There are a lot of people in the gym that I see and have spoken to that generally do the same exercises over and over again. They will change their routine but generally pick from a small list of exercises that they will always include. This is not a massive error in training but you will see a lot of benefit from changing the exercises that you use and even the way in which you do the same exercises. In this article I am going to show you that you can do an exercise or movement pattern in a huge amount of different ways to hit the muscle more effectively. Each movement pattern will work a muscle in a certain way. The things you can do to change the exercise whilst still performing the same movement pattern is to change the direction of resistance, the position of your body, the type of equipment used and many other factors.
So if you are doing the same exercises in the same way then I recommend for the benefit of your training progress I urge you to try some of the following alterations.
I will show you how to alter a number of different exercises so that you can perform some great variations on them. The exercise we are going to start with is a seated barbell shoulder press. Its fairly simple, a compound exercise with no core stability needed. Its also a very common exercise. The movement pattern is simple, just a direct press vertically above the head.
So how can we vary this exercise to work the muscles slightly differently whilst still maintaining the benefit of the movement pattern?
First lets take a look at the exercise:
as you can see it is just simple abduction and flexion of the shoulder and extension at the elbow. You are not moving the torso or legs in any way.
So lets change it slightly. If we now stand up and do a push press we will alter the move dramatically:
As you can see we are now using the legs to push the weight as well as the shoulders and triceps. The core muscles are also worked a lot to stabilize the torso. You can use far more weight so the negative part of the rep will be harder on this than on seated shoulder press, leading to greater gains in strength.
Now that we have taken away the seated aspect of the movement we can start to change the equipment being used. Lets try it with dumbbells:
Using dumbbells allows for greater range of motion and constant tension on the shoulders as you cant rest them anywhere like you can with a bar (across your chest). You also follow a more natural arc with your shoulder movement.
Now we can vary the standing dumbbell shoulder press by simply taking away one arm:
Using one arm allows more of a push press action to get the legs back into it. You also have to use even more core stability and your internal and external obliques are worked very heavily. I actually really like this exercise.
You can now change the resistance types and angles by using other pieces of equipment that offer resistances different from gravity:
As you can see these pieces of equipment offer the resistance in different ways to a dumbbell or barbell. A cable can be moved to pull from different angles so that that maximum tension can be at the bottom, top, or middle of the rep. the resistance bands will give increased resistance as you get further through the rep which will shock the muscles as different contraction strengths are needed throughout one movement.
So there are a few different ways to alter the shoulder press to make it more effective or just to hit the muscle differently. In the next article we will have a look at the bench press to see some cool variations for this commonly over performed exercise.