that allow you to work your hips while adding a stability component to your core. I find that they work very well for conditioning work and to add volume when necessary. You’ll find them to be taxing, and very fun. If you don’t have a core blaster or landmine attachment, you can just place the unused end of the barbell in a corner, or secure it against a rack or rubber flooring.
The Grapplers Press is a great pressing exercise. Based on your height and the angle that you approach the bar, it can be considered either a horizontal or a vertical press. Performing it unilaterally stresses the core with rotation or lateral flexion forces, forcing your obliques to contribute more to a strong pillar position.
The Meadows Row was invented by John Meadows, and this video was recently put on the EliteFTS YouTube page. The timing is perfect, because I used these rows as a variation on Thursday night, without even knowing what they were called. It turns out I’m not an inventor, but it doesn’t matter; they’re still a great exercise. Holding the outer portion, which is almost 2 inches thick, becomes an instant fat grip that is taxing on your grip strength, so you don’t need to do forearm curls like a little kid. Perfect!
The Lumberjack Press is an exercise I discovered on the website of John Romaniello, Roman Fitness Systems. The guy writes great material about fat-loss, conditioning, and how to be an all around bad ass. (Check out that link above!) For the lumberjack press, you’re holding the barbell length wise on one shoulder, pressing overhead, and then lowering it to the other should. This increases lateral flexion forces for your core, requiring it to work harder to stabilize, and forces your shoulders to work in an untypical way. If you’re not sure, try these out.
Roll-outs are commonplace these days, aren’t they. Everyone knows that they’re great for your core, and that they’re hard as hell. The exercise teaches you how to fight extension at the lumbar spine; it’s imperative that you maintain a neutral spine. Don’t let your hips sag excessively, and don’t buttress against the extension forces by flexing your lumbar spine. Keep everything in line and you’re set.
The Shovel Deadlift is an interesting exercise. Sure, it’s a deadlift, but it won’t be very heavy; your hips are not the limiting factor. Instead, the shovel deadlift is a fantastic exercise to develop core stability. When you sit your hips back and lower the bar, the obliques fight rotational stress, and you’ll feel the barbell pulling one shoulder around to the ground. As you stand up, this becomes lateral flexion stress, and you’ll feel the barbell pulling you over to one side. Due to this, it’s a great abdominal exercise, and one you should be doing.
I’m not exactly sure what to call this exercise, because it’s been called a number of different things. Let’s just call it hard; technically it’s an anti-rotation/ anti-lateral flexion press. If you’re moving your arms and maintaining square shoulders, you’re fighting forces of rotation, lateral flexion, and evil. Your obliques, and criminals will get hammered! This won’t actually fight evil, but it’ll give you superhero abs. (How good was that?!)
On that note, let’s call it a day. I’ll be back again later in the week with more content, and I promise not to take such a long hiatus again. Hope everyone had a great weekend!