Most of my programming involves basic, fundamental exercises. That’s pretty much what effective strength training is in a nutshell: doing the same 8-10 exercises and finding ways to make them more challenging.
That said, there are some “unconventional” exercises I’ll include from time to time to keep things interesting.
And I bet you haven’t done them (yet).
1. Cossack Squat
The Cossack squat is a great lower body exercise and mobility drill all in one.
Squatting down to your side offers a great stretch in the adductors (inner thigh). Moreover, it’s a great way to improve your ankle mobility.
Include it in your warm-up or use it as an exercise on it’s own.
Also – Add chains to look badass (and work your core too, I guess).
2. Offset Barbell Hold
No, your eyes aren’t crossed. Yes, those are two different weights on the barbell.
That’s what makes the offset hold such an amazing anti-lateral flexion exercise.
Holding two different weights (one lighter, one heavier) on either side of your body throws you off balance. In turn, this forces your deep core muscles and obliques to stop you from bending to the side.
How to do it:
- Put a light weight one one end of the barbell
- Put a heavier weight on the other end of the barbell
- Stand with the barbell in a back rack position
- Hold for 30-60 sec each side for 2-4 sets
You can either stand in place or walk for distance (i.e. offset farmer carry).
Note: If you don’t have a barbell, you can hold two dumbbells or kettlebells instead (one lighter, one heavier)!
3. Lateral Slider Lunges
This baby burns.
Add the band for extra tension in the adductors (inner thigh muscles) and press the weight out for counterbalance/core work.
Tip: Use bumper plates to appear stronger than you actually are.
4. Seated Kang Squats
A great warm-up tool and exercise altogether.
Kang squats are a typical warm-up drill used for Olympic weightlifting. I like adding the box for depth indication during the squatting portion.
Your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back are all being worked in this awesome 3-for-1 movement.
5. Head Supported Bent Over Row
One of the biggest issues when most people do dumbbell rows is turning the torso and using momentum to get the weight up. This takes care of that completely.
Note: I really like this move for grapplers and MMA fighters given the strength benefits for the neck flexors and back muscles. A strong neck and a strong pull are integral for both of these disciplines.
6. Biering Sorensen Dumbbell Row
Similar to the head supported rows, the Biering Sorensen row reduces “cheating” by holding a static low back position.
You’re not only hitting the mid back muscles here, your glutes and low back pillars will be on fire too.
7. Head to Bench Reverse Fly’s
You ever see someone doing reverse fly’s and they look like an injured bird trying to take flight? Same.
Instead…stick your head against the bench and you’ll be forced to use the small, often neglected muscles of your upper back.
8. Eccentric Dragon Flags
Bruce Lee was the reason I started martial arts and working out. I’d watch his interviews and training videos obsessively growing up. One of the exercises he’s known for developing is the dragon flag.
Here, I’m just doing the eccentric (lowering phase) of the movement. I’m still practicing the full move!
Try it out for yourself (this is an advanced exercise).
9. Supine Cable Pullovers
Conventional pullovers usually lead to excessive arching in the lower back.
If you’ve ever tried to do dumbbell pullovers and felt it more in your spine than your lats, this may be the reason why.
A simple way to emphasize lat engagement is to do cable pullovers from the floor. This reduces lower back arch and limits how far back you can stretch your arms.
Love this one.
10. Side Plank Press Out
I saw Ben Bruno take some of his clients through this torture and decided it would be a good idea to do the same. What the hell was I thinking?
Great core exercise for the obliques with an upper body/shoulder element thrown in. Love it.