I wrote this on throwback Thursday, and decided to travel back to a time long ago before people brought cell phones to the gym floor and when TVs did not dominate the gym experience.
This was also a time when everyone trained legs and people spent more money on food than on supplements. As they said in Goodfellas: "It was a glorious time." OK, I'll stop ranting now. I sound like my dad...
It was also a time when I could observe some interesting and unique exercises at the gym. Unfortunately, many of these movements went the way of the dodo bird. But unlike exercise fads, these forgotten exercises really had value, and could help any bodybuilding routine.
So in an attempt to reanimate these dead exercises, here they are in no particular order. 10 exercises you've never heard of but should be doing.
10 Forgotten Bodybuilding Exercises
1. Zercher squat. Zercher squats are named after Ed Zercher, a strongman from the 30s. They are actually one of my favorite ways of squatting because they allows taller athletes to get more hip flexion and glute activation without too much spinal pressure.
Stand in a wide squat stance and hold the bar in the crook of your arms. Squat down, leading with the hips. Press upward from the heels while keeping the chest up (if you do not do that you'll fall).
In a way Zercher squats are similar to the goblet squat, but they allow you to handle more weight. Personally, I wrap the bar in a towel, but then again I am wimpy.
2. Zercher deadlifts. Zercher deadlifts are similar to the Zercher squats. You hold the weight about shoulder width apart, and in the crook of you arms. I like to cross my hands in front of me, but that is not a must.
Then perform a mix of a good morning and deadlift while holding the bar close to the chest. Focus on your glutes traveling backwards while your upper body reaches parallel. You can even sell this lift as a "core" exercise!
3. Squat push press. The squat push press is rather self-explanatory. You basically set up for a front squat, but with a wider grip. Perform a quarter squat downwards and thrust the weight overhead.
Simply a great whole body exercise.
4. Jumping lunges. Jumping lunges can be done with your bodyweight alone. They make for a great finishing move for leg workouts.
Make sure your feet touch in midair, and try a soft landing with an immediate push off. (Easier said then done when you are 230+ pounds.)
5. Squat jumps for calves. Granted, my calves do grow easily, but I still train them. Nothing gets them as sore as a squat jump.
Here you basically take a light barbell and squat downward in a controlled manner. Explode on the way up, finishing on your toes while flexing the calves.
Often, I combine theses with heavy calf raises at the leg press for about 20 reps. Enjoy the limping afterwards!
6. Behind the neck pull down. Disclaimer: if you can't do a set of wall slides without your elbows/forearms coming off the wall, you do not have the flexibility to do behind the neck pull downs.
Behind the neck pull downs have been shunned since they can cause damage to the rotator cuff if the athlete lacks said flexibility. Once cleared, however, they are a great finishing exercise for any back workout.
Behind the neck lat pull downs allow for a good squeeze in the lats. They help develop the smaller muscles in the back such as the rhomboid, teres major and the posterior deltoid. This development helps to create more detail in the back.
7. One arm T-bar rows at different angles. Most gyms have banned the T-bar altogether, which is a rather sad development. You would often see people overestimating their own strength and thereby going too heavy. This would results in partial, jerky motions and no lat stimulation whatsoever.
One arm T-bar rows are a great way to get a deep stretch into the back, and you can position yourself at different angles toward the bar. If you stand with the body being aligned along the bar, you will stimulate more of the lower lat.
If you stand at a 90 degree angle toward the bar and keep your elbow out, you will be working more the smaller muscles of your back. You can also make this a fun mechanical drop set by switching to the stronger stance once you are fatigued.
8. Floor press. The floor press is a true measure of upper body strength. It shows who really has pressing power.
Set the bar at the lowest safety level at the power rack, and get under it. This should be about 15-18 inches above the floor. (If your gym doesn’t have a power rack, change gyms. Seriously, as it means that you train at Bally's or Planet Fitness.
Choose a wide grip and press the bar from a full stop position to full extension. You should treat each rep as a single, making sure you achieve a full stop at the bottom and the top.
9. Zottman curls. Zottman curls are a great exercise for people like me who struggle with long forearms and weak wrists. This condition results in puny arms, since the brachioradialis never gets stimulated.
You perform a regular curl during the concentric phase. Twist the hand at the top of the movement and lower the dumbbell into a 3-4 second negative reverse curl. This will allow you to overload the reverse curl part of the exercise without compromising form.
10. Drag curls. This does not refer to your choice of clothing, but to the actin of dragging the barbell along the body. You do this during a drag curl instead of having it out in front of your body.
This will make for a better contraction on the top. I usually go about 30% lighter than on my regular barbell curls.
There you have it, 10 ways to spice up your training.