You probably won’t see anyone doing these exercises in your gym. So why not start the trend? (Image courtesy of Hannah Davis)
There’s nothing wrong with jamming along to Top 40 tunes, but after the 50th time hearing “Fancy,” it just doesn’t hold the same magic.
Same goes for exercises. Basics like lunges and rows are excellent moves, but sometimes, you just want (or desperately need) something different. And changing up your routine not only busts boredom, but also can improve your results by helping you break through a plateau.
Try out these uncommon moves, hand-picked for Yahoo Health and demonstrated by expert personal trainer Hannah Davis, CSCS.
Related: 5 Essential Workout Moves
1. Extended range of motion reverse lunges
A typical lunge fires up your glutes (butt muscles). This variation fire-bombs them. By elevating your front leg, you have to use your glute muscles a lot more to drive your body back up, Davis explains. Use it as a warm-up move with your bodyweight only, or hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides as a lunge alternative in your regular strength-training routine.
How to do it: Stand on a short to medium-height box. Shift your weight to your left leg. Lift your right leg off the box and step back into a lunge, so that your right toe is on the floor and your right knee is a few inches off the ground. Reverse the movement (stand back up on the box) and drive your right knee up to about waist-height. That’s one rep. As a warm-up, do 10 to 15 reps on one side, then switch legs.
2. Standing glute activation with resistance band
When you do a squat or deadlift, it’s important to stand up completely at the top of the move — that is, fully drive your hips forward to finish out the exercise. “If you don’t finish out the movement, you’re not fully activating your glutes,” Davis explains. This standing resistance band exercise helps you learn how your body should feel at the top of the squat or deadlift with your hips locked out. It also helps strengthen your hamstrings (the back of the thighs) and glutes.
How to do it: Anchor a resistance band securely at waist-height so that the band can go around your waist (as shown). Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart. Bend at your hips and press your butt back until you feel a stretch in the back of the thighs. Drive forward with your hips until you’re standing tall. That’s one rep. Do three sets of 10 to 15 reps.
“I used to see this a lot and never see people do it any more,” Davis says, “but it’s such a great exercise for developing back strength in an interesting way.” The pullover especially targets your lats (the largest muscle group in your back), so try it as an alternative to the lat pulldown machine.
How to do it: Lie face-up on a bench. Grab a heavy dumbbell with both hands. Hold the dumbbell above your chest. Lower the dumbbell in an arc behind your head as far as you comfortably can. (It’s OK to allow your back to arch a little bit.) Raise the dumbbell back to the starting position. That’s one rep. Perform three sets of 10 reps with a challenging weight.
4. Serratus pushup
If you have a stiff or achy neck, this is a must-do exercise to add into your routine. “We tend to overuse our neck when our shoulder muscles — specifically the rotator cuff — aren’t strong,” Davis says. The serratus pushup strengthens the muscles that support the shoulders and neck. Do it on its own, or add it as a bonus move at the top of a full pushup.
How to do it: Get down onto all fours in a plank position, with your hands underneath your shoulders and your arms straight. Keep your elbows locked; allow your chest to drop to the floor so that your shoulder blades stick out. Then, push the floor away from you so that your shoulders round forward. (It’s a very slight movement.) Do 10 reps as part of your warm-up.
5. Stability ball single-arm press
Many people are stronger with one arm than the other. Davis says she commonly sees one arm completely failing when people perform a pushup or chest press. To correct that imbalance, it’s important to do some exercises where you train one arm at a time. Using the stability ball works the core, glutes, and legs in addition to the arms and chest.
How to do it: Hold a heavy dumbbell in one hand. Sit on a stability ball, then roll your body down so that your upper back is supported by the ball and your feet are flat on the floor, knees bent. Your body should form a straight line from your chest to your knees. Hold the dumbbell straight up toward the sky, palm toward your toes. That’s the starting position. Lower the weight down so that your elbow forms a 90-degree angle, then press the weight back up to the starting position. That’s one rep. Perform 10 reps on one side, then switch sides; do three sets.
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