Last week, we discussed a bunch of intensifiers to kick up your workouts and break through both mental and physical plateaus. This week, we have three more ways to change things up without needing a whole new routine.
#1: Change Your Grip or Stance
According to David Sandler, “Muscles are comprised of tens of thousands of fibers that run along the line the muscle pulls, but they don't always run parallel to one another or the entire length of the muscle.” Therefore, to build overall strength and a well-rounded physique, it’s important to target muscle groups from various angles.
Changing your grip or stance can help you do just that.
Changing your grip would refer to exercises that involve the upper body. Doing a barbell bicep curl? Try a reverse grip barbell bicep curl (at the top of the exercise, your palms would be facing away from you rather than toward). Doing seated rows with a narrow grip? Try doing seated rows with a wide grip.
Switching up your stance would be for lower body exercises. Doing leg extensions? Try turning your toes toward each other to hit the VMO. Working on your deadlifts? Spread your feet wider for a sumo deadlift.
So long as you’re not putting yourself in compromising or dangerous positions, these positional changes are a great way to change things up.
#2: Switch From Bilateral to Unilateral Exercises (and Vice Versa)
This one’s pretty simple, and it provides benefits beyond just breaking up the monotony. For example, performing unilateral exercises (exercises done one side at a time, a la a single-arm dumbbell shoulder press) can help you identify strength or mobility imbalances. Likewise, bilateral exercises (exercises that work both sides simultaneously, like a traditional barbell bench press) allow you to lift more weight, thereby increasing your muscle recruitment and stimulation.
If you’re used to performing an exercise with both sides, switch things up and try it one side at a time (and, as stated above, vice versa).
Note: when switching to unilateral exercises, it’s important to stop and think about what the rest of your body is doing. Performing an exercise one arm at a time is no excuse to let your body compensate and twist your spine in all sorts of ways.
#3: Change the Exercise “Style”
Most major exercises have different variations. The internet is a veritable treasure trove of such things, so I won’t go into all of them here, but we’ll go through a quick few examples.
Squats have many different variations. While a traditional back squat has the barbell resting across your upper back, a front squat puts the bar in front of you resting on your shoulders (at about collarbone height). Due to the change in your center of balance, this shifts the burden from the hips and glutes to the quadriceps.
As mentioned above, one other version of the deadlift is the wider-stanced sumo deadlift. Beyond just changing your feet, though, you can also use a special bar called a trap- or hex-bar to do your deadlifts (as seen in the main image for this post).
There are enough variations of “rows” that most anyone would ask “what kind?” if told to do them.
To name just a few, there are:
- Bent-Over Rows
- Cable Rows
- Inverted Rows
Shoulder presses can be done with dumbbells, barbells, resistance bands, or kettlebells. They can be done seated or standing. They can be done “strict” or as push-presses.
This is obviously not meant to be an exhaustive list, but rather a starting point for thinking “Hmm...I wonder what other exercises might have some fun variations…”
Basically, the point here is that you can take the exercise routine you’re doing and make some tweaks here and there to spice it up. The first two tactics here can be applied quite quickly in the gym, while the third requires only a quick Google search to find a world of different possibilities.