Written by Callum Parker
The Most Underrated Exercises
Most workout plans today rely on the trusty ol’ squat, bench and deadlift each week to build mass and strength. These exercises are undoubtedly a staple of an effective routine, but many people rely a little too heavily on these exercises, or variants of them, and subsequently end up missing out on getting the best bang for their buck.
Here are a few exercises that you should consider adding to your routine, if you aren’t already doing them, for maximum gains in strength, size and stability:
#1 Landmine Shoulder Press
A common complaint amongst casual lifters and gym goers are shoulder pain. This is usually down to too much pushing vs. pulling in your workout, but it can also be caused by a poor bench press technique. Subsequently, many people struggle to perform dumbbell presses or overhead presses without pain.
This is where the landmine shoulder press comes in. Vertical pressing forces the head of the humerus upwards in to the shoulder joint, which can cause the musculature of the shoulder to be pinched between the bones of the shoulder girdle, causing pain. By pushing the weight more horizontally, the head of the humerus sits more comfortably in the shoulder joint and provides the joint with more stability by keeping the elbow tucked into the body.
Because of this, the landmine press is a fantastic shoulder builder that you should add to your workout whether you suffer from shoulder pain or not!
#2 Glute-Ham Raises
If you’re looking for an exercise that works towards building a perfect balance between the hamstrings and the glutes, look no further than the glute-ham raise. During a glute-ham raise, the hamstrings have to work overtime in order to keep you stable and to support your bodyweight, and time-under-tension is greatly increased by the fact that the muscle has to work just as hard when it’s extending as it does when it’s contracting.
If your gym doesn’t have a glute-ham raise machine, try this: place a barbell on the floor in a power rack and load it up with a 20kg plate either side. Place a pad on the ground in front of the bar for your knees, then anchor yourself under the bar by placing your feet underneath and pulling the bar into the rack with your heels.
#3 Face Pulls
Touching back on the topic of shoulder injuries, the face pull is a great exercise to both reduce the symptoms of pre-existing shoulder pain and to bullet proof the shoulders against the risk of future injuries.
Many people make the mistake of using too much weight for face pulls. This usually arises from a misunderstanding of the purpose of a face pull; rather than being a back builder, like many believe it to be, the true purpose of the face pull is to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles deep within the shoulder girdle in addition to the rear deltoids.
Amongst other things, one of the primary functions of the rotator cuff muscles is to keep the humerus (upper arm) properly positioned within the shoulder joint. A stronger rotator cuff means the shoulder joint is given greater protection and stability, which in turn makes the joint stronger and more durable.
When performing face pulls, focus on lighter weights and higher reps as a rule, and always rotate your forearms up and towards the ceiling during the concentric portion of the movement.
#4 Close-Grip Bench Press
This one is a great triceps builder that’s often overlooked in favour of cable exercises. If your bench press is beginning to plateau, or progress is slow, try incorporating some close-grip bench pressing to strengthen the triceps – the movement is almost exactly the same, therefore your triceps will become more efficient during an actual bench press.
It’s also a great mass builder, recruiting all three heads of the triceps throughout the movement. In addition to its strength and hypertrophy benefits, it’s also easier on the elbows. Elbow tendonitis is a common pain felt that is at the elbow joint when extending the arm, and is often the result of excessive pressing movements, like skull crushers or cable press-downs. Substitute skull-crushers for close-grip bench press to give your elbows a much-deserved break.