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 look at today is a bench press. The bench press is one of the most commonly used exercises there are. Everyone seems to do bench press. It is seen a the standard exercise of weight lifters and is what most men will judge strength by. 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 from the chest whilst in a horizontal body position.
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 a fairly simple movement pattern with a complex set up. There are a lot of factors to a solid bench press but the movement itself is relatively short and simple when compared with something like a power clean.
So lets try changing up the equipment we are using.
Dumbbell bench press:
As you can see from the video, with dumbbell bench press you can get a much greater range of motion. You can come deeper and get a better chest stretch, and you can also bring your hands closer together in the middle, which will give a better contraction. The individual weight aspect will also mean that more stabilizer muscles will have to be used.
Sticking with dumbbells we can now change the support our bodies are getting.
Swiss ball dumbbell press:
Using a swiss ball rather than a bench has a few benefits. You use your core stability and legs as well as your chest on the exercise. You also have to control the contraction far more in order to keep balance. This will put more emphasis on the chest and work the individual muscle more than if you were to bounce and use momentum with the weight.
Now that we are using individual arms on the movement we could try changing the angle of resistance. To do this we can use cables:
In this exercise the resistance is not coming from straight below from gravity but from slightly out to the side. This means that at the top of the rep there is a greater force acting against the contraction. The rep gets harder towards the top where normally with weights this is where it gets easy. This different contraction will help shock the muscles.
The final variation of the bench press we are going to do is the floor press:
Floor presses can be done with a barbell or a dumbbell. The range of motion is far shorter than a normal bench press and mainly works the lockout phase of the lift. It is really good to use if you have a strong initial drive on the press but fail to lockout on maximum lifts. Its also quite fun to do and is very rare that you see people doing this exercise.
So next time you are in the gym and are supposed to be doing bench press, try giving these variations a try.