Out w/ the old, and in with the new…Today’s post is a remix on some common gym exercises. These exercises are all ones that you see just about any time you walk into a gym. Some of you have probably been doing these same exercise since your 9th grade middle school PE teacher taught them to you. The problem is, as we’ve gained a better understanding about training, these exercises have become ineffective and outdated. My goal today is to show you alternative, and more effective versions of each of these exercises.
1) Barbell Bench Press
If you were to follow a random guy walking into the gym, I’m willing to bet that 50% of the time, he will start his workout off with the bench press. Its pretty much written in stone in the bro code handbook.
My issue with the bench press is the negative effects it can have on your shoulders. Especially as most people bench press with the their elbows flared out. As someone with a history of shoulder injuries, I know this firsthand. Another issue, is that the “proper” way to do a barbell bench press is to allow the bar to come down and touch your chest on the negative portion of the rep. That position puts a TON of stress on the humeral head (front part) of your shoulder. As someone who trains over head sport athletes (volleyball, baseball, etc), I usually avoid this exercise like the plague.
UPGRADE: Alternating DB Chest Press
This exercise is superior to the flat bench because it allows you to control the weight, limit the range of motion, and ultimately decrease the stress on your shoulder. Because you are alternating arms, this exercise also puts more stress on the core (which is a good thing). It has the added benefit of forcing you press with 1 arm at a time, which allows you to build up strength unilaterally. The version pictured is performed on a swiss ball, but you can do it on a standard bench as well….Do 3 sets of 8-10 rep each side.
2) Bilateral Leg Lowering
While I don’t have an issue with the exercise itself, I have an issue with the implementation. For those that don’t know, this is the exercise where you start with your legs up in the air, and slowly lower them, bringing them up before you touch the ground.
My issue with this exercise is that it is very difficult to do it properly. The idea is that as you lower your legs, you maintain a neutral spine and avoid an anterior pelvic tilt (arching). The problem is, 90% of people who try this will not be able to execute it properly.
UPGRADE: Swiss Ball Dead Bugs
This is one of my favorite all time core exercises. It can be modified for any level, and the pressing of the arms into the ball allow for deep core engagement. Unlike the bilateral leg lowering, this exercise only calls for 1 leg to be lowered at a time. This makes it easier to keep a neutral spine, and saves you back from a ton of stress….Do 2-3 Sets of 10 reps each side.
3) Knee Extensions
You probably can already guess how I feel about knee extensions. Knee extensions are arguably one of the worst exercises you can do in the gym. The knee extension machine puts tremendous pressure on your knee ligaments, including the ACL. In addition to that, knee extensions are one of the least fucntional exercises you can do. Someone, please tell me exactly when in life you do anything close to resembling the knee extension?…Go on, I’ll be waiting.
UPGRADE: Lunge Matrix
While the knee extension may be the least functional exercise out there, the lunge matrix is extremely functional. The lunge matrix is awesome because it trains your legs in all 3 planes of motion. Does it target the quads the same way the knee extension does? No…But it also won’t lead to patellar tendonitis, or other knee issues….Do 2-3 sets of 5 reps each.
4) Abdominal Side Bends
“I really wanna work on my love handles!”…Thats usually the rational why people do this exercise. This exercise is designed to target the obliques, which is a problem area on many people. There several issues with this exercise, but one of the main ones is that this exercise WILL NOT spot reduce body fat in that area. Which basically mean, you can do this one till your blue in the face and you will not lose those oh so terrible love handles.
UPGRADE: Kettleball Waiter Walks
I am a huge fan of weighted carries. Whether it be farmers carries, rack carries, or any other carry you can think of, the benefits of weighted carries are tremendous. They stress the nervous system, increase overall strength, and improve conditioning. This exercise is a great upgrade because it is in the anti-lateral flexion category, which means it trains the obliques as well (click here, to learn, more about the core training categories).
Another reason to love this exercise is it improves shoulders stability without a ton of repetitive overhead pressing. For overhead athletes, and general population, this exercise is gold…Do 2-3 sets of 20 yards each side.