The Best New Exercises for Every Part of a Man’s BodyBy: Adam Campbell, M.S., C.S.C.S.
There’s a popular saying among fitness experts: “The best exercise is the one you’re not doing.” The take-home message? You need to consistently challenge your body in new ways in order to achieve the best results. So while classic movements like the pushup, row, and squat are the staples of any good workout plan, varying the way you perform these exercises every 4 weeks can help you avoid plateaus, beat boredom, and even speed fat loss.
And that’s why I wrote The Men’s Health Big Book of Exercises. From start to finish, this muscle manual bulges with full-color photos of more than 600 exercises, along with scores of useful tips, the latest findings in exercise science, and cutting-edge workouts from the world’s top trainers. All to give you thousands of ways to upgrade your old workout—and add new muscle, strip away fat, and sculpt the body you’ve always wanted. The really good news: You can start today, with this list of the best new exercises for every part of a man’s body.
Pushup PlusThe benefit: Besides working your chest as effectively as any exercise, the “plus” part of this movement hits your serratus anterior—a small but important muscle that helps move your shoulder blades. Strengthen your serratus, and you’ll improve your posture and reduce your risk of shoulder injuries—as you build your chest.
How to do it: Assume a pushup position with your arms straight and your hands placed slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Your body should form a straight line from your ankles to your head. Lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor. Pause, and then push back up. As you straighten your arms, push your upper back toward the ceiling. This extra movement is very slight; you’ll rise up only another couple of inches. Pause for a one count, then repeat. For another great pushup variation, check out this great exercise for working your chest.
Barbell Push PressThe benefit: This exercise engages the quadriceps muscles of your thighs to help you generate more force. The upshot: You’ll be able to use heavier weights, while activating a greater number of total muscles.
How to do it: Grab a barbell with an overhand grip that’s just beyond shoulder-width, and hold it at shoulder level in front of your body. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart [A]. Now dip your knees [B], and then in one movement, straighten your legs as you explosively press the barbell over your head until your arms are straight. Lower and repeat.
Want more ways to broaden your torso? Click here to see the secret shoulder shaper you should start doing today.
Incline EZ-Bar Lying Triceps ExtensionThe benefit: Lying on an incline bench as you do this move allows you to hit your triceps from a slightly different angle than the classic version of the exercise. So it stresses your muscles in a new way, which can spark new growth.
How to do it: Grab an EZ-curl bar with an overhand grip, your hands a little less than shoulder-width apart. Then lie on your back on an incline bench that’s set to a 30-degree angle. Hold the bar above your forehead, keeping your arms straight. Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows to lower the bar until your forearms are just past parallel to the floor. Pause, then lift the weight back to the starting position by straightening your arms.
Don’t forget: The leaner your arms, the more defined your triceps. Your secret weapon? The new fat-fighting cookbook, Cook This, Not That!
Incline Offset-Thumb Dumbbell CurlThe benefit: Lying on an incline causes your arms to hang behind your body, which emphasizes the long head of your biceps brachii to a greater degree than a standard curl. What’s more, using an “offset-thumb” grip also hits your biceps brachii harder. That’s because the muscle has to work overtime to keep your palms facing up as you curl the weight.
How to do it: Grab a pair of dumbbells so that your thumbs are touching the outside head of each dumbbell. Then lie on your back on a bench set to a 45-degree angle, and let the dumbbells hang straight down from your shoulders. Turn your arms so that your palms face forward. Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and curl the dumbbells as close to your shoulders as you can. Pause, then lower the weights.
Bonus biceps-builder: The Telle Curl.
Bar HoldThe benefit: Improves your grip strength for exercises like chinups and deadlifts. This helps make sure your forearms don’t give out too early, so you won’t shortchange the rest of your working muscles.
How to do it: Set a barbell on a rack at the level of your waist, and load the bar with a heavy weight. Grab the bar with an overhand grip that’s beyond shoulder-width apart. Dip your knees, lift the bar off the rack, and hold it for the appropriate amount of time for your goal. For maximum grip strength, choose the heaviest weight you can hold for about 20 seconds. To build more muscle, choose the heaviest that you can hold for about 60 seconds.
Plus, you can use a similar method to add inches to your arms.
Cable Face Pull with External RotationThe benefit: Works your upper back’s scapular muscles and the rotator cuff muscles of your shoulders. Collectively, these muscles, which tend to be weak in most guys, are the key to stable, healthy shoulders and a strong upper body.
How to do it: Attach a rope to the high pulley of a cable station (or a lat pulldown station) and grab an end with each hand. Back a few steps away from the weight stack until your arms are straight in front of you. In one movement, pull the middle of the rope toward your eyes as you flare your elbows out, bend your arms, and squeeze your shoulder blades together. (Your hands should end up in line with your ears.) Pause, then reverse the movement back to the start.
No weights? You can still build your upper back, with a body-weight exercise called the Floor Y Raise.Mixed Grip ChinupThe benefit: To prevent your torso from rotating as you perform this exercise, your back, shoulder, and core muscles have to work harder than in a conventional chinup or pullup.
How to do it: Grasp a chinup bar with your hands shoulder-width apart on a chinup bar. Use an underhand-grip with one hand, and an overhand-grip with the other. Hang at arm’s length, and cross your ankles behind you. Now pull your chest to the bar by bending your elbows and squeezing your shoulder blades down and back. Once the top of your chest touches the bar, pause, then slowly lower your body back to the start.
Can’t perform even one rep? Use this little-known training trick to start doing chinups instantly.
Single-Leg Side PlankThe benefit: The side plank is one of the best exercises for improving the endurance of your lower back. And that’s key, since researchers in Finland found that people with poor muscular endurance in their lower backs are 3.4 times more likely to develop lower-back problems than those who have good endurance. This single-leg version of a side plank provides an even greater challenge because it activates your glutes as well.
How to do it: Lie on your left side with your knees straight. Prop your upper body on your left elbow and forearm, and place your right hand on your right hip. Tighten your core, and then raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders. Next raise your top leg as high as you can. Hold the position for 30 seconds.
Another great exercise for your lower back: The McGill Curlup.
Lateral RollThe benefit: This is one of the most challenging exercises for your entire core—from your shoulders to your hips. If you think your abs are strong, test them on this exercise to find out if they’re really strong.
How to do it: Lie on your back on a Swiss ball so that your upper back is firmly on the ball. Raise your hips so that your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Hold your arms straight out from your sides. (It helps to hold a pole or broomstick across your body.) Without allowing your hips or arms to sag, roll across the ball to the left as far as you can. Reverse directions and roll as far as you can to the right. Continue back and forth for 30 seconds.
For a complete cutting-edge core routine check out the Best Abs Workout You’ve Never Done.Single-Leg SquatThe benefit: Allows you to train your lower body without weights. And in fact, it’s one of the best exercises you can do. Master this movement and you’ll improve your strength, speed, and balance.
How to do it: Stand on a bench or box that’s about knee height. Hold your arms straight out in front of you and flex your right ankle so that your toes are higher than your heel. Balancing on your left foot, bend your left knee and slowly lower your body until your right heel lightly touches the floor. Pause, then push yourself up. If that’s too hard, note where you start to “collapse” (you can’t control how fast you descend), and pause just above that point for 2 seconds. Then push yourself back up and repeat.
Click here for even more tips on how to master the single-leg squat.
Single-Leg Barbell Straight-Leg DeadliftThe benefit: Besides targeting your hamstrings, this exercise works your glutes and core. It also helps eliminate muscle imbalances between your legs, reducing your risk of injury. And as a bonus, it can improve the flexibility of your hamstrings, since it stretches these muscles every time you lower the weight.
How to do it: Grab a barbell with an overhand grip that’s just beyond shoulder width, and hold it at arm’s length in front of your hips. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Now raise one leg off the floor. Without changing the bend in your knee, bend at your hips (keep your back naturally arched), and lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor. Pause, then squeeze your glutes, thrust your hips forward, and raise your torso back to the start.
Bonus tip: Follow Men’s Health editors Dave Zinczenko and Adam Campbell on Twitter.
Cable Pull ThroughThe benefit: This exercise targets your glutes, which are not only your body’s largest and most powerful muscle group, but typically the most ignored. However, training these muscles will make you stronger in nearly every lower-body exercise, help you jump higher, and reduce your risk of knee, hip, and lower-back injuries.
How to do it: Attach a rope handle to the low pulley of a cable machine. Grab an end of the rope in each hand and stand with your back to the weight stack. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and your knees slightly bent. Without changing the bend in your knees, bend at your hips (don’t round your back), and lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor. Pause, then thrust your hips forward and raise your torso back to the start.
Another glute exercise you must do: The hip raise.