While the rest of the world dreams of climbing out of such various self-inflicted ruts, smart bodybuilders take a contradictory view. For those seeking to add bulk, ruts are actually invaluable — eating at the same six times daily, going to the gym religiously, tackling each bodypart like clockwork after a consistent number of days, and popping supplements at the most opportune windows, all combine to lead to almost guaranteed success.
But there's at least one part of the bodybuilding equation where you don't want to fall into an unwavering pattern: Exercise selection. That's because the human body is incredibly adaptive, and will adjust to any workout you put it through given enough time. Even the most hardcore training session you can imagine will stop providing results if performed for too long, workout after workout, week after week.
Change doesn't have to be drastic, however. Something as simple as a flip of your grip or an angle alteration can put a whole new spin on an exercise. If you prefer to simply reinvigorate rather than reinvent your favorite workouts, these five fast and easy changes can help accomplish that worthy goal faster than you can say "moo goo gai pan."
No. 1: Alter Your Grip Width
This trick is really simple, yet most lifters never think of it. Take the standing barbell curl, for instance - if you've done it regularly, how many times have you moved your grip inside or outside shoulder width? Never? It's time to start. In fact, even a random change of an inch or two each workout could pay dividends, as it'll keep your biceps from getting strong at one specific angle while nearby muscle fibers are left untapped.
No. 2: Turn Your Palms
Supinating your palms means they face upward. Pronating your palms mean they face downward. A neutral grip means your palms face each other. And in a mixed grip, one palm faces one way while the other faces the opposite direction. In the "standard" way to do particular exercises, the palm position is assumed: You say "bent-over barbell row" or "bench press" and you picture your hands pronated, while the aforementioned barbell curl brings to mind a supinated grip. But it doesn't have to be this way. While not all grips are good for all circumstances (a mixed grip, for instance, won't fly for a barbell curl), there are options, and you should use them. Go underhand every once in a while on your rows and presses, which slightly changes the muscle recruitment patterns of the exercise, and turn an overhand or underhand exercise into a neutral-grip variety when possible, such as on pulldowns or dumbbell front raises.
No. 3: Trade Two For One, or Vice-Versa
Most bilateral (two-limbed) exercises have a unilateral variation, some more obvious than others. Seated barbell presses can be done with dumbbells one side at a time, the bar on a lying French press can be switched out for one dumbbell, and a leg press can be performed with just one foot on the platform, to name but three. It's important to include unilateral exercises in your routine for balanced overall development, as otherwise - much like LeBron James and his Cavalier teammates - a stronger limb can overcompensate for a weaker one. Be sure to include unilateral options in your workouts every time out.
No. 4: Make a New Selection
If you do an exercise with a barbell, chances are it can be done with an EZ-bar or dumbbells too. If you're doing a free-weight exercise, chances are there's a machine variation. And when you're working on a machine, especially one that involves cable attachments, chances are there are many different handles - from long bars to ropes to everything in between - to choose from. Make use of all of the equipment you have at your disposal, because it can make a difference. Take the cable pushdown, for instance: An overhand grip on a short straight bar targets the lateral head, while a reverse grip on a D-handle attachment takes stronger aim at the medial triceps head; turning your back to the stack and repping overhead with a straight bar hits the meaty long head. Just like that, you've transformed a traditional movement to get new results.
No. 5: Adjust the Angle
A decline-bench press focuses the effort on the lower pectorals. A flat-bench press pounds the middle pecs. An incline press works the upper pecs. And an upright seated press hits the anterior and middle delts. Same adjustable bench, same barbell, but those angle adjustments lead to a rather definite difference in muscle stimulation. You can carry that over to other exercises for other muscle groups as well. For biceps preacher curls, you can work off the flat side of the bench rather than the angled side. For lateral raises, you can lie with your chest against the pad of an incline bench instead of standing upright. Next time you're facing down an exercise in your arsenal that needs a tweak, think, "What new angle I can try?"
SAMPLE BACK ROUTINE
This straightforward muscle-building back routine includes some variations of common exercises.
|Bent-Over Barbell Row
||15, 10, 10, 8, 8||Reverse grip, wide grip|
||12, 10, 8, 8
||Reverse grip, neutral grip
||10, 10, 10, 10
||Wide grip, close grip, reverse grip
|One-Arm Dumbbell Row
||10, 8, 6
||Standing two-arm row
|Seated Cable Row
||12, 10, 8
||Short bar, long bar or rope attachment
SAMPLE BICEPS ROUTINE
While training bi's revolves exclusively around curling, there are many different variations involving a curl to choose from.
||15, 12, 10, 8||arbell, EZ-bar, wide or closer grip|
||4||12, 10, 10, 8||Barbell, EZ-bar, dumbbell, cable|
|Alternating Dumbbell Curl
||10, 10, 8||Palms up, palms down, palms neutral|
||10, 10, 8||Dumbbell, cable, standing or seated|
See these Top Selling Bodybuilding Supplements: