5 less well known gym exercises that you should be doing!
Ever looked at some of the exercises people perform in the gym and had absolutely no idea what the exercise was, let alone what muscles it worked and as a result questioned that person’s sanity? In some cases, you’d probably be right and that person has absolutely no idea what they are doing and that exercise should not be replicated. However, sometimes, that person may be a genius in disguise (after all, not all heroes wear capes) and they could be performing a perfectly legitimate but less well known exercise that everyone could benefit from incorporating into their own training. With that in mind, here are 5 less well known exercises that may look potentially odd to the untrained eye, but that in fact everyone should be doing.
Unilateral loaded carries - as members who have attended my Bootcamp-FXT classes will know, I like loaded carries...a lot. Why? Put simply, they are one of the best full-body exercises you can do, great for all round core stability and strength, posture, grip, the list goes on...Not to mention the fact that what could be more functional than literally carrying something from one point to another. But most of all, they are fun! Consider unilateral variations as the older, more challenging brother of standard loaded carries. If we take a farmer’s carry as an example, the unilateral variation involves carrying one weight rather than two. As a result, because there is no weight to counterbalance the other (as there is with the standard farmer’s carry), your core is forced to work that much harder to stabilise and keep your body upright. As a result, greater activation and greater benefit. Try these with front rack carries or overhead carries for a real challenge.
What to do? Perform 5 sets of unilateral loaded carries over a certain distance (e.g. twenty metres) or a specific time (e.g. 30 seconds). Perform on one side then immediately the other. Then rest for 1-2 minutes and go again.
Active and passive hangs - these exercises involve hanging from a pull up bar with arms extended and just hanging...well there’s slightly more to it than that. The active variation can be considered more of a strength exercise. It involves engaging your shoulders, back and core throughout the exercise (think lifting your chest slightly, squeezing your shoulder blades together and pointing your toes). A great exercise to prep your body for pull ups to ensure you are activating your back properly and a real burner for your core and grip. The passive hang on the other hand, is more of a stretch. By hanging from the bar and relaxing your body (apart from your forearms and hands), gravity works to essentially stretch your body, in particular your shoulders and back as well as decompressing your spine. Great at the end of a workout or after sitting down in an office all day.
What to do? Perform 3-5 sets of passive or active hangs for 20-30 seconds, rest as needed in between sets.
Glute-ham raises - If you’ve ever been to the top room of the gym, the ‘functional room’ and seen what looks like a medieval torture tool, that would be the glute-ham raise machine. A great tool for working your entire posterior chain (back of body) with next to no weight. Have a quick look on Youtube for a full exercise demonstration. However, depending on how you specifically use the machine, you can place a greater emphasis on your glutes, hamstrings or lower back (back extensions). Given that people tend to be weakest in these areas, this is definitely a great piece of kit to get familiar with.
What to do? Perform 3 sets of 12-15 reps of glute-ham raises (or back extensions) with just your bodyweight, rest 60 seconds between sets.
Pallof presses - This is another exercise that looks simple but is actually a real challenge. Perform standing side on to a cable machine, hold the cable pulley at your chest with two hands, step away from the machine to create some resistance (you’ll only need a small amount of weight). Then slowly press the cable pulley out in front of you, hold and then reverse the movement slowly. Result? Absolute havoc on your core as it resists moving towards the machine. Again, great for core rotational strength and stabilisation. Again, useful for real-life functionality.
What to do? Perform 3 sets of 30-45 seconds on each side, slow the movement down, holding for a couple of seconds when your arms are extended, rest 60 seconds between sets.
Bear Crawls - another Bootcamp-FXT favourite. Have you ever seen someone crawling around the gym on all fours? And thought...what a weirdo! However, when kids do it, we don’t think anything of it. Why does growing up mean we should lose a natural movement that helps with coordination, core strength and is a killer full-body cardio workout? Short answer. We shouldn’t. One of the best things about this exercise is that anyone can do it. What’s more, bear crawls are just the start, you can perform them with weight, perform crab crawls or a variety of other variations. Next time you are looking for a good finisher for your workout, give these a go!
What to do? Perform 3-5 sets of 30 seconds on // 30 seconds off of bear crawls as a finisher on your next upper body or push day.
P.S. Please do not try the exercise in the photo...EVER!
By Luca Samara