Sticking to the same standard strength training exercises isn’t only boring, it can also become ineffective.
Save time and avoid plateaus by challenging your muscles in newer, smarter ways. These 12 swaps, provided by trainer Craig Ballantyne, author of “Turbulence Training,” show you how to take good moves and make them better.
Good: Bodyweight squat
The bodyweight squat is the gold standard when it comes to developing the glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps.
Better: Bodyweight jump squat
“Most guys, if pressed, can do 30 reps straight for bodyweight squats,” said Ballantyne, a certified strength and conditioning specialist. “That’s OK. It has its time and place. But to increase intensity and get a greater gain in strength and power, switch to bodyweight jump squats.”
Good: Dumbbell row
Whether you do these with one arm or two, dumbbell rows target the latissimus dorsi – the largest muscles in the upper back.
Better: Suspended inverted row
“Dumbbell rows are great, but most guys use terrible form,” said Ballantyne. “With suspended rows, you must use good form, otherwise you can’t even do a single repetition. Keep your body in a straight line and squeeze the muscles between your shoulder blades.”
Good: Leg Press
The leg press machine is designed to mimic the motion of a squat – strengthening the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings – but it comes with risks.
Better: Goblet squat
The leg press can be dangerous for your low back because the move forces your back to round at the bottom position, said Ballantyne. Instead, do dumbbell or kettlebell goblet squats to put the emphasis on your quadriceps and glutes.
Good: Lat pulldown
Strengthen your back and give your biceps a boost with the lat pulldown.
“Pulldowns are fine, but pull-ups are harder, and almost any time an exercise is harder, that means it’s also better,” said Ballantyne. “Your abs, upper back, lats and arms all get more work from the pull-up.”
A proper pushup is more than just a chest exercise – it also boasts a host of total-body benefits.
Better: Decline Pushup
To take a regular pushup to the next level, elevate your feet. “Just like an incline press is harder than a flat press, a decline pushup is harder than a regular pushup,” said Ballantyne. That’s because it increases the amount of resistance.
Good: Seated press
The seated dumbbell shoulder press is one of the most popular ways to strengthen shoulders and tone triceps.
Better: Kneeling press
Work your abs and deltoids harder by using less weight and doing the traditional shoulder press in a kneeling position (on a mat). Kneeling eliminates the leg drive of the standing press, decreasing momentum and increasing the work your muscles do, said Ballantyne.