1. Zercher Squat: Better Squatting With A Biceps Bonus
In this squat variation, you hold the barbell in the crook of your arms, adding core stability and biceps work to the mix. “It encouraged better technique on the squat, and can be loaded with more than a goblet squat,” says strength coach Joseph Lightfoot. You’ll also get bigger guns because you hold the bar steady with your biceps in an isometric contraction. Do three sets of six after your heavy squats.
Perfect form: Stand holding a barbell in the crook of your arm. Keeping your weight on your heels and your torso upright, bend at the hips and knees simultaneously to lower towards the floor until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Then stand back up.
2. Turkish Get-Up: Improve Full-Body Co-Ordination
“These don’t get enough credit,” says personal trainer Olli Foxley. “I’ve heard them called ‘loaded yoga’, which makes sense. When done well they develop mobility, stability and strength through your hips and shoulders. They are also multi-directional and teach a lot of body awareness.” Do two sets of five on each side as part of your warm-up.
Perfect form: Lie flat on your back and hold a kettlebell in one hand with your arm pointing straight up. Bend the knee on the same side as the kettlebell and plant your other arm flat on the floor by your side. Use your abs to lift your shoulder on the kettlebell side off the ground so that you move onto your elbow on your free arm. Straighten your supporting arm, then bring your straight leg back and rest on your knee before standing up. Look at the weight throughout the move. Reverse back to the start.
RECOMMENDED: Kettlebell Workout Guide
3. Band Pull-Apart: Make Your Shoulders Injury-Proof
“A resistance band is the best investment you can make in your shoulder health,” says trainer Adam Wakefield. “It’s a lifesaver for anyone who spends a lot of time at a desk so their shoulders slump forwards. They don’t put a huge demand on the body so I recommend doing three sets of ten to 20 reps every morning and evening.”
4. Chest-Supported Row: Develop A Thick, Broad Back
“One of the few gym machine moves I like,” says Lightfoot. “It encourages great form and movement.” If your gym doesn’t have one, the barbell (or dumbbell) option is still a solid bet. Lie face-down on a bench inclined at roughly 45˚, and row by pulling your elbows behind you and your shoulder blades together.
5. Weighted Carry: Build Lean Full-Body Muscle
The farmer’s walk is the classic, but almost every type of carry works. “Picking up something heavy and carrying it will improve your grip, shoulder health and upper body posture… and it has a huge metabolic effect, so it’ll burn fat too,” says Foxley. Use a carry as a finisher: just pick a distance and a weight, and don’t stop until you’re over the line.
Perfect form: Hold a weight in each hand and pull your shoulder blades back. Engage your core and start walking.
6. Bulgarian Split Squat: Grow Bigger Legs, Barbell-Free
“Most people who’ve done these properly hate them,” says Wakefield. “They cause such a huge burn in your quads, hamstrings and glutes that just three sets of ten reps, even with only your bodyweight, can be too much for some people. But they’re worth doing: as well as working the major muscles of the lower body they also train your core, balance and co-ordination. I put these at the forefront of most clients’ leg training because they provide a large stimulus for increasing muscle strength and size.”
7. Dumbbell Snatch: Harness Hassle-Free Power
“These have gone out of fashion, but they’re safer than trying to perform the barbell snatch and still provide a lot of the benefits,” says Wakefield. “The initial drive to move the weight from the floor is actually done by ‘pushing’ your feet into the floor while at the same time pulling with your arm and shoulder muscles. As the weight moves overhead, you need to keep your core braced to ‘catch’ it. There isn’t a single muscle group that doesn’t get worked during a dumbbell snatch.”
Photography: Glen Burrows. Model: Jay Conroy @Models1
From 2008 to 2018, Joel worked for Men's Fitness, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Though he spent years running the hills of Bath, he’s since ditched his trainers for a succession of Converse high-tops, since they’re better suited to his love of pulling vans, lifting cars, and hefting logs in a succession of strongman competitions.
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