What’s Old is New Again: Old School and Non-traditional Exercises for Growth and Progress
By Frank Gigante
“To achieve what you have never had, you must do what you have never done. “
This quote has been a driving force as I set goals and execute the plans to make those goals a reality. There are always improvements to be made and this requires change. Doing the same thing over and over, will not suffice. Over the past several months, with each new training program, I have consciously added in exercises that I have not done before, for one reason or another. I have allowed myself to be a beginner with these exercises and work through the learning curve as they become part of a workout routine and I can push myself harder and farther with them. Here are several that are perhaps non-traditional, or old school era moves that can have a great impact in the gym.
To help hit the shoulder muscles with a little variety and a departure from overheard dumbbell shoulder presses, we have used Arnold presses to add size to our delts. This movement starts with a pair of dumbbells in front of the body with bent elbows and palms facing towards the rear. Then press the dumbbells overhead in an arc fashion, and as you do, turn the wrists so that at the top of the movement they are facing front. Reverse the motion under control and return to the starting position.
Arnold presses are a definite challenge. The starting position is lower than in a traditional dumbbell shoulder press. Plus, having to rotate your wrists as the dumbbells move upward, takes focus and control. This exercise is not one I see used in the gym very often, but don’t let that stop you. It is worth incorporating it into a training routine.
Incline bench side laterals
Another old school era exercise inspired by Arnold himself is to lean on an incline bench while letting one arm completely hang down in front of the body with a dumbbell in hand. With one motion raise the dumbbell in a side lateral motion until the arm is perpendicular to the floor. Control the negative motion as the weight comes back down to the starting point.
I have done incline side laterals before, but never where I let my arm completely hang in front of my body. This was a different variation and the feel was completely different. However, it was very effective at creating that searing burn in my side delts as they were being worked harder and harder with each rep.
In this variation of the barbell squat, the bar gets placed on the front of the delts. This motion takes some pressure off the lower back and forces you to squat with more of an upright torso. This particular motion puts greater emphasis on the front of the quads.
This exercise, as with all exercises, form is the key to this one. It took a few weeks until I found the groove with this one. Once I had it, every rep was an all-out battle and I loved it. Then, I lost it again and had to play around with lighter and heavier weights to find the balance of working the quads hard enough while getting enough quality reps out of each set. My struggle with this one came from the bar dropping off my shoulders before my legs had given out. This was frustrating, especially when I had thought I found the groove with this one for a while. All in all it was worth having it in the program and I will put it in future training cycles as well.
Walking Dumbbell Lunges
Lunges are NOT for girls. I learned this the hard way when I first incorporated standing barbell lunges a few years back. They are a battle both mentally and physically. A few months back, I decided to vary the lung motion with dumbbell walking lunges. From the first workout, the fight was on. There is something raw and powerful about picking up some weights and marching down a stretch of the gym, or hallway as was sometimes the case. Foot placement is important as you can vary the focus from quads to glutes/hamstrings depending upon the length of your stride. The dumbbells will swing with the momentum, so controlling them plays a factor in the execution too. However, these were intense and exhausting every time.
Named after the late, Larry Scott, this variation of preacher curls is like no other bicep variation we have used. For us, it involved working backwards on a preacher bench. Instead of placing our arms on the inclined side of the arm rest, we set our upper arms against the vertical side of the bench. This completely isolated the action of the biceps. We would load up an EZ curl bar and really hit the biceps hard. This movement puts the arms in front of the body, eliminates any swing, and works to fully contract the biceps muscle. The range of motion is not large, but that is how the biceps are designed. This exercise has been a great addition to our bicep arsenal.
Straight Bar Lat Pulldowns
We have incorporated this exercise as a way to finish off our lats at the end of a great back workout. This exercise is done facing the cable machine with a straight bar. We use the bar traditionally used for straight bar triceps pushdowns. Take a step or two back from the pulley. Keep your elbows slightly bent and arms straight. Pull the bar down to your thighs with one fluid motion, by contracting your lats. Force your shoulder blades to squeeze together as your arms come down.
There is a fine line with this exercise between it being a great lat movement and a bad shoulder and triceps exercise. The focus is on contracting the lats, not the amount of weight used. When the movement is felt more in the triceps and shoulders, the weight is most likely too heavy. The shoulders should stay back the entire time and never roll forward. This could also be used as a way to pre-exhaust the muscles at the start of a back workout as well.
Variety is always good when it comes to stimulating muscle growth and developing a complete, well rounded physique. Finding new exercises to work the muscles from different angles and positions keeps progress moving forward and our workouts fresh. Allow yourself to do something new, something you have never done. Be a beginner. Let yourself struggle with any one of these exercises, if you have never done them before. Learn the movement, the proper technique and the feel of each muscle throughout the movement. There is nothing to lose, and everything to gain!
Feel free to catch up with me online on Facebook at www.facebook.com/frankgigantenaturalpro. If you want to discuss any of these further or even hear about some others I have been using lately, I encourage you to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want even more hands on help or detailed plans check out my online coaching site www.naturalprofitnesscoaching.com and let’s work closely together to keep you on track and moving forward throughout this year.