I believe somewhere along the line, I was supposed to get the memo that Monday is “National Bench Press Day.” I learned this in college when I’d walk into the UCF Rec Center and see LINES of people waiting to “work in” at each of the seven standard bench press stations on a Monday night. Granted, we’re talking about a college with over 50,000 undergrads, but that’s just ridiculous on so many different levels.
Where in the unwritten workout bible does it say a barbell bench press is the only way to build your chest? There are COUNTLESS other exercises that not only can develop the basic muscle, but also the minor ones associated with the main muscle area, thus creating a more defined look.
Here are just a few switches you can make to your routines that I’ve done before (note: I will NEVER recommend or write about something I haven’t done before myself):
Usual Exercise: Barbell Bench Press
Switcheroo: Dumbbells, dummy!
This is a bit of an oldie, but a goodie. With a barbell, you can only get to your chest and push back up. With dumb bells, you can a larger range of motion, which means you incorporate more muscle fibers while pushing the weight back up. This switch can also allow you to toy around with different hand positions instead of the standard shoulder width apart. For fun, try doing a set with your palms facing one another. Your chest and triceps will thank you for it.
Usual Exercise: Tricep Pushdowns
Switcheroo: Bring out the rope!
By now, you’ve probably done the tricep pushdown on your arm days since you first began working out. In fact, some of you reading this may be able to push down the entire stack of weights on the cable machine! Of course, your range of motion is quite limited if you’re doing them the old fashioned way with a metal bar attachment.
Using a rope attachment will definitely kick your ass if you try to push down that same amount of weight. The grip alone will activate new muscle fibers. Not only that; at the end of the movement, when you pull the two ends of the rope apart (trying to straighten out your arms, shoulder width apart), you have a fuller range of motion, which, as we said with the dumb bell press, means more muscles to tear apart (translation; more muscle to repair, which will lead to more growth).
Usual Exercise: Leg Extension Machine
Switcheroo: Hack away!
Arguably the most boring exercise to work what is ultimately your largest muscle in the leg is the leg extension. Even when done properly, when the hell do you actually do a movement of sitting down and lifting heavy weight in an upward fashion? There is zero functionality to this exercise.
Aside from the barbell squat (something that should be in EVERYONE’S repertoire), the hack squat (or front squat) is a much more functional movement that activates your quads. It also puts less pressure on your knees and back, when done properly. With so many different variations on this move (dumb bells, barbell, machine), you can toy around and see what works for you. With your legs being your main source of power, you’re better off doing a power lift that’s both functional and safe.
These are just a few different things you can incorporate into your routine. By making a simple switch like the ones I’m talking about will create muscle confusion, a concept that has made Tony Horton and the people at P90X a ton of money. With changes, it’ll hurt like hell at first, but your body will see gains because it’s not familiar with the new moves! You’re basically removing the “plateau effect” you’ve read about constantly in magazine and on web sites (why do you think “Men’s Fitness” has two or three workout routines per issue?).
Anyways, thought I’d share this little tidbit with my readers. I’d love to hear about some of the changes YOU’VE made in your routines. Maybe I’ll try them out sometime