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Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your workout routine is, surprisingly, be less… routine. Hear us out: Variety is the spice of life, but also the key to keeping your muscles guessing when it comes to your workout regimen. Not only is it boring to do the same movements over and over, it’s also more likely to get you stuck on a fitness plateau.
If your workouts are getting a little stale, challenge yourself by switching to these variations of common go-to exercises. Jaclyn Cordiero has two variations for each of the following four staple movements.
If you like Lateral Raises, try….
Kneeling Lateral Raise
If you’re prone to swinging on your sets, you might consider performing lateral raises from a kneeling position. Not only will the kneeling lateral raise help prevent any unwanted “body English,” but it also gives strong tactile feedback — you’ll notice quickly if you’re trying to force the weights up with motion from the hips.
Leaning Lateral Raise
Performing lateral raises while leaning increases the distance that your arm needs to travel, and a longer range of motion means more muscle building tension. By tilting the torso towards the side of the working arm, the movement becomes more difficult at the top of the range of motion due to the adjustment in leverage. Leaning lateral raises should be done slowly and controlled to maximize your time under tension.
If you like Deadlifts, try…
Using an extra-wide stance switches the primary muscles used. The lower back doesn’t work as hard, and the hips, hamstrings and quads pick up the slack. It’s a great way to improve mobility — a benefit not often associated with heavy lifts.
You won’t build max strength or get huge just by using dumbbells. But the dumbbell deadlift is a great variation for learning the exercise. You can also perform it for high reps during conditioning circuits or finishers to build endurance in the muscles on the backside of your body.
If you like Triceps Pushdowns, try…
Single-Arm Cable Pushdown
The single-arm cable pushdown is a unilateral variation of the straight-bar pushdown. As physique or strength develops, breaking isolation exercises up into unilateral variations can increase the exercise’s challenge and benefits. And by working just one side of your body at a time, you’re also doubling your overall rep count for more work. This may not seem like a significant deal, but those extra reps add up workout to workout and can result in a fair number of extra calories burned.
Using a straight bar for this variation allows you to potentially push a lot more weight than rope varieties of this lift. The range of motion stays consistent throughout the move, since the bar never shifts (unlike a rope). While there are advantages to using ropes, this variation lets you go heavy for increased hypertrophy. You can also easily switch your grip for more variation and forearm engagement.
If you like Lateral Pulldowns, try…
Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown
The classic pulldown with a wide overhand grip will emphasize your upper lats. As a result, this move will aid in building that elusive V-taper. Grasp a pulldown bar outside of shoulder width with an overhand grip. Sit on the seat with your knees secured beneath the pads and begin with your arms extended overhead and your torso erect. Leading with your elbows, pull the bar down by contracting your back muscles until it touches your upper chest, then slowly return the bar to the start position.
Wide-Grip Unilateral Lat Pulldown
The unilateral lat pulldown allows you to really focus on the back one side at a time. Grasp a pulldown bar outside of shoulder width with an overhand grip. Sit on the seat with your knees secured beneath the pads and begin with your arms extended overhead and your torso erect. Leading with your elbows, pull one side of the bar down by contracting your back muscles until it touches your upper chest, then slowly return the bar to the start position. Then proceed to pull down using the opposite side.
Pro tip: Do not fully extend your arm at the top of the movement. Instead, squeeze and hold the contracted, bottom position.