As you get further and further into your lifting career, the issue no longer becomes the commitment. It becomes stale. That is, keeping your workouts engaging enough to allow you to sustain it for the long run. If you are reading this and you are an advanced lifter, chances are you’ve done more squats, flat bench, and overhead presses than you ever thought you’d do. Maybe, you are super bored, but aren’t sure what to replace it with, or are afraid you’ll replace it with something less effective.
Today I’d like to go over some other options you can add to your arsenal to keep your workouts interesting, and help stimulate those last bit of gains for those that may feel at a standstill.
The idea when you switch a movement out, is to keep the overall movement similar. So switching out a back squat for a leg extension, wouldn’t necessarily make sense. Switching it out for a front squat on the other hand, still keeps the overall movement pattern the same and allows you to load the weight relatively similarly.
If you’ve been doing a lot of back squats here are some other options you may want to play around with.
Bilateral Movements - Front Squat, Hack Squat, Zercher Squat, Sissy Squat, Leg Press
Unilateral Movements - Bulgarian Lunge, Step Up, Side Lunge, Pistol Squat
Alternate Accessory Isolation Movements - Leg Extension, Single Leg Presses
Bilateral Movements - Sumo Deadlift, Snatch Grip Deadlift, Trap Bar Deadlift, KB Deadlift, Deadlifts at a deficit, RDL, Hip Thrusters
Unilateral Movements - Single Leg RDL, Single Leg Deadlift
Alternate Accessory Isolation Movements - Glute Ham Raise, Leg Curls
Bilateral Movements - Low Incline Bench, High Incline Bench, Guillotine Press, Wide Grip Bench
Unilateral Movements - Alternating Single Arm Bench (Dumbbell or Kettlebell)
Alternate Accessory Isolation Movements - Cable Flyes, Dips, Chest Machines
Bilateral Movements - Military Press, Push Press, Circus Press, Z Press, Seated Dumbbell Press
Unilateral Movements - Single Arm Lateral Raise (leaning away from rack)
Alternate Accessory Isolation Movements - Lateral Raises, Rear Flyes, Single Arm Rear Flyes, Reverse Pec Deck, Upright Row
Bilateral Movements - Pendlay Row, Chest Supported Row, T-Bar Row, Pull-Up, Chin-Up, Close Grip Pull Up
Unilateral Movements - One Arm Row, One Arm Pulldown
Alternate Accessory Isolation Movements - Straight Arm Pulldown, Seated Cable Row
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but hopefully gave you a fresh list of exercises you may not have tried before on a given muscle. The beauty of incorporating these new exercises is giving your body a new stimulus that should allow for gains, and increase stabilization in muscles you may not have used as much before, giving you a whole new runway of “newbie” gains to tap into. Give an exercise at least one mesocycle (4 week block) before switching it out again. Exercises take time for your central nervous system to practice and adapt to. You can always switch back to the basics later on, and see how well the strength transferred over.
One last thing to remember. Growing muscle is more about progressive overload over the long haul. It’s not about always switching things up and “confusing” the muscle. While there are some gains to be earned from switching it up, the real key is consistency on pushing heavier weights with good form and taking it close to failure. There’s a reason that after 15-20 years, you’ll see older bodybuilders still coming back to the basic compound lifts. It’s because they’re effective.
The further you get into your lifting career, the slower and slower the gains come. They say you’ll gain your first 20-30lbs of muscle (80-90% of your muscular potential) within the first 3 years. You’ll spend the rest of your lifting career accessing that last 10-20% of your genetic potential.