As a lifter matures so should their arsenal of exercises they draw from. Just as a mechanic reaches into their toolbox and chooses the appropriate tool to fix the problem they’re working on, so should a lifter when it comes to fixing their weak links. And since plateaus are inevitable, it’s very important that a lifter is well equipped with the proper exercises that will carry them over and beyond their plateau.
But remember that these exercise are just that, exercises. How you apply these exercises is very important and can be a deciding factor whether you get stronger or continue spinning your wheels. Understanding what an exercise does can make the job a bit easier to fit into a program.
Below I have listed some exercises that will boost your weak areas and build a stronger foundation in which you can lay down more muscle and increase your strength.
Static Barbell Walkout:
What it does: Loading the forearms by way of static movements are a great way to build gripping strength. However taking this one step further, adding a dynamic component to static holds can do wonders for increasing grip strength. Instead of just holding onto the bar as long as you can, the focus of this movement is to release your grip and then grip the bar working your hands all the way out to the end of the barbell and back to your starting position.
How to do it: Load the bar up with the weight you would use to do shrugs. Now, holding onto the bar take whichever hand you want to start with work your way out to the end of the barbell and back to your starting position. Repeat with the other hand. Don’t use a mixed grip, if you can’t hold on to the bar, lower the weight. Use an overhand grip and move each hand out at least 4 times and 4 times back. As mom always said, “keep your back straight!” If you thought static holds were tough, try this exercise on for size!
Mistakes: Don’t let go of the bar!
Seated Unsupported Dumbbell Shoulder Press
What it does: This exercise can do wonders for a pair of lagging shoulders. If you normally use a back support you’ll be quickly humbled when you perform this movement.
Since there is no support for the upper or lower back and the feet are straight out in front of you the shoulders take the brunt of the load. If you suffer from flexibility issues in the hip flexors or the hamstrings this exercise may not be for you.
You may also find a tendency to want to lean back. This is the main reason why this exercise is too difficult. If you have a partner ask him/her to press against the upper back while you are pressing to ensure that you are maintaining an upright position.
How to do it: Sitting on a bench with your feet straight out in front of you with the back in an upright position, assume the starting position of a dumbbell shoulder press. Now press!
Mistakes: Leaning back. This problem can be remedied by either stretching the hamstrings and/or hip flexors. Another common problem is not being able to press straight up so the dumbbells touch each other overhead. Stretching the pecs before and during the movement may alleviate the problem. Forget what you’ve read about static stretching before exercise being detrimental towards exercise performance. It’s all in the application.
The One Arm Barbell Press
What it does: One arm lifts are making a come back. Not only will you look cool, but you’ll also be improving your grip, coordination and core strength. The one-armed barbell press is just one of many variations that can be implemented into a program.
How to do it: Standing in an upright position with the barbell in either hand press it towards the ceiling while trying to maintain a straight back. To make the exercise a bit more challenging a twist can be added so the oblique muscles are dynamically working as opposed to statically.
Mistakes: You can’t get it up because the bar is too heavy and it moves. To remedy this, start with a dumbbell and then move to a mid size Olympic bar and then on to the barbell. Another big mistake is leaning to the side when lifting. Try to maintain an upright position, as this is primarily a shoulder movement. As mentioned before, if you want to bring the oblique muscles into the exercise bending to the side or twisting can be added to the movement.
Cambered Bar Extensions
What it does: Two exercises have been blended into one which makes this exercise very effective at building up the posterior chain. If your squat or dead lift is lagging or you’re an athlete who wants to build a stronger backside to increase their explosive power this exercise should be a part of your routine.
How to do it: Grab a cambered bar and set up on the hyper-extension machine and perform some extensions. This movement is very basic.
Mistakes: Not bending from the hips and rounding the mid back is a sure recipe for an injury. Another is to let the chin tuck in which can cause the back to round. Keep the head in line with the rest of the body and bend at the hips. Basically the way a stiff legged dead lift is performed.
Applied properly these movements can be a valuable addition to any strength program.
Written by Maki Riddington
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