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There are certain exercises we feel should be in every woman’s training repertoire. If you aren’t doing these 7, you should consider adding them into your routine.
Every gym has a lat pulldown station, and it’s no wonder: this compound movement works your upper and mid back, and it’s one of the most versatile machines on the gym floor. Try alternating a set of wide-grip pulldowns with a set of reverse narrow-grip pulldowns (translation: grab the bar with a shoulder-width grip, with your palms facing your body), or attempt your regular ol’ lat pulldowns while standing.
Incline Dumbbell Flye
The dumbbell flye is a great exercise for your chest, but if you only work your pecs on a flat bench, you may overdevelop the sternal (or lower) aspect of these muscles. Sitting on an incline bench and performing the exact same motion places the emphasis on your upper chest – which is what will peek out of any v-neck top you may be wearing this holiday season. To make sure your training is well-rounded, try doing incline flyes one week, then switch back to flat-bench flyes the next.
Captain’s Chair Leg Raise
Don’t listen to those who tell you that exercises that feature hip flexion – the action that occurs during the Captain’s chair leg raise as well as classic sit-ups – don’t help you build stunning abs. While it’s true that this isn’t the main action of your abdominals, when you use the Captain’s chair, your core must be engaged as you lift your legs, and the slight posterior tilt of the pelvis helps to hone in on your rectus abdominis (better known as your six-pack). If you can’t keep your legs straight, bend your knees as you lift them.
Ah, the pressdown: one of the most classic triceps exercises out there. Cable-machine exercises like this one are perfect for performing drop sets – working at a specific weight until failure, then immediately reducing the resistance and performing a few more reps, then dropping the weight again, and so on and so forth. Plus, with numerous attachment options, from the classic straight bar to the rope grip to the D-handle, you’ll never get bored of this tri-boosting movement.
45-Degree Leg Press
This leg press machine differs from the horizontal press (where you sit up straight as though in a chair) in the muscles that are targeted most: the press shown here hits your glutes harder than its upright cousin. But here’s the trick: if you want to target your quads more than your glutes and hams, place your feet closer together on the bottom of the plate. Alternately, place them high to really burn your butt!
Incline Dumbbell Curl
As we’ve already addressed with the incline dumbbell flye, changing up the angle of classic exercises can help you hone in on aspects of your muscles that you may be ignoring. With the incline dumbbell curl you can better focus on the peak of your bis (the long head) to help give it that strong, plump look that gym-loving men and women dream about.
Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press
The shoulder press can of course also be completed standing, or with a barbell, but taking a seat and grabbing dumbbells can provide a bit of an advantage. First, it provides you with a stable base so you may be able to isolate your deltoids better (as opposed to getting help from your lower body as you would with the standing version). In contrast, using dumbbells calls on additional stabilization muscles because the path of the weights isn’t straight up and down. And while some argue that you may be able to lift more while standing due to the fact that you have other muscle groups helping you out, we’ll take the democratic route and recommend alternating between both in your training program.