1.Keep a log
According to fitness consultant and trainer Bryan Krahn, the two most underutilized bits of equipment in the gym are the humble pen and paper.
“Weight training is all about progression,” he says. “The goal should always be to beat what you did last workout.” Krahn adds that it’s easy to forget weights and reps from our previous sessions and that keeping track is invaluable when working toward a desired outcome. Typically dudes don’t think about Confucius when banging out skull crushers or shrugs, but you should; Krahn asks us to remember one of the great teacher’s 2,500-year-old aphorisms whenever we set foot in the gym: “The palest of ink is more valuable than the most vivid of memories.”
2. Farmers Walk
Peak Performance is an NYC gym with VIP clientele, and Dan Trink is its director of personal training. For Trink’s money, the Farmer’s walk – or any type of “loaded carry” – is something we should all be doing more often. “When we talk about functional fitness, exercises such as the squat, deadlift and power clean get thrown around often,” says Trink. “When it comes to a movement that truly mirrors common, real-life demands, loading your body with weight and walking with good posture is tough to beat.” The trainer says that every time you carry your suitcase through the airport, walk while holding your kids or drag your groceries home from the supermarket, you’re doing a form of a loaded carry. He adds that farmers walks also challenge grip strength, which can have positive implications on several other exercises in the gym (deadlift, pull up, snatch, etc.). “The best part? It’s incredibly simple. Carries have none of the technical demands needed to perform a clean or deadlift. And with all this benefit you still rarely see people performing them.”
Turkish Get Up (Photo: alkavadlo.com)
3. Turkish Get Up
Alex Koch, PhD, is the program coordinator for exercise science at Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina. He’s of the mind that the Turkish Get Up is an exercise that is completely underutilized by guys wanting to realize results in the gym. For an exercise that benefits the entire body, it’s fiendishly simple: You lie on your back, holding a kettlebell or dumbbell above one shoulder. Then you stand up, while keeping the weight above you at all times. “It is just so versatile,” says Koch. “It’s one of the best exercises for the core, helps strengthen and stabilize your shoulders, builds an awareness of body positioning, and it is one of the most functional movements one can do.”
4. Dumbbell lunge
David Pearson, PhD, the associate professor of exercise science at Ball State University, maintains the dumbbell lunge is an exercise that’s not given the credit it deserves. “The dumbbell lunge a makes a good variation for leg workouts,” says Pearson. “I like it because you also increase your flexibility in the sagittal plane while increasing strength in all major muscles of the lower body.” To perform a dumbbell lunge, grip two dumbbells and step one leg forward landing on your heel. Lower your body by flexing knee and hip of front leg until knee of rear leg is almost in contact with floor. Return to your original standing position by forcibly extending hip and knee of your forward leg. Make this a part of your routine, and make those chicken legs a thing of the past.
5. Dumbbell complexes
If the guys at Texas A&M could have pronounced their freshly defected colleague’s name, what we now know as the Romanian Deadlift would likely be called the “Jarovek Deadlift.” Istvan Javorek popularized the move when he came to the U.S., but he brought something else out from behind the Iron Curtain: “Javorek’s Dumbbell Complexes I and II.” Compressing a high volume of intense work by eliminating rest periods, these compound movements were devised by Javorek – who now plies his trade at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas – to combat monotony and save time while improving endurance, muscle tone, coordination and aesthetics.
Javorek has developed many combinations of dumbbell complexes, but it all began back in Cluj, Romania, with a mash-up of upright rows, high-pull snatches, squat push-presses and bent-over rows, all executed with impeccable form. The idea of getting a lot out of a shorter gym session is central to the wildly popular Cross-Fit movement, but you can get all the benefits by grabbing some dumbbells and getting a YouTube tutorial from the Transylvanian Terror himself.