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When it comes to training, nothing is written in stone — even with a baseline of principles. Some equipment can have very different uses than what it was originally designed for. In fact, back machines can be used to work your legs, and leg machines can give you a great shoulder workout. Here are some ways to get creative with your training to change up your workouts for more fun and faster gains. Not every lifting technique will work for everyone. With that said, adding some creativity to a basic movment can benefit you in more ways than one.
The lat pulldown machine has an attachment that’s meant to secure your knees from moving when seated. Switch it up and kneel on the seat and secure your ankles under the pad. Set up a platform or surface on the ground in front of you, and perform eccentric glute hamstring raises. If you’re a real tough customer, ditch the platform and perform the concentric half under your own strength.
Using a flat bench or other hard surface for the Bulgarian split squat can be hard on the ankles and ligaments of the feet. It’s more comfortable to have support located toward the instep and ankle. Using a bar pad on the Smith machine creates a better environment to mount your foot on, and the fact that there’s some “slide” to the pad on the bar allows a lifter to hinge effectively at that joint. Another benefit of using the Smith machine is that you can adjust the height of the bar to find the elevation level that works for you, rather than be confined to the fixed height of any bench.
A neutral grip used when performing trap bar deadlifts would be a perfect choice and the fixed bar keeps it square in the hands, rather than on the slanted angle many dumbbells can create. As a bonus, your hands are further separated, involving more of your lats than normal.
If you’re a big guy, using a standard dip station can be confining and create stress in the shoulder and elbow joints. Adjusting the width and angle of the hand grips can help you avoid these problems. Using the squat cage and two bars creates the customized dip station you need. What’s more is that busy days at the gym (or gyms that are ill-equipped) will call for improvement. This is just the trick.
TIP: If you’re worried about the bars sliding on the metal pins while you’re performing your set, counter this by placing yoga mats under the bars. It works like a charm.
This sounds elementary but it’s one of the most under-used movements in the gym. Many people stick to straight bars or dumbbells when doing shrugs. The problem comes in the fact that dumbbells aren’t heavy enough (or stable enough) to promote results, and barbells keep your hands in internal rotation, so your traps don’t always get hit. Using a wide neutral grip on a trap bar is a safe way to carry more weight and elevate your shoulders.
The conventional isn’t always the be all and end all when it comes to advanced gains. Focusing on the prime movement patterns is of high importance, as always. But when it comes to next level training, sometimes it does a lifter good to think outside the box. Take advantage of these cool tricks to supplement your program and you’ll see a new spike in your gains.