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Off the beaten path

While I am a huge proponent of the fundamentals of exercise being an integral part of all exercise programs, it is also important to challenge the body and mind by occasionally adding exercises that are a little “off the beaten path.”

Assuming that these exercises have been designed by certified, qualified trainers, with the goals, objectives and limitations of the clientele featured as top priorities, the body may respond very positively to new stimuli. This week, we will highlight five “off the beaten path” exercises that you may want to give a try.

Prior to attempting a different path, please discuss the feasibility with your fitness professional to make sure you are a good candidate. And, as always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.

Exercise 1: I like the leg press machine and use it sparingly with my personal training clients, usually as a break from performing traditional squats and lunges to concentrate on hypertrophy at the muscle site. However, rather than using the leg press machine as your standard for strengthening the quadriceps, perform squats, lunges and properly executed Olympic lifts such as the squat, snatch, clean and jerk.

Master the position set up and the grip with a light bar, dumbbells or kettlebells first. Then, as you become stronger, you may add greater load to increase the intensity. Olympic lifts must be meticulously performed to safely and effectively train the entire body. Significant “nose to toes” core engagement must be maintained throughout and this requires excellent technique and execution.

Exercise 2: While on the subject of squats and lunges, consider adding some spice to those squats and lunges by moving away from the sagittal plane and working in the frontal and transverse planes as well. Not only are these multi-planar options more functional as these movements simulate our daily actions more accurately, the mind is required to move out of the comfort zone creating enhanced concentration skills.

Exercise 3: While bench presses are a very effective exercise to strength the pectorals, triceps and deltoids, there are dozens of variations on that theme to keep the mind and muscle connection fresh. Try standing chest flyes from a cable/pulley system, with anchored resistive tubing or from a TRX Suspension System. All three of these suggestions effectively train the pectorals, require more core engagement and give the body a break from the bench press.

Exercise 4: Triceps pushdowns are a fantastic triceps exercise and may be performed from a cable/pulley system, with resistive tubing or from a TRX Suspension System. However, change the body’s position and perform a triceps press out from any of the equipment mentioned above. You are facing away from your anchor point, the arms are up at shoulder height and flexed 90 degrees at the elbow joint. Legs are staggered front to back and you stabilize the shoulder joint while pressing the forearms out and then return to the 90 degree position. Try using different attachments with the cable/pulley to create further variety.

Exercise 5: Lat pull downs are a terrific exercise for training the latissimus dorsi, deltoids and biceps muscles. However, try inverted rows from the TRX Suspension System or from the bar fixed on a Smith Machine in preparation for attempting full pull ups.

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