6 Exercises You Aren’t Doing That You Probably Should

One of my favorite quotes states: “the most important books are the ones we haven’t read yet.” It’s an incredible little sentence that can also be translated to fitness:

The most important exercises are the ones we haven’t done yet.

Most trainees are familiar with the bench press, bicep curl, sit-up, push up, etc. Although plenty of those are beneficial, there are many others – which you may not have tried – that correct muscle imbalances, prevent injury, and build even more strength.

With that said, I’ve assembled two articles, each with six amazing exercises that you probably aren’t doing, and why you probably should.

Here are the first six:



Hip Thrusts

Hip Thrusts are one of the best ways to develop your glutes and hamstrings, muscles essential in optimal movement and strength. In fact, research supports their effectiveness (and therefore, awesomeness): the hip thrust leads to 119% glute activation, compared to a kneeling squat or conventional deadlift, which only garners 67% and 55% activation, respectively.

Why You Should Do It:

“From the mightiest pharaoh to the lowliest peasant, who doesn’t enjoy a good sit?”

-C. Montgomery Burns, The Simpsons

Chances are you sit a lot: at work, in your car, while you eat, while you watch television… hell, I’m sitting right now while writing this.

Unfortunately, too much sitting shortens your hip flexors – the muscles located at the front of your hip – which leads to weak glutes. Here’s the worst part: your glutes are some of your most important muscles. Ineffective glutes force other muscles in your body to compensate during kicking, sprinting, extending or flexing the hip, and many other movements, resulting in a higher possibility of injury in the back, groin, hip, hamstrings, and more.

Moreover, the glutes are critical in weight-training – consider the force they generate during squats and deadlifts; strengthening your glutes translates to more power and can also improve your technique in many lifts.


Cable External Rotations

Cable External Rotations develop the externally rotating muscles of your shoulders (obviously) – specifically, the infraspinatus and teres minor – which aids in realignment and reducing impingements.

Keep your upper-arm close to your sides and don’t compensate by raising your shoulder. You can also try a different angle:

Why You Should Do It:

We spend time an significant amount of time with our arms in front of us and internally rotated; for example, typing on your computer and driving. Then, to add insult to (potential) injury, we hammer out bench presses and dumbbell flies ’til the cows come home, further internally rotating our arms and pulling our shoulders forward.

That’s an injury waiting to happen.

We need to reverse the damage and build the muscles that support the opposing movements. Your shoulders will thank you.


Scapular Pushups

Scapular Pushups – also known as a Pushup Plus – boost the strength and stability of the serratus anterior muscle of the shoulder blades.

Why You Should Do It:

In the Building The Efficient Athlete DVD series, Mike Roberston and Eric Cressey explain that the serratus anterior muscle constitutes “the root of a lot of problems” and shuts down in 95% of people with shoulder issues. This dysfunction hinders the upward rotation of your arms causing impingement.

We don’t want that.

Scapular pushups help activate those muscles, restoring proper protraction and rotation of the scapula.

That we want.


Pullups

Interestingly, people rarely attempt pullups at my commercial gym – it’s unfortunate because, when performed correctly, pullups are a superb way to strengthen your upper-body.

Why You Should Do It:

Pullups create powerful lats, shoulders, traps, and forarms; is a great measure of upper-body strength; and can subsequently improve your performance in plenty of other exercises. In addition, they train your scapula to retract and depress correctly.

In addition:

“…lifters should be able to do pull-ups with as much weight (including bodyweight) as they can bench press, meaning that a 200-pound guy that bench presses 300 pounds should be able to do a pull-up with 100 pounds added. In my opinion, a 1:1 pull-up to bench press ratio should be the minimum. I’d much rather see the scale tipped towards pull-ups.”

– Ben Bruno quoting Mike Boyle, T-Nation.com

I would venture to guess that most people are far from this level.

And avoid Squirrel Pullups!!


Reverse Crunches

This movement focuses on your external obliques, the largest muscle in your anterior core, as well as your six-pack muscles.

Notice that his lower back pushes toward the ground at the beginning of every rep, the thighs don’t pass perpendicular to the floor, and the knees are tightly flexed.

Why You Should Do It:

Remember I said we sit too much? Often, that leads to lordosis, an exaggerated curve in your lower back because of those tight hip flexors. The Reverse Crunch helps to correct that because it begins with a posterior pelvic tilt – the opposite of lordosis – and strengthens your abs. Moreover, it doesn’t have the same problems as sit-ups: neck strain, back strain, and hunched shoulders.

In the video above, the person is holding a dumbbell. An aspect I really enjoy about this exercise is that it’s easy to increase its difficulty: for example, start with a 45lbs dumbbell and, as it gets easier, use increasingly lighter dumbbells until you’re doing it with your hands behind your head.


Inverted Rows

Also known as Horizontal Pullups and Fatman Pullups, the inverted row targets the musculature in your upper back.

Make sure you touch your chest on the bar after every rep. For something less intense, keep your feet flat on the floor with your knees bent. As you get stronger, you can try feet-elevated inverted rows:

Why You Should Do It:

Consider this: how many pushups can you do? Cool. Now, how many inverted rows can do? If those numbers aren’t close, your chest-to-back strength ratio may be out-of-whack.

“If you’re not rowing, you’re muscles aren’t growing.”

With all those chest exercises and time we spend with our arms in front of us, our chest muscles become overworked and tight, pulling our shoulder blades forward and weakening the upper back. Inverted rows help mitigate that problem by strengthening those inhibited muscles and realigning your shoulders. Plus, it’s a good substitute for trainees who lack the hamstring flexibility and hip mobility to perform Barbell Rows.



Okay. So maybe you do perform some of these terrific exercises. In that case, congrats because you are awesome and your body is benefiting immensely! Keep at it and give the other ones a try, too – I firmly believe they will enhance your workouts.

Stay tuned for the next part!

Let me know how these exercises work for you! Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter, or add me on Facebook.

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Comments

  1. says

    A Quick Note Regarding the Reverse Crunch:

    Not everyone will benefit from the Reverse Crunch due to the amount of spine flexion in requires. However, if you suffer from anterior pelvic tilt, you can certainly benefit from this exercise. An easy method to check for anterior pelvic rotation is to see where your the front of your belt points when you stand. If it points down, you’re looking at excessive lumbar extension.

    http://egoscueportland.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/anterior-pelvic-tilt.jpg

    Stay tuned for more exercises for your core!

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