Stand in front of a barbell on the floor with toes underneath. Stand in front of the barbell with the bar close to your shins, a couple of inches away. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. From this position bend at the kness and waist reach down and grab the with and overhand grip. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip just wider than your feet to work back more or use a wider than shoulder grip to work more of the upper back and lats for back width. You can use wrist straps here to concentrate more on executing the lift rather than gripping the bar but I would advise only using them in the late heavier sets as the poundage is increased to gain the benefit of increase forearm strength that can be acheived with the deadlift. Also I would always use an overhand grip for both hands, rather than an underhand and overhand grip that you will probably see, as I believe the torso is twisted however slightly adding torque to the spine. I would always perform a lift in a symmetrical manner for this reason.
From this position reach down and grab the bar with an overhand grip. Keep your back straight except for a slight upwards arch in your lower back, keep the curve comfortable and don't bend too far or hyper extend the back. Tighten your core muscles by pushing out your chest and tense your abdominals and your legs. From here assume a seated position making sure that you have leaned far enough back so that your knees are bent and behind your toes ensuring that your toes don't travel beyond them at anytime during the raising and lowering of the bar during the lift. Your head should be inline with your back, neck inline with the rest of the spine looking forward not up or down so as to not tilt the head and to keep the spine straight.
From this position we can begin to execute the lift. Begin by lifting the barbell from the floor by standing up from the crouch position
The deadlift can be divided into two main parts. The first portion of the lift concentrates mainly on the lower body in particular the back of the legs, the hamstrings and the gluteous maximus or glutes. After about midway the emphasis shifts to the upper body namely the back, trapezius, upper arms and the forearms. The focus of the lift is to lift the bar from the floor or about as far as you can reach, about mid shin level, and then at the midway point to standing up you "throw" the hips forward and then straightening the body up to a standing position and at all the time keeping the back flat and the spine straight with a slight curve in the lower back to take the stress off the spine. When you reach the top of the movement and are standing completely upright dont:
Don't shrug the weight up - relax the shoulders
We don't want to execute a shrug movement while the back is moving and not in a stationary position as this could again put unwanted stress on the spine and the lower back.
Or lean back as if to put more emphasis on the back muscles. This puts stress / strain on the lower back. I would stress here that it is important to always keep the back in alignment with a slight upwards curve in the lower back to avoid torque and risk injury which can manifest itself in lower back pain, an indication that the lift wasn't executed entirely correctly.
One Arm Row
Stand in front of a weight bench and bend over at the waist placing a knee on the the flat surface, put the corresponding arm out in front of you and place your hand on the bench to make a frame and stabilise the position. Arch your back slightly to create an upwards curve in the lower back then reach forward to feel a stretch in the the large muscles of the back the latisimus dorsi muscles, and reach forward to grab a dumbell that is on the floor a little distance ahead of your/this position. This is the starting position of the exercise.
Lift the weight up and slightly backwards towards the waist in an arc slowly and under control simultaneously squeezing the muscle to work that side of the back. Repeat the movement to work the other side.
Grip - You can choose to lift the dumbell with an overhand, underhand or sideways grip or hammer grip to work the muscles of the lower back from a slightly different angles. Lift the weight by pulling from the elbow rather than the wrist imagining your hand as a hook. Imagine sawing a piece of wood on a bench.
Bring the weight higher into the chest area to work more of the upper back and bring it lower into the waist to work more of the lower back. At the top of the movement pause and squeeze the muscle to get the benefit of the contraction and then lower the weight down and out in front of you to get the benefit of the stretch part.
Always remember to keep a slight arch in the lower back and not to over arch or hunch over when executing the positive or concentric part of the lift.
Straps can be used on the heavier sets which helps to slightly shift the focus from gripping the dumbell to that of lifting the weight.
Bent Over Row
Stand in front of a barbell that has been positioned on the floor just far enough so that you can feel a stretch when you reach out to grab it.. Bend over at the waist and bend the knees, keep your back flat and your head and neck in straight line. Don't lean over completely but raise your body to about a 60 - 70 degrees angle from the floor, keep a slight upwards curve in the lower back at all times to prevent the back from over arching during the raising and lowering of the bar during the execution of the exercise. Maintain this position throughout the movement. Grip the bar with an overhand grip that is just wider than shoulder width. This is the start position. Begin by pulling the bar backwards into your abdomen and waist area by leading with the elbows or slightly higher to your lower chest to work the upper back more. A good mental picture would be to focus on pulling the elbows back as far as you can until the bar touches your waist and to imagine the hands as hooks that merely cradle or hold the weight . The main focus should be on acheiving a complete back contraction at the end part of the movement by squeezing and tensing the muscle at the top of the movement. Hold the contraction for a count of 1 - 2 seconds and then slowly lower the bar downwards and outwards in front of you to stretch on the negative or eccentric part of the movement.
This exercise can also be completed with an underhand or reverse grip, and with a wider or narrower grip to work more of the inner or outer part of the muscle. A cambered bar is an excellent choice for the underhand reverse grip row as it enables you to reduce the strain on the wrists. The underhand grip allows the elbows to travel further behind the back which engages a greater back contraction. There is some discussion as to whether this type of grip puts the biceps in a mechanically disadvantageous and dangerous position, however the biceps can be disengaged to some degree and put in a less potentially injurious position by putting the thumbs underneath the bar when it is gripped. The caveat to this is that the bar becomes more likely to slip from your grip.
Bent Over Cable Row
This movement is a good alternative using the pulley for continuous tension and less concentration is needed to stabalise the bar during lifting which could possibly allow more weight to be used, and will give the opportunity to concentrate more on stretching and squeezing the back muscles because less effort is needed to keep a stable position. One advantage of free weights use over cables however is that they develop the stabiliser muscles around the specific muscle being worked.
To execute stand in front of a weight stack facing a bar attached to a cable at the base of a pulley machine. An advantage here is that several different types of bar or handle attachement can be used for different grips including a closer or wider grip to stress different areas of the back and for the sake of variety.
Bend over at the knees and waist and just like the free weight version keep the back flat with a slight upwards arch keeping your head in line with your spine. Look straight ahead, neither too low or down or upwards which could cause you to lift or lower your neck. Position the back at a 60 - 70 degree angle from the floor slowly pull the bar to your waist. Squeeze the back and hold the contraction for 1 - 2 seconds. Slowly lower the bar and repeat, keeping that curve in the lower back constant. Take advantage here of leaning forward on the downward portion of the movement to stretch the lats out by lowering the bar outwards and in front of you.
Variations - Overhand grip, Underhand, One Handed, Wide grip, Narrow Grip
There are various types of rowing machines that can be found in gyms and fitness centres today. For example there is the hammer strength machine, two handed lat pulldown and rowing machine and rowing exercises can be executed using cables.
Hammer Strength Machine Row
Sit down on the seat with the pad touching your abdominals and chest. Adjust the pad forwards or backwards and raise or lower the seat periodically to work the back from slightly different angles. Start by reaching out to stretch the back and keep a slight backwards curve in the lower back and push the chest outwards as you would normally do with all back movements. Now grab the two handles with and overhand or underhand grip. This is the start position. Pull the handles back towards you as far as you can to gain the most benefit of this exercise by acheiving the best contraction. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and contract the entire back for a count of 1 - 2 seconds to acheive the best contraction. Slowly and under control return the handles to the start position and repeat.
One Handed Seated Row
and you can concentrate on stretching and contracting and isolate one side of the back at a time. This movement also engages/works the oblique muscles, something you might not want to do because over development of the waist could adversely affect your overall symmetry when compared against your upper body, shoulders and upper back width and lower body quadriceps size. To execute sit down on the seat as you would during the two handed version with your chest and abdominals touching the upper pad and with your alternative non-pulling hand grip the pad to stabalise yourself. Reach forward with your other arm and grip the handle and arch your back slightly. This is the start position. Leading with the elbow pull the handle back towards the pad as far back as you can, until you feel a strong contraction in this side of your back. Hold for a count of one to two seconds.
Seated Pulley Row
Start by sitting on the floor or on the pad attached to the low pulley seated row machine, bend your knees to take the stress off the lower back. Reach forward and grab onto the bar or handle that is attached to a cable connected to the bottom of a weight stack. Leaning forward get a good stretch in the muscle but keep a small arch in your lower back. From here pull the bar back towards your abdomen using momentum if you want to get into the start position. You should now be sat upright with the bar held against your waist. This is the start position. From here slowly release the bar back towards the stack but keeping in an upright position with a slight arch in the lower back and feel the stretch until your arms are almost fully extended all the way before the elbows reach the lock out position. A good point to stress here is that you should never lock out any joints during any exercise movement because doing so takes the stress off the muscles and places it on the joints and tendon.
Bent Over Dumbell Row
The One Handed Seated Row can be used as an alternative to the two handed version so that there is a potential to move more weight
Remember that the key point is - that apart from tensing the back your arms are the only part of you body that moves during the movement.
Select the appropriate weight on the stack and then stand in front of the pulldown machine. Grab the handles and then sit down at a pulldown machine to anchor your knees firmly underneath the pad. From this position pull your arms back by leading with the elbows until the handles are approximately level with your ears. Look straight ahead and keep your head in line with your torso at all times. If you bring the handles lower it places undue stress on the shoulder girdle and joints, neck and spine, and could cause injury. Once you have reached this point strongly contract the back muscles and hold for a count of 1 - 2 seconds. Slowly under control release the handles to the top and repeat. Your arms are the only part of you body that moves during the movement to enable you to stretch and contract the back. Never lean forward or back during the exercise but keep your torso straight with a slight curve in your lower back throughtout the exercise.
Another variation is to use a cable pulldown station. This enables the use of different handles which makes it easier to stress specific areas of the back. Implement any of the following:
Overhand grip - to work the upper back
Underhand grip - to work the lower back more
Narrow grip - to work the inner back
Wide grip - to work the outer back
So for example you would use a combination of different handles and grips to work specific areas of the back.
Pull Ups and Chins
To work the back muscles in a similar way to pulldowns stand underneath a pull up bar and begin by grabbing the bar at each end. Arch your back slightly as you pull yourself up as far as you can until or until your upper chest touches the bar to complete one repetition. Lower yourself all the way back down until your arms are nearly but not quite locked out at the joints. With this exercise it takes time and practice to be able to complete several or even one repetition so to acheive this start by only partially lowering yourself down partially from the top position to a point low enought that you think would be possible for you to be able to lift yourself back up again to build strength. When you have done this as many times that you can and you have reached concentric muscle failure or the point or the positive part of the movement where you can't lift yourself up any further, immediately do the same thing by lifting yourself as far as you can from the lowest part of the movement up as far as you can go until you reach failure again. Consider these two movements as one set. This approach will build strength in the movement and over time will build the strength that you need to be able to complete more full range repetitions.
Lie down with your back on the pad, keep yourback flat and on the bench at all times during the exercise. Place your feet on the floor either side of the bench to gain the most stability. Bring your arms back and until they are parallel with the bar overhead and drop your shoulders. You should feel a stretch in your pectorals and a contraction in the opposing or antagonistic muscles of the back. From here push your chest out but remember to keep your lower back against the bench at all times. Now keeping your shoulders back and down reach upwards and grab the bar with a slightly wider than shoulder width grip. Contrary to popular belief do not use a significantly wider than shoulder width grip to somehow work the outer chest more as this puts unwanted stress on the shoulder joints, and so therefore should be avoided at all costs. Assuming this set up before you begin the lift is the start position. From here lower the bar down to your chest and push back upwards before it comes to rest on your chest. Push the bar as far as it goes before your elbows reach lock out. Never lock out at the top of the movement as this takes the stress from the muscles and puts it on the joints which reduces the amount of contraction that you can place on the pectorals. Squeeze the muscles at the top to complete the repetition. It is most important to maintain the elbows back and shoulders down position during the execution of the lift as letting the elbows drift inwards towards your body will take the stress from the chest and place it more on the triceps muscles and anterior deltoids or front part of the shoulders. The actual raising and lowering of the bar does not take place in a linear vertical straight up and down motion but rather is executed using a hyperthetical S shape. To acheive this the bar is taken from the rack / stand then lowered outwards allowing it to drift slightly away from the chest towards the feet and lower body. Then it travels backward in a reverse arc until it reaches the lower part of the movement just before it touches the chest where at the final part of the movement it comes to a stop with a final outward arc at the bottom. Reverse this action on raising the bar for the positive or concentric part of the movement. Keep your wrists in line with your forearms at all times to avoid unwanted stress of the wrist and elbow joints.
Work the upper chest more by bringing the bar down to the upper part of the chest and lower it to the bottom of the chest to work more of the lower pectorals.
Incline / Decline Bench Press
The same movement can be executed using a bench that has been inclined upwards which works the upper chest more or set to a decline which will work the lower part of the chest more. As with the flat bench version remember to always keep your elbows back and shoulders down to ensure that the pectoral muscles are fully activated and the focus remains on the chest.
Dumbell Bench Press
To execute the bench press using two dumbells instead of a barbell you will execute in the same way
Bring the ends of the dumbells together in an arc rather than straight up and down in a linear motion and squeeze the muscles at the top.
Sit on a bench and pick a couple of dumbells from the floor then lie back down onto the bench. Place your feet on the floor to acheive the most stable position. Assume the same position as you would to execute the bench press with your elbows back perpendicular and drop your shoulders down towards the floor. Lower the dumbells out towards the floor until you feel a stetch in your pectoral muscles and a contraction in your back. Do not extend your arms to full lock but keep constant bend in the elbows throughout the entire movement of raising and lowering the weights as this will put undue stress on the elbow joints. Also do not bring the dumbells too far back as to hyper extend the shoulder joints, bring them back to a point to where you feel comfortable. Arch your chest and protrude it slightly but always remember to keep your lower back on the bench at all times. This is the start position. From here bring the dumbells in an arc upwards and across your chest stopping at a point that is directly horizontal to the floor and to a point just outside the outer chest muscles. Don't bring the weights together as this allows the pectorals to relax and reduces the contraction taking the stress off the muscles. Squeeze the muscles and hold for a count of 1- 2 seconds. Lower back in a downwards arc remembering to keep the elbows back and the shoulders lowered to gain the benefit of the stretch and the eccentric or negative part of the repetition which is just as an important part of the movement as the positive part. This exercise is designed to work the outer part of the chest for the benefit of width.
The exercise can be completed using an incline or decline to work the upper and lower part of the outer chest respectively. Execute using the same exercise form as above.
Pec Dec Flyes
The Pec Dec Flye is used to acheive stress on the inner part of the chest and is more of an isolation movement for the inner chest. To begin sit at a Pec Dec machine with your back pressed against the pad, bring your arms back to grab the pads and raise your elbows up until they are horizontal with the floor. Protrude your chest and remember to keep your lower back against the back of the pad at all times during the movement. This is the start position. From here keeping your elbows raised push the pads together until your fingers touch in the middle and you have acheived full contraction. Hold and tense the chest muscles for a count of 1 - 2 seconds. Now return the pads backward until you reach a point that is approximately halfway between full extension and full contraction. Do not fully extend the pads backwards as this allows the muscles to relax and takes the stress from the muscles. This is a reduced range of motion that is designed to work the inner muscle in isolation. Stress can also be applied to different parts of the upper or lower chest by gripping the pads in the start position at a higher or lower point on the pads. Use the foot pedal to reduce the weight when fully returning the pads at the end of the set.
Dips are used primarily to work the lower chest. To begin approach a pair of parralel bars, stand on the plate and grab both of the handles. Push yourself up to full extension of the arms and raise your legs bending your legs bringing your knees slightly forward. Now lower your body bending at the elbows until your elbows are parrallel with the floor. Lean forward slightly to put the emphasis on the chest and make sure your back isn't hyperextended. This is the start position. From here push your body back upwards until your arms straighten but before they reach a point of fully locking out the elbow joints. Let your elbows flare outwards to keep the emphasis on the chest rather than the triceps muscles. Contract the chest for a count of 1 - 2 seconds and then lower yourself back down while still keeping your chest at a slight forwards angle until you return to a position where the elbows are perpendicular to the floor at the end of the repetition. It is important to remember that the arms are the only part of the body that moves during execution of the exercise, do not allow the legs to swing back and forth while you complete the repetition.
This exercise has two main variations which are performed either on a flat or inclined bench.
Flat Bench Pullover
Begin the movement by lying across or along a flat bench with your feet on the floor to create a stable position. From this position you can use either a dumbell or barbell which you use to extend behind you and then bring back up to a position above your head.
Start by either grabbing a dumbell length wise cupping your hands around the weight at the top or grab a barbell with a shoulder width grip with each hand. In either case keeping your lower back on the bench protrude your chest and lower the weight behind you as far as you find comfortable and without hyperextending the shoulders. This is the start position. Next push the weight back upwards with relatively straight arms so that the focus of the movement is more on the chest rather than the back, but also make sure that there is a slight bend in the elbows so that any unwanted stress isn't applied to the joints. When the bar or dumbell has reached your eyeline above your head stop and squeeze the pectorals to apply maximum contraction. Lower the weight back behind you and repeat. This exercise also works the back when you lower the weight under pressure of gravity on the negative part of the movement so the important factor to remember is to keep the arms as straight as possible but keeping enough bend in the elbows to transfer the stress away from the joints and on the pectoral muscles.
Stand in between two cable weight stacks then reach over and grab one handle then the other which are attached to the cables either at the top or base of the frame. Some cable crossover set-ups have adjustable positions that slide up and down the columns at each side. Adjust them to work different parts of the chest. The higher they are positioned works the upper chest more and the lower they are positioned works the lower chest. From this standing position lean forward slightly and bend at the knees to reduce any undue stress on the lower back. From here push your chest forward and while gripping both handles extend your arms backward until you contract your back and feel a good stretch across the pectorals. This is the start position. Bend your elbows slightly and bring the handles together in a hugging movement until your palms or fists touch each other at the bottom of the move, and hold it there while strongly squeezing the chest muscles together for that 1 - 2 count. Remember not to hyperextend the wrists and keep them in line with the forearms while pulling the cables back and forward. Alternatively you can cross each handle over one another at this point to increase the range of motion to gain a better contraction. This is a great isolation movement that keeps the pectoral muscles under constant tension.
Seated / Lying Bench Press Machines
The machine version of the bench press allows the pectoral muscles to be isolated under constant tension. Other advantages are that they come in different formats with anything from a completely horizontal to fully 90 degree and even further forward incline, which allows for the emphasis of different parts of the chest to be worked. Also the machine could have different hand grips easily allowing for a pronated, overhand or underhand or hammer, sideways hand position. They can be ideal for use if training alone or if you are trying to work around an injury because they keep the focus on the chest area.
To begin with sit at the machine and either sit up straight or lie down depending on the angle of the pad, with your back pressed against it. Grip the handles if the dip allows with a sideways grip as if you were about to do a dipping movement and let your elbows flare outwards, or grab them with an overhand grip as if executing a free weight bench press, here raise you elbows until they are perpendicular with the floor and drop your shoulders down. This is the start position for the move. From here stick your chest out and then push forward leading with your elbows and remembering to keep your wrists in line with your forearms. Push out to almost full extention stopping before you lock out the elbows. At the top of this movement squeeze for the count of 1 - 2 seconds to fully contract the chest muscles. Slowly and under control to keep the tension on the chest return the handles backwards to a point that you feel comfortable. Don't pull the handles too far back though as this will hyperextend the shoulders. Contract the back muscles on the negative portion or lowering part of the exercise to ensure that the opposing muscle the chest receives the benefit of a good stretch before repeating. This exercise allows the implementation of partial repetitions at the end of a set when the completion of another full repetition is thought impossible. To do this at the top of the exercise or from the fully extended position reverse the handles only partially before pushing them back. This can be done in the bottom lower part or in the mid-range and allows strength to be built in those parts of the muscle which should in time increase your overall strength to be able to complete further repetitions of the movement.
The squats are the foremost exercise for developing mass in the upper legs or quadriceps muscles, and the legs overall. Start by standing in front of a squat frame with the bar adjusted to about shoulder height, or just as high as you feel comfortable to be able to put your head under the bar lift it and step backward. Always use a safety pad over the bar as this mitigates soreness or even prevents injury to the trapezius and neck areas and also allows you to turn your focus more onto the actual lift. Once you have placed the bar across your shoulders and rested it on the trapezius muscles at the base of the neck, widen your stance to a little more than shoulder width. Keep your back straight and head in line with your spine. Look forward or slightly upwards and keep that neck to spine position at all times throughout the lift. Relax your shoulders and tighten your grip on the bar. Tighten your core muscles by tensing your abdominals. Take in two or three deep breaths and exhale slowly to fill your lungs with air to give you more oxygen while you complete the move. Take the bar from the stands and step backwards. Prepare to execute the move. Begin by bending at the hips and kness and lower yourself down until your upper legs are in line but no further than your knees. Your back should be at a slight angle and the lower part of the back or lumbar region should always have that slight curve there to prevent any undue stress on the spine. Lower the bar slowly and under control to a point that is as low as you feel comfortable and try and feel a stretch in your quadriceps muscles. Remeber it is important to never let your knees extend beyond your feet as this places unwanted stress on the these joints. When you have reached a position which is ideally a point where your thighs are parallel with the floor, raise yourself upwards to a standing position by pushing through your feet, stopping at a point that is just short of locking out your knee joints to keep the focus on the thigh muscles and the stress away from your joints and lower back. Tense the quadricep muscles at the top as you complete the repetition. I advocate breathing in as you raise the weight and out as you lower down to the start position which is possibly the opposite to what you may have been instructed to do. I believe that the brain and respitory system needs to be full of air on the concentric part of any movement to ensure that there is enough oxygen circulating in the blood at that time when it needs it the most, when the repetition is at it's most difficult. I find this especially beneficial with heavy compound movements such as the squat, leg press, deadlift and bench press.
Smith Machine Squat
The squat can also be executed using a bar attached to a frame or Smith Machine to reduce the need to balance a free weight barbell and for the purpose of extra safety. This makes it easier at the end of a set to be able to place the bar back in the stand when completing the final repetitions. This allows you to focus more on pushing the weight than thinking about the safety aspect if you lower the bar too low and are unable to move the weight back up.
Approach the bar the same way you would as if you were using a free weight and place your head underneath the pad on the bar with a shoulder width overhand grip either side. This time however you should place your legs out in front of you as if you were in a seated position. Bring your feet closer together to work the outer part of the quadriceps the vastus, and widen your stance to work the inner part, the teardrop muscles, the vastus medialis more. Arch but don't hyper-extend your lower back slightly. Start by rolling the bar backwards slightly over your trapezius to take the bar from the holders and ensuring that the hooks don't come into contact with the frame on the upwards or downwards motion, and stand up. This is the start position. Keep your head inline with your spine and while looking forward or slightly upwards lower yourself downwards to a position no lower than knee height. Remember that your legs should be out in front of you during the execution of this particular variation of the squat. From the bottom portion of the rep push through your feet and heels to the top stopping just short again of full lock out of the knees. The extra stability afforded by the machine should allow you to focus even more on squeezing the thighs and acheive a strong contraction. As the Smith Machine is a safer type of squat it allows the implementation of partial repetitions at the end of a set when you can no longer lower the weight as far as you could at the beginning of the set to extend the failure point of the muscles and so increase muscle overload. Hook the bar back on the stands when you have finished the set.
The Front Squat is very similar to the Back Squat only the bar is held across the front of the shoulders instead of behind the neck and across the trapezius muscles.
Stand in front of a squat stand so that the bar is directly in front of you. Place the bar at about shoulder width height on the rack. Approach the bar and crouch down to a position where it is touching your upper chest and front part of your shoulders. Bring your arms up and cross them over the bar. Hold this position to lock the bar in place as you move your lower body up and down. From here stand up until your knees are just short of full lock out. Step a little way backwards from the supports. Arrange your stance so that your feet are in a comfortable shoulder width stance. Look forward and keep your neck in line with your spine. This is the start position. Now by bending at the hips and knees lower yourself downwards until your upper legs are parallel with the floor. Make sure that your knees don't extend past the ends of your feet, as this would put strain on them, and don't let them travel inward towards each other. Keep what feels to be a natural curve in your lower back, without bending too far back or hyper-extending. As you move down your back should be at a 60 degree or so angle, not vertical or at 90 degrees. Pause for a moment when your thighs reach the perpendicular position, and then push upwards without bouncing so that you move from a squat position with your back at an angle to that of standing up. Rise up and stop just short of locking out those knee joints. Tense and contract your thigh muscles at the top. Lower down again and repeat.
This movement can also be done on a Smith machine to give greater balance and better isolation when in the top most part of the movement.
Stand with your feet in a narrow but stable position to work the outside of the thighs or increase the distance between your feet to work the inner part of the muscle. Have two dumbells positioned at either side of you. Bend down as you would in any other squat, bending at the knees and hips and bringing your back down in a diaganal, and grab the dumbells. You could use lifting straps here which would allow you to use heavier weight and reduce the focus somewhat on gripping the dumbells. From here think about stance, wider to stress the inner thigh muscles, narrower for the outside thighes. Think about head position, always keep your neck in line with your spine. Look straight forward or slightly upward but keep your head in a straight line. Think about your lower back, there should always be a curve there both on the lowering and raising part of the movement. Think about your knees. Don't let them travel beyond the end of your feet or move inward as you squat and extend upward.
As you rise upwards hold the dumbells with unlocked elbows. Drop your shoulders and don't shrug the weights up as you come out of the squat position. Squeeze your thighs for a full contraction at the top, keep the knees unlocked to avoid wear and tear on the joints, keeping the stress on the muscle.
Stand next to a bench or machine, or other such type of solid frame. Take hold of it and bend down and pick up a weight disc. Bend your arm and lock the disc into place across your chest. Hold on to the frame to steady yourself and then squat down as you would execute any other squat until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Pushing through the soles of your feet rise back up to an unlocked knees standing position.
Adjust the back of the Leg Press Machine so that the pad is not too far forward and you feel your knees will come too close to your chest, or too far back that you are nearly horizontal. Sit in the machine and place your feet on the plate. Place your feet higher up to work the hamstrings or backs of your legs more, or lower down to shift the stress to the quadriceps or front parts of the legs more. Either way take care not to lower the plate down too far so that your knees travel beyond the ends of your feet. A wide foot postion stresses the inner quadriceps and a slightly narrower position works outer thighs more. Push your lower back into the upper pad and keep it there throughout the movement. Keep your head up and in line with your spine. This is the start position. Grab the handles either side of the seat and open them outwards to release the plate from its position. Now begin lowering the weight down by bending at the knees until you reach a point where you are comfortable and before your knees extend beyond your feet. If you feel your hips rotate and move off the pad you have extended too far and you have shifted some of the stress onto your lower back, which you don't want to do. In this case push the footplate immediately back to the starting position and either: endeavour not to bring the plate that far down on the next repetition, or lock plate on the stands and think about reducing the weight as this may be an indication that it is too heavy. The point of the exercise here is to lower the footplate as far as you can to enable a deep stretch, without rotating the hips, and to push back up to almost lock out to activate a good muscle contraction. Keep your knees in a straight line with your ankles as you move upwardes and squeeze your quadriceps at the top.
Adjust the upper pad forwards or backwards so that the back of your knees hang comfortably over the lower pad. Adjust the roller pads at the bottom up or down so that your ankles are positioned directly underneath. Sit on the seat with your lower back pressed firmly into the pad. Hold on to the handles or put your hands on your thighs to make yourself stable. Bring your toes back, point them upwards and keep your feet vertical and in a line with your knees. From here lift the lower pads by pushing upward throught your ankles until your legs nearly straighten, stopping just short of locking out the knees. This focuses the stress on the quadriceps muscles and away from the joints. Tense and squeeze the thighs. Lower back down until your calves reach a right - angle position with your thighs. Don't let the plate on the stack touch the weight stack as this allows the muscle to relax. This exercise is all about moving through continuous tension. So I don't want to extend too far or release too far back so as to keep the muscle working at all times during execution. Think squeeze at the top and stretch on the way down.
Lying Hamstring Curls
Lye face down on the bench and position your legs underneath the pads so that they test across the backs of your ankles. You could wear a weightlifting belt here to reduce the strain and further support your lower back. Begin by bending your knees and curling your heels back towards your gluteus muscles. Only your lower legs should move during execution. Bring the curl to a stop when your legs reach horizontal and squeeze your glutes and your hamstrings strongly at this point, holding the position for a count of two seconds. Do not bring your legs any further as this this will torque your lower back, placing undue stress here. From this point slowly lower back down until your legs reach a point that is before full lock out to keep the muscle activated.
Standing Hamstring Curls
Stand in front of the machine and place the back of your ankles against the pad in the same way as you would for the Lying Hamstring Curl. Unlock the knee of your stationary leg or supporting leg, and begin by curling the pad upwards until you reach a point where you lower leg is horizontal to the floor. Squeeze the hamstring hard for a count of two seconds then slowly return your leg back to the starting point.
Seated Hamstring Curls
Sit in the chair and press your lower back into the backpad. Keep your back against the pad at all times, especially when the movement becomes hard at the end of the set or you are using your heaviest weight. Doing this will serve to ensure that the focus and stress stays on the hamstrings and away from your lower back. Now place your legs between the upper and lower pads of the machine. Adjust the sliding mechnism as the front so that they rest against your shins just above your ankles. Move the handle to secure your ankles in this position. Take hold of the handles at either side of the seat. Begin by curling your lower legs back and downwards until they reach a point that is vertical to the floor. Pause briefly to contract the hamstrings and return your legs slowly downwards stopping just before you fully lock out your knee joints and repeat.
The Deadlift will work the back, glutes, hamstrings, trapezius, triceps and forearms muscles. The point here is to maximise its effectiveness upon the hamstrings and the glutes. To do this we want to reduce the emphasis of the exercise from the back, and primarliy the lower back, and focus it on the backs of the legs. Therefore this type of deadlift should be executed by placing your legs in a more straighter, but always slightly bent, position from the beginning. Once again for this movement I prefer to use an overhand rather than a combined under hand and overhand grip to ensure that the spine is aligned correctly, and not twisted however slightly to the right or left.
To begin stand in front of a barbell that has been placed on the floor. Position your feet so that they are underneath the bar, about shoulder width apart but slightly wider if you feel that this makes for a more stable position. Bend down at the knees and hips and grip the bar either side of of your legs. Position yourself so that you are bent over the bar and your back is horizontal to the floor. From here bring your chest up slightly and arch your back upwards to get that curve in your lower back. Always maintain that slight arch in your lower back throughout the lifting and lowering of the bar during the movement. Take the lock off your knees and bend your legs, but not too much to ensure that the emphasis stays on the hamstrings. Look forward and keep your neck in perfect alignment with your spine. Now that you have put yourself in the correct body mechanical position you can start to execute the lift. From here begin by standing up by pushing through your heels. As you stand up hold the bar as close to your body as possible, but keep a bend in your elbows to take the stress off those joints. Remember to maintain the arch in your lower back at all times and never hunch over the bar. If you begin to do this you have lost correct exercise form and the weight is too heavy, or you are at the final repetitions of a set. To prevent injury immediately put the bar back down on the floor. Take a rest pause or reduce the weight before you try another repeptition again. Bad form is especially dangerous with this exercise and as always will shift the emphasis away from the target muscles. When you reach a point that is approximately midway to standing up, throw your hips forward and contract you glute muscles until you reach the topmost point where your legs are almost locked out. Never fully lockout your knees at the top but keep a slight bend in them to protect the lower back from unesseccery strain, and refrain from leaning backwards because this will also put undue stress on the spine. Contract your glutes and legs for two seconds and then reverse the movement, bending at your waist and knees while keeping an arch in your lower back, as you return the bar downwards as far as you feel comfortable.
Standing Calf Raise
Relax your shoulders and put them under the pads of the machine and stand with your feet about shoulder width apart. Lower your heels until you get a good stretch in the calf muscles, and unlock your knees which will take the stress off the lower back as you execute the movement. Keep your head up and look straight forward. Stand with only your toes and the balls of your feet on the foot-plate. Your heels should extend below the plate to allow for the greatest stretch in the calves. This is the start position. From here grip the pads on your shoulders and push upwards through your toes, remembering to keep the knees slightly bent, and stop just short of fully locking out the knee joints. Hold this position for a count of one to two seconds and squeeze the calf muscles. Be careful not to shrug the weight or bounce up and down during execution. Stretch and contract the calves in a controlled manner. You may see other instruction that advises you to start the exercise with your heels turned outward or inward as you execute the movement. I donࢥlieve that it is correct to turn any joint or move a limb when it is in an unnatural position or moving during weight resistance. I think to do this would put the joint at a mechanical disadvantage, risking strain, and could cause wear and tear in the long term.
Seated Calf Press
Firstly adjust the seat backwards so that when you sit down you have a bend in your knees as you position your feet on the foot plate or plates. You should never fully extend the legs during this movement as locking out the knee joints puts pressure on the lower back. Hold the handles at either side of the machine or place your hands on your knees. Put your feet on the foot plate(s) and move them backwards if the machine allows, so that only your toes and balls of the feet rest on the plate. Keep your lower back pressed against the pad as you move your legs throughout. This is the start position. From here press through your toes to extend your feet and forwards and contract the calf muscles. Remember to keep the knees unlocked and in a straight line, donଥt them travel inwards as you complete the movement. Once you have fully extended the feet hold the position here for a count of one to two seconds and squeeze the muscles. Slowly return your feet backward to feel the stretch and repeat.
Seated Calf Raise
Sit down at the machine and place your knees under the pad. Put your feet on the foot-plate but let your heels hang down from the edge to enable you to get a pre-stretch in the muscle. Keep your back straight and head forward. Grab the handles on top of the kneepad. By pushing through your knees raise your ankles until your calves are fully extended. Pause in this position and contract the muscle. Slowly lower back down until your calves are in the stretch position. Keep your feet in a straight line and donଥt your heels travel inward or outward before or during the movement.
Front Barbell Press
This exercise can be done standing or alternatively seated to mitigate stress to the spine and lower back muscles. I donࡤvocate any form of rear barbell press where the bar is lowered behind the head, even only as far down as the ear line as this puts the shoulder in a mechanically dangerous position and puts the shoulder joint and muscles at risk of injury. For related reason I prefer to do this exercise from the least dangerous position which is seated but it can also be executed while standing without putting any undue stress on the body. Sit down on a bench with the back raised to a 90 degree angle or on a chair with your back pressed firmly against the pad, and with your feet on the floor in front of you to create a stable structure. Take the bar from its position on the stands or have a partner hand it to you if you堮ot seated within a rack. Grip the bar with a slightly wider than shoulder width grip, keep your wrists in line with your forearms, and keep your head in line with your spine and pull your shoulders back. Lower the bar to about ear level, any further puts too much stress on the shoulder joints. This is the start position. From here push the bar upwards by lifting through the elbows to a point overhead that is just short of locking out the joints. Keep the elbows back as you raise the bar to ensure that the stress isnযcused on just the front or anterior deltoid but placed on all three heads of the shoulder muscle. This exercise is the primary mass builder for the deltoids and should always be performed in any shoulder workout.
Variations Smith Machine Front Press / Machine Press
The Smith machine or machine press equipment can be used to switch the focus more on isolating the deltoids and less on balancing the bar. Sit on a bench the same way as you would for the free-weights version. Place the bench underneath the bar so that the bar travels up and down just in front of your face. Press your back against the pad at all times during the movement. Pull your shoulders back and keep your head straight and inline with your spine. Take an overhand grip on the bar and lower it to about your ear level. Pull your shoulders back. Now by leading with your elbows push the bar upwards to a point just short of locking out. Hold this position for a couple of seconds or so and contract the shoulders. Lower back down to ear level again and repeat.
Dumbell Shoulder Press
The dumbell version requires the stabilising muscles to work harder on this exercise so this probably means less weight can be used. However it is a good and possibly safer alternative to working the shoulders in a slightly different way. Sit on a bench in the same way as you would for the barbell versions and take the dumbells from the floor or have a partner hand them to you while in the seated position. Lower you shoulder and elbows down until the dumbells are roughly level with your ears. Relax your shoulders and bring them back. Hold the dumbells here, this is the starting position. From here push them upwards and in an arc movement until the ends almost touch at the top. Stop just short of locking your elbows out. Hold this position and contract the shoulders. Then lower the dumbells back downwards, keeping your shoulders back until they reach ear level and repeat.
The dumbell lateral raise can also be executed in a standing or seated position, and there are also different variations in the starting position and in the height to which the arms are raised.
Standing Lateral Raise
Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent and hold two dumbells at your side. Bend your elbows to reduce the stress on the joints and lift the dumbells leading with the elbows, and stop at a point that is directly parallel with the floor. Hold this position and contract the shoulders to feel the movement in the lateral deltoids. Lower slowly to your sides and repeat. The dumbells can be held in front of you in to give a longer range of motion but works the front or anterior deltoids more.
The dumbells can be raised past shoulder height to about 130 degrees beyond parallel to the floor so that you can get a stronger peak contraction to the side deltoids. Doing this however takes some of the emphasis from the shoulders and puts it on the trapezius muscles. As the lateral part of the shoulders are still working after lifting them above parallel, it makes sense to raise the dumbells up to the 130 degree point to work them over a longer range of motion. Even greater emphasis can be put on the shoulders by pausing at the midway point on the way down.
Grab a handle with your left hand using an overhand grip attached to the bottom of a weight stack. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, knees bent. Leading with the elbow pull the handle across your chest and out to the side until you reach a position at or slightly above parallel. Maintain the bend in the elbow to keep the emphasis on the side deltoid and off the triceps. Slowly lower and repeat. Change hands to work both deltoids. Alternatively you can grab two handles and pull the cables across you chest to work the side deltoids simultaneously.
Front Shoulder Raise
This exercise can also be completed by using a barbell or dumbell, standing and seated. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart with a slight bend in the knees. Take hold of two dumbells and either raised them simultaneously or one after the other to a point that is parallel or completely vertical to the floor. The higher the dumbell is raised the more the front deltoid is stressed over a greater range of motion but doing this also shifts some of the emphasis onto the trapezius muscle. Remember to keep a slight bend in your elbow as you raise and lower the weight. At the top of each repetition tense the muscle to feel the contraction. This movement can also be completed using a barbell. Take an overhand grip on the barbell with your arms spread to slightly wider than shoulder width and don͊ lock out the elbow joints. Hold the barbell across your thighs and raise it stopping at a point above your head. Hold and contract the shoulders and lower slowly back to the start position.
With an overhand grip bend down and take hold of a handle attached to a cable at the bottom of a weight stack. Stand up with your knees slightly bent feet shoulder width apart. Unlock the elbow joint. Start by pulling the handle upwards to a point parallel or above shoulder height. Pause at the top and contract the muscle. Slowly lower the handle back down under control and repeat.
Rear Shoulder Raise
Stand upright with a dumbell in each hand. Bend over at the knees and waist to an angle that is about 60 degrees to the floor or to a point that you feel is stable and comfortable. Drop your shoulders an keep an arch in your lower back. Start by holding the dumbells close to you palms facing inwards with your elbows back and behind your upper torso. Bend your arms at the elbows throughout the exercise to keep the emphasis on the rear deltoids and away from the triceps. Leading with the elbows raise the weights upwards and out and to the sides to a point that is parallel to the floor. Hold this position for a two second count and contract the rear deltoids. Lower the dumbells back down to start position and repeat.
To execute the cable rear deltoid raise, bend over at the knees and waist as you would for the dumbell rear deltoid raise. Grab a handle attached at the bottom of a pulley and weight stack system with an underhand grip. Leading with the elbow pull the handle across your body to raise it upwards and outwards to a point that is parallel with the floor. Your grip should now have shifted to an overhand position at the end of the movement. The cable version will allow more isolation on the rear deltoid as you are able to hold the contraction for a longer squeeze under constant tension.
Front Upright Row
Take hold of a barbell with a wider than shoulder width grip. Stand up and place the bar across your thighs. Unlock your knees. This is the starting position. From here keeping the bar close to your torso raise the bar upwards by leading with your elbows. When you reach a point that the upper arms are parallel with the floor hold and contract the trapezium. Slowly lower back to the starting position keeping the bar close to your body throughout the move. Points to remember: Resist the temptation to raise your heels from the floor as you execute the movement. Don൳e a narrower than shoulder width grip as this puts unwanted stress on the shoulder girdle.
Behind the Back Upright Row
While standing hold a bar with an underhand grip just wider than your shoulders. Bend at the knees to take the stress from your lower back. This is the start position. From here pull the bar upwards keeping it close to your body. Leading with your elbows pull the bar up behind you to a point where you feel your trapezius muscles are at full contraction. At this point pull your elbows even further upwards an away from your back to increase the emphasis on the lower trapezium. Hold for a maximum contraction and lower the bar back and repeat. Variations Both exercises can be executed using dumbells.
The shrug movement also works the trapezius muscles and dumbells or a barbell can be used. Barbell Shrug Stand in front of a barbell with a wider than shoulder width stance, knees unlocked. Grab the bar with an overhand grip that is also just wider than your shoulders. Stand up and let the bar rest across your thighs. Bend your arms slightly to unlock the elbow joints. This is the start position. From here raise your shoulders and bring the bar upwards to squeeze the trapezius muscles together at the top of the movement. Hold this position for a count of one to two seconds and slowly lower the bar back to the start then repeat.
Execute the movement in the same way as the barbell shrug by holding a dumbell in each hand with either your palms facing forward, or facing your outside thighs to put slightly different emphasis on the trapezius muscles.
Lie on the floor and bring your legs up to bend your knees at about 90 degrees. Place your hands on your chest or on the floor beside you. This is the start position. From here bring your upper body and legs together until you feel the contraction in your stomach muscles. Hold this position for at least a two second count while squeezing the abdominals. When you raise your upper body to meet your legs in the middle of the movement remember to keep your neck in line with your spine, an not unduly forward or backward. Keep your chin off your chest to avoid straining the neck, visualise balancing an object such as a grapefruit under your chin to help you to keep your head back. As you bring the legs and chest up imagine squeezing the muscles together like a concertina. Lengthening and shortening the muscles as you bring your chest and knees closer and further from each other. Always keep your spine supported by keeping your upper back on the floor throughout the movement. To add resistance to the upper part of the abdominal muscles hold a weight across your chest as you crunch. Move the weight to your stomach to place the resistance on the middle portion. For the lower part of the abdominal muscles you can raise your legs into more of a vertical position as you bring them into your stomach, or wear ankle weights or hold a small dumbell between your shins.
Hanging Leg Raise
Stand underneath a pull up bar and grab hold of it with and overhand grip. Alternatively you can put your upper arms inside stirrups or wrap a couple of wrist straps over the bar, to reduce the effort needed for gripping the bar and allow you to focus more on the actual exercise. From this position pull your legs up by bending at the hips and knees and curling them into your stomach muscles. Do not swing your legs up but raise and lower them in a smooth and controlled manner to reduce the amount of momentum during the movement. Squeeze and hold at the top before slowly returning and repeat. This exercise primarily works the lower part of the abdominal muscles but also works them as a whole. To work the oblique muscles that are at the side of the abdominals turn your knees to the sides when you raise them to the top of the movement.
Perform a crunch as you would normally by lying on the floor and bringing your knees and upper body together at the top of the movement. However as you squeeze the muscles together twist your upper body to the left or right side to place the emphasis on the obliques or the muscles that stretch down your sides. For the sake of balance you could place your fingers on either side of your head and try and touch the alternative knee as you crunch your upper body forward and to the side. Always remember not to strain the neck by keeping your head up and in line with your spine. Also keep your back on the floor at all times. Squeeze the obliques at the top to gain the most muscle contraction from the exercise.
Sit at a crunch machine with your lower back pressed against the upper pad. Put your feet under the pads at the bottom remember to keep your neck back and chin off your chest. Take a hold of the handles behind your head. This is the start position. From here push your upper body towards your stomach squeezing your abdominals as you move. Do not pull with your arms, rather they are just lightly gripping the handles for balance. Push the chest downwards while simultaneously squeezing the stomach muscles to achieve the best contraction in the abdominals. As with the crunch imagine you are shortening the muscle by pushing two sides of a concertina together. On the return part of the movement stop just short of full extension before you start the next repetition. Bringing the weight all the way back would allow the muscle to relax in the extended position and reduce the stress. Stopping short of full lock out ensures that the abdominals are always under continuous tension and keeps the focus on them as they are worked. If you are training triceps in the same workout you may want to train them after this exercise, as holding the handles in this position can make the triceps feel sore if trained beforehand.
To develop all areas of the biceps they must be worked using all available angles, upper and lower, and with inner, outer, upper and lower hand grips. So exercises can be selected to focus on specific areas according to the angle of the upper arm and space between the hands. Triceps exercises need to work the three main triceps heads 䨥 medial, lateral and long heads. Once again the angle of the upper arms and type of grip can determine which exercise focuses on a particular area of the muscle.
Incline Barbell / Dumbell curls
Stand in front of an incline or Preacher bench. Reach forward and using an underhand grip, pick the bar up from the stands. I find an EZ curl bar is ideal for this exercise because it reduces the stress on the wrists making it easier to raise and lower the weight, and focus more on squeezing the muscles. Now sit back down with the backs of your upper arms resting firmly against the upper pad. Extend your arms and lower the bar down to just short of fully locking out the elbow joints. Secure your seating position and keep a natural arch in your lower back. Make sure that your wrists are in line with your forearms as you grip the bar. Begin the exercise by curling the bar upwards until you reach the top and your biceps prevent you from reaching any further. Do not curl your wrists toward you but keep them in line with your forearms. When you reach the top or concentric part of the movement resist the urge to lift your elbows off the bench to curl the bar further towards you. This will reduce the emphasis on the biceps, changing the movement into more of a front deltoid shoulder raise. The lower arms are the only part of the body that should move during this exercise. Squeeze the biceps all the way as you raise the bar and slowly lower the bar to gain the most benefit from the curl.
Seated Incline Dumbell Curls
The Incline/Preacher curl is a one armed version of the Barbell Incline Bench Curl. It emphasises the lower biceps nearer to the elbow. Sit at an incline bench the same way as you would with the barbell version. Curl the barbell upwards remembering to keep your upper arm against the bench at all times during execution. As you curl the barbell up slowly supinate your wrist so that you turn your hand and forearm to a point where your little finger is in a top most position. This action puts increased emphasis on the biceps. Another advantage of this version is that you can use your other non-working hand to spot yourself as you raise the dumbell on the final most difficult repetitions of a set. When the repetition becomes difficult apply a little pressure on the back of fist of the working arm to help push you past the sticking point.
Hold a barbell in front of you with an underhand grip. Bend your knees to reduce the stress on your lower back. Space your hands close together to emphasise the outer biceps head or spread them further apart to work more of the inner head. Pull your shoulders and elbows back as you rest the bar across your thighs. Now from this position raise the bar by bending the elbow and dragging the barbell up along your stomach to an end point at about your lower chest. Contract the biceps hard at this point. As you execute the movement keep the bar as close as possible to your body as you move it up your torso, and remember to keep the elbows as far behind you as possible. This exercise will place the emphasis more on the upper part of the biceps. You may or may not want to forgo the use of a weightlifting belt for this exercise as it could be difficult to drag the bar over the buckle.
Neutral hand grip Standing barbell/dumbell curl
The barbell curl is the main biceps mass builder. The barbell version allows you to use maximum weight to develop more muscle in the biceps as a whole. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and with a barbell across your thighs holding it with an underhand evenly spaced grip. Bend your knees slightly and relax your shoulders. Keep your head up and look straight forward. Keep your wrists in line with your forearms as you grip the bar. Lock your elbows to your sides throughout the movement. I would recommend that you use a weightlifting belt and you could lean against a wall to further support the back. This is the starting position. Begin by bending the elbows and curling the bar up. As you move the bar flex the biceps until you come to a natural position where you can୯ve the arms any further, with the forearms touching the upper muscle. Hold this position and squeeze for a maximum contraction. Donಡise the shoulders, the forearms are the only working limbs. Slowly and under full control lower the bar to the starting position and repeat.
Seated Dumbell curl
Sit on a chair or at a bench with the pad raised all the way up to a 90 degree angle. Grab two dumbells and hold them at either side of your torso, palms facing your sides. Press your lower back against the pad and keep it fixed there at all times during the movement. Drop your shoulders and keep your head up and look forward. Begin by bending at the elbow and curling the dumbell upwards. As you do this supinate or turn your wrist so that the little finger is the upper most position when you reach the top of the movement. When you reach the top contract the biceps as hard as you can. You can lift the dumbells at the consequtively or alternate each arm. Using one arm at a time should allow you to use of heavier weights. As you lower the dumbells turn the wrists and forearms back to the palms facing inward position to complete the move.
Narrow hand spacing Reverse curl
The Reverse Curl primarily works the outer part of the biceps and employing a narrow spaced hand grip serves further to activate this part of the muscle.
Stand with a barbell held across your thighs with an overhand narrow grip. Extend your thumbs and move your hands inwards until they touch, or to a position you feel biomechanically comfortable when curling the bar. Position your elbows against your sides and keep them there throughout the movement. Relax your shoulders and bend your knees slightly, but maintain a solid stance. Begin by curling your forearms back until they come to a natural stop as your forearms reach your biceps and can't travel any further. Keep your wrists in line with your forearms as you do this. At the top squeeze hard to get a good biceps contraction. Slowly lower and return. This movement can also be done with a dumbell which allows you to use your alternate hand to spot your working arm at the end of a set. When the final repetitions become difficult reach across and push your forearm upwards to allow you to finish the movement.
The Hammer Curl is not unlike the Reverse Curl except that a dumbell is held in a palms facing inwards towards your side position. This exercise also emphasises the upper forearms and outer biceps.
Stand with a set of dumbells by your sides with your palms facing your thighs. Either curl the dumbells together or alternatively one at a time until your forearms can't move any further backwards and are touching your upper arms. Your lower arms are the only part of your limbs that move during the exercise. Keep your wrist in a straight line with your forearms and your elbows tight against your sides.
As this exercise is more of a biceps isolation exercise it is better to use a light - medium weight and use a repetition range of 10 - 15. Sit at a bench with a dumbell in front of you. Reach down and pick the dumbell up and position the back of this arm against your inner thigh. Your elbow should just hang over the edge so that it can move more freely as you lift the weight up and down. To keep your neck and spine aligned while in the bent over position, raise your chest and maintain a natural curve in your lower back, and look down at the dumbell as you curl. From here curl the dumbell upward and supinate, or turn your wrist so that your little finger is pointing upward when you bring the weight to the top of the movement. Squeeze for a count and lower and repeat.
Stand in front of a weight stack with the bar attached to the pulley at the bottom. Reach down and grab the bar with an underhand grip or overhand grip if you want to do a reverse cable curl, and stand back up. Bend your knees and relax your shoulders and trapezius muscles. Remember to keep your back straight and head up. Lock your elbows to either side of your torso and begin curling the bar upwards, keeping your wrists in line with your forearms. This is an ideal isolation exercise because the cable system allows for the biceps to be worked under constant tension during both the positive and negative, raising and lowering parts of the movement. Using different handles allows you to work the biceps from other angles. For example you could use an overhand grip, a V bar attachment, a rope, or a single handed cable curl to be able to supinate the wrist and futher contract the biceps muscle.
Biceps Upper Cable Curl
Attach a handle to the top of each side of a weight stack at a cable crossover position. Stand between the frame and reach over and grab both of the handles. Bend your arms and bring your elbows up so that they are just higher than your shoulders. From here lower the cable so that your arms are extended but stop short of full lock out. Keep a bend in the arm to ensure that your biceps are worked under constant tension throughout the exercise. This is the start position. From here curl the handles towards the direction of your ears, squeezing all the way. Hold the position at the top and squeeze to get a good contraction. Slowly lower your hands back to a point just before full arm extension. Fully extending the arms relaxes the muscle reducing the tension placed on them. Also remember to keep your elbows in the above position to maintain the focus on the biceps muscles.
Smith Machine Close Grip Bench Press
This exercise can be executed while lying on a bench or with the incline raised to around 60 degrees, much further and the movement becomes a shoulder press. It can also be done with a freeweight barbell but the Smith Machine variety alows you to train alone and employ partial repetitions to extend the set and further exhaust the muscle. More concentration can be focused on the actual movement, and it is also safer because the weight can be racked at the most difficult final portion of a set, when perhaps you find it difficult to push the bar all the way up.
Position a bench underneath a Smith Machine so that when you bring the bar down it stops at your lower chest. Of course you can vary this position from workout to workout, but don't go too low or too high for example bringing the bar down to your neck. Lie on the bench and take a narrow grip on the bar, much narrower than you would for the bench press but no closer than about thumb width distance between each hand. Bring your elbows in towards your sides and try to keep them as close as possible. Doing so will focus the stress on the triceps more when you lift the bar and less on the chest and front deltoids. Relax your shoulders downwards. From this start position begin by taking the bar from the rack and pushing the hooks slightly forward in your palms so that they don't connect with the frame when you move the bar. Lower the bar to your chest remembering to keep your elbows tucked into your sides, your lower back on the bench, and your wrists in line with your forearms. Now push the bar upwards, pushing through your elbows until you reach just before elbow lock out. Pause and contract the triceps. Lower and repeat.
Kickbacks stress the lateral head or the thin part of the muscle that runs along the outside of the triceps. Choose a light dumbell as this is more of an isolation exercise and benefits more from using slightly higher repetitions. Stand at a bench, a chair or another kind of flat surface and bend over placing your left knee on the top, and put your left hand down also to create a stable frame. Your back should also be bent with the slight arch in your lower back. The same as you would for a One Arm Row exercise. Don't look up or down but keep your neck in line with your spine. Reach down and pick up the dumbell, bend your arm and position it against your side. Raise your elbow so that your arm is perpendicular with the floor. Keep it here and don't let it drop any lower as this would take some of the stress off the triceps. This is the starting position. Begin by extending the dumbell up and backwards, holding it with a palms facing inward grip, stopping just before locking out. Tense the muscle at the top and lower again to a position where your forearm is in a vertical position or just beyond. Do not bring the forearm any further on this exercise or any other form of triceps press down as it will put unwanted stress on the the elbow possibly leading to tendonitis.
Triceps Pressdowns also stress the triceps outside lateral head. This exercise can be performed with a variety of handles including a rope attachment. An underhand grip can also be used to work the muscle from a different angle.
Stand in front of a weight stack and attach the handle to the pulley at the top. Move in close, take the lock off your knees, and position your feet at about shoulder width apart. Keep your head up and your back straight. Reach up and grab the bar and pull it downwards to a height that means your forearms are horizontal with the floor. Tuck your elbows into your sides, not too far forward as this will shift the stress to the anterior deltoids or front shoulders. Space your hands towards the ends if you are gripping a short bar or to about shoulder width apart otherwise. Keep your wrists in line with your forearms throughout. Relax your shoulders. This is the start position. From here begin by pressing the bar straight down so that the cable moves up and downwards in a vertical action. Imagine a window blind moving. Don't let the cable travel in towards your torso as this would make the exercise easier by bringing other muscles such as the chest and shoulders into play. This exercise isn't specifically about using heavy weight, but about isolating the triceps and forcing them to do all of the work. As you press the bar down squeeze the backs of the upper arms to strongly contract the triceps, until you reach a point short of elbow lockout. Think of the exercise as pushing down on the bar rather than just moving your forearms up and down like a lever. Hold this position for a couple of seconds and return the bar to perpendicular with the floor, or just above and no further to avoid tendon injury.
You can take a slightly narrower grip on the bar and position your elbows out from your sides to work the triceps as a whole, possibley allowin you to use more weight, but this would take some of the focus from the outside lateral head.
Rope Triceps Pressdowns
Put a rope attachment into the cable holder as you would for a handle or bar. Grab the rope at either ends and pull down until your arms are nearly but not quite fully extended at the bottom. When you reach this point open up the gripping position by pulling the ends of the rope and your hands away from each other, and squeeze the triceps hard. This technique puts extra emphasis on the muscle and brings extra detail to the horseshoe shape of the three triceps heads.
Lying / Seated Overhead Triceps Extension
This exercise is an overall mass builder for the three main heads of the triceps rather than an isolation exercise for a particular head. It can be performed from a seated position which stresses the upper part of the muscle nearest the shoulder, or on an inclined or flat bench which works the part of the muscle nearest the elbow more.
Seated Overhead Extension
Using an overhand grip, with your hands slightly narrower than shoulder width, pick up a bar from the floor and stand up. Sit at a bench or chair with the back pad raised to a 90 degrees angle. Preferably, the height of the back pad needs to be short enough so that you can extend your arms and the bar behind you without it making contact. Shoulder press the bar upwards above your head. Keep your lower back against the pad and don't hyperextend your back. Look forward and keep your neck in line with your spine. Don't move your head up, down or sideways while executing the movement. The only parts of your body that moves during the press are your elbows and forearms. Now bend the elbows and lower the bar backwards keeping your wrists in line with your forearms, until you come to a point that your forearms are perpendicular with the floor. Be careful here not to hyperextend your elbows. You don't want to feel any pain in the elbows, just the stretch in the back of your arms. If you feel something in the elbows you have positioned them too far back. To mitigate this move your elbows forward to point where you feel that they are most comfortable. When you reach this point lock this position into place during the raising and lowering of the bar. Keep your elbows in to stress the outer lateral head more, and let them extend outwards to work all three triceps more equally. From here imagine pushing the bar in a straight line
One Arm Extension
Begin either by standing or from a seated position and holding a dumbell, arm extended above your head. Bend your elbow and lower your forearm behind your head to about parrallel with the floor. For the purpose of isloating the outer triceps or lateral head keep your elbows inward and pointing forward. To work the muscle more evenly let your elbow travel outward slightly. Now bring your alternate hand across and place the palm on the back of the working arm to give added support for the elbow joint. Look straight forward. From this position extend your arm upward in a pressing movement rather than just moving it up and down. As you do this turn your forearms so that your hand moves from a palm facing inward a forward facing position. This will allow you to contract the triceps more. Lower slowly back to the horizontal position and repeat.
Parallel Bar Triceps Dips
Stand on the plate of a parallel bar station. Put your hands on the bars and space them evenly apart. Lift yourself upwards but stop before you reach elbow lock out at the top. Bend your knees and bring your legs forward to take the pressure from your lower back. Keep your upper body upright and not leaning forward, this will focus the tension more on the triceps and less on the chest muscles. This is the start position. From here lower yourself straight down until your arms reach perpendicular. Don't lower too far though as you may hyper-extend your elbows and causing undue stress on the shoulder girdle - the shoulder joints, the clavicles and the trapezium. Let your elbows point slightly outward to work all three triceps muscle heads equally or bring them closer to your body, pointing straight back, to isolate the lateral or outside head more. Now from this lowered position push yourself upwards throught the elbows to stop at the top just before fully extending your arms. As you push yourself upwards you can lean slightly back to further emphasise the contraction at the top more. Lower and repeat.
Position yourself between two benches or chairs. Put your feet on top of the bench in front of you and your hands on the bench behind you with your elbows back, and with your palms turned and your fingers facing forward to grip the bench. Bend your arms and lower yourself down to the floor until your arms are perpendicular. Your back should brush the pad as you move downward. When you reach the down position relax your shoulders and look straight ahead. From here push yourself by leading with your elbows, keeping your back as close to the bench as possible until you reach the top. Don't fully extend your arms but stop just before this point. At this topmost position lean your upper body back to force a greater contraction in the triceps muscles.
Overhand Wrist Curls
Sit on the end of a bench or chair and pick up a dumbell or barbell with an overhand grip. Place your elbows on your knees and let your wrists hang over your kneecaps. Lower the weight until your wrist(s) are in a comfortable position and there is a stretch in your forearm muscles. Sit slightly leaning forward but with a small arch in your lower back. Assume a comfortable position for your back neither leaning too far forward or backward. This is the start position. By curling the wrist pull the hand upward and back to a position where you feel a full contraction in the upper forearm muscle. Hold this position and squeeze. Return the bar slowly downward until you feel the underside contract and the upper side relax. To minimise stress on the wrist joints more your hands narrow or wider across a bar or move your forearms to a more comfortable position on your knee if using a dumbell.
Reverse/Underhand Wrist Curl
This exercise targets the underside of the forearm and is executed with an underhand grip with the barbell or dumbell placed on your knee, on the end of a bench, or from behind the back. Sit on a bench or chair and place the bar or barbells on your knees or at the edge of the bench. Anchor your elbows on the flat surface and let your wrists drop down so that the forearm is in a comfortably stretched position. It is important not to stretch too far while in this position because doing so could put a great amount of unwanted stress on the tendon, and you could damage the nerves in the forearm muscles if too much weight is used for this exercise. Slowly and under control curl the bar upwards until you feel the contraction in the inner forearm. Go only as far as you feel comfortable, donవt too much stress on the tendons in the hands. Lower back down again slowly and repeat.
Behind the Back Reverse Forearm Curl
I prefer to do this exercise with the weight behind the back for two reasons. Firstly I think that this variation greatly reduced the stress on the ligaments, tendons and nervous system of the forearms, and secondly my experience is that the forearms are better isolated in executing the movement this way. I believe you can feel the muscles working more and so are able to achieve a better stretch and contraction. Begin by standing up and holding either a barbell or dumbells behind your back with an underhand, palms facing outwards grip. Bend your knees slightly and keep your back straight. Relax your shoulders and keep your head up looking forward. Keep a slight bend in your arms during the movement to reduce the stress on your elbows. From here curl your wrists upwards until you feel the muscle on the underneath of your forearm contract. Hold this position for a couple of seconds and then slowly return until your hand is in a straight line with your forearms.
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