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Muscle Growth, Resistance Training

Unconventional Weight Training Exercises that can Help you Pack on Muscle

By Joe Talarico on Feb 25, 2021 9:00:00 AM
6 Minutes Reading Time

We are creatures of habit. We don’t usually like mixing things up if we don’t have to. That couldn’t be more true than it is for lifting. How long have you done the same routine for? When’s the last time you tried a new exercise that wasn’t a bodybuilding typical exercise? Have you ever worked on your anti rotation before?

The Novelty of Unconventional Training

There is a lot of value in doing things different because of this. As I’m sure you’ve seen with your own exercises, as you get better at doing say a bench press, over a long enough timeline you’ll find the gains in strength slow down significantly. You’ll be lucky if you improve more than 5lbs a month.  

When you start a NEW exercise, especially one that creates a loud signal to the body, it allows for that almost newbie gain size room for growth. Because we haven’t likely done these unconventional exercises before, we have to start with really light weight, and groove the pattern again. It’s challenging our body in ways it’s never been challenged before. This new stimulus gives your body something strong to adapt to causing growth in areas that may have been lagging, or just haven’t grown in a while. It also creates a central nervous system adaptation which can recruit new muscle patterns which also cause more growth.

The Functionality

Lifting weights the traditional bodybuilding or powerlifting style is great. But how well does it ACTUALLY translate to the real world? Bicep curls don’t really teach us to not hurt our back when we’re moving furniture through hallways with corners. Everything in the gym is in the sagittal plane (forward and backward), but that isn’t everyday life. We move side to side, diagonal, and we’re always twisting and turning. A truly healthy physique should challenge all these planes. Incorporating unconventional methods will help you create strength that you will immediately notice being utilized outside of the gym and in your everyday life.

The Weak Link

One more benefit of this style of training is it will no doubt address your weak links. We do a lot of isolation movements, and not as much full body movements. Our body has to work as one. We need to be able to connect our legs to our hips to our upper body. A leg press isn’t exactly connecting you to full body movement. If we can allow the entire body to learn to communicate as one cohesive unit, we can increase the capacity to get stronger overall.  

Unconventional Exercises

Snatch Grip Deadlift - With this variation of the regular deadlift, most people feel more activation in their lats. You should also see a carryover when you get back to your regular deadlift. Take a similar stance as you would with the regular deadlift, except take a wider double overhand grip with the hands. Make sure to keep your back tight and flat, and drive through the heels. Click here for more tips!

Circus Press - The circus press is really good at getting you to connect with your whole body as one motion. It involves picking the dumbbell off the ground and getting it nice and overhead. You are challenging everything here from your core, to your hip extension, to your overhead pressing power.

Sandbag Carries - These carries will probably be one of the biggest shake up’s to your routine. They are unlike anything you normally do. They’ll test your grip strength, lung capacity, and mental capacity to now learn how to handle an uneven weight. You can do all types of carry variations with these from front load carry, side shoulder carry, and a farmer walk. You can also get more explosive with it and try step ups, or throw it over behind your shoulders. Click here for ways to try out these variations.

Zercher Squat - Most of us spend way too much time just doing a traditional back squat. That’s great as it is a staple compound movement. However, if your progress has plateaued I HIGHLY encourage you to try these. The stance and grip is totally different, recruiting way more of your posterior muscles and challenging the quads in a new way. I’ve had my regular squat numbers shoot up after having done these for a couple mesocycles. Click here for the guys explanation on how to do the zercher squat.

Turkish Get-Up - This exercise is great for creating very strong stability in your shoulders. It’s also another great exercise for getting the body to communicate at one. Don’t be fooled by how easy it may look. It is very difficult to do and you will most likely have to start with very light weight and focus on form. The idea isn’t to go all out. It is to master the form before anything else. You should feel your shoulders and core a lot on these. Click here to see Justin teach you how to properly perform the movement.

At the end of the day these unconventional moves make working out fun. If you want longevity in your lifting career you gotta mix it up from time to time. If you want to maximize your gains you should probably be throwing some of these movements in there to create that new stimulus. Try it for 4-6 weeks and go back to your main lifts and see your plateau’s break!

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Joe Talarico

Joe is a certified Precision Nutrition and strength & conditioning coach. He assisted the UCLA Women’s Tennis team in winning their 2014 NCAA Championship Title, as well as study under the great strength coaches at Pepperdine University. He was a collegiate rower at the University of Rhode Island (where he got his Kinesiology degree) as well as an amateur physique competitor. He is currently the master trainer at Upgrade Labs in Santa Monica where he is combining his years of training clients in the gym with newer technology to optimize their performance and recovery. He also cohosts The RelationSH*T Show Podcast with his fiancée where they discuss all relationship topics unfiltered from who pays on dates, to open relationships.

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