In July, I gave you 7 advanced exercise modifications. Two months later, I came back with another 7 exercise modifications for new growth. Well, today you hit the jackpot with 7 more exercise modifications. Line up those triple 7's and you've got a winning physique!
1. Neutral-Grip Chin-Ups
You know you're supposed to vary the grip with chin-ups to avoid stagnation, promote balanced strength and size development, and possibly avoid recurring injuries. The problem is that you only have a straight chin-up bar. Supinated, pronated, and even mixed-grip chin-ups are not an issue, but what about neutral-grip chin-ups? Here are 3 options:
a) Triangle Handle. There's a very simple solution to enable you to perform this exercise: drape a triangle handle over the bar, and you're good to go! Obviously, you'll need to shift your head over to one side as you go up so you don't hit the bar – just make sure to switch sides each rep to keep it even.
b) PVC Pipes. Go to the hardware store and buy a 2-inch PVC pipe. Cut two pieces about the width of your hands (around 3½ to 4 inches wide). Now, wrap those pieces with some hockey tape, and secure them onto your chin-up bar. I use an ankle strap threaded through each pipe for my setup, and the great thing about it is that you can position these handles as wide or narrow as you wish. Another option instead of using PVC pipes is to use Fat Gripz if you have them.
c) Wood Grips. The ones I use are called Metolius Portable Power Wood Grips. Unlike the options mentioned above, these grips allow some rotation of the arms and shoulders, and the asymmetrical design offers a different hold profile on each side. Plus they can be flipped over for two more unique holds. I'm telling you, they're great for developing grip strength in addition to all the big "show" muscles of the upper body and core.
2. Ring Dips
Consider the physique of a top-level gymnast, one who routinely performs dips from the parallel bars or rings, and you'll appreciate what dips can do for you. But when you go from rigid parallel bars that you find in most gyms to unrestricted gymnastic rings, look out! Your stabilizers are in for a shock. You won't be able to strap on a hundred pounds like you did before. Start with just your body weight, and try to make it look like you're not having an orgasm on these things! If you train on the rings for a while and then go back to parallel bars, you'll notice a strength increase… and along with the strength comes the size!
3. Tiger-Bend Push-Ups
Get in a push-up position with your shoulders directly above your hands. Now, lower the forearms and elbows down toward the floor. Your biceps should make full contact with your forearms at the bottom. It's not as easy as it sounds! Most people don't get it right the first time, so I get them to start from the bottom up with their forearms resting on the floor before they "push up." Then, they get it! To decrease the difficulty, pivot from the knees instead of the feet. To make the exercise more challenging, elevate the feet onto a step. If your wrists bother you with this exercise, try positioning your hands on the edge of a step and see if that helps.
4. Inverted Sit-Ups and Squats
Okay, so far your Christmas list includes wood grips and gymnastic rings. Here's one more gift to ask for from Santa that also attaches to a straight chin-up bar: inversion boots. Doing sit-ups on the floor or on a slant board is not a problem for most experienced lifters, but try doing them hanging upside down. You may be humbled!
Another cool exercise with these gravity boots involves inverted squats. Instead of just bending at the hips as you would with sit-ups, try bending at the hips and knees. You can assist yourself if necessary by pulling on yoga straps suspended from the chin-up bar on either side of you, or simply by pulling on your thighs. Make sure to lower yourself down to the start position under control without any assistance. Sequence this movement between sets of squats or deadlifts for best effect.
5. High- and Low-Platform Wrist Curls
To take wrist curls a step further so to speak, try doing them seated on a platform. An adjustable step unit such as the Atlantis Leg Platform is great for this. Adjusting the height of the platform can influence the overload: a high-platform position where the hips are higher than the knees will overload the contracted position, and a low-platform position where the hips are lower than the knees will overload the stretched position. No matter if you're short or tall, you can find the height that's right for you!
6. Cable and Leg Curl Tibialis Raise
Everyone does work for the back part of the lower leg, but hardly anyone does work for the front part. The tibialis anterior, the major shin muscle, is quite often neglected and it's unfortunate because a significant discrepancy between this muscle and your calves can limit growth. Several loading options exist for the tibialis raise. Some people have access to a dynamic axial rotation device (DARD), but most people use a resistance band. Well, two other options involve a cable and prone leg curl machine.
7. Half Foam Roller Calf Raise
Here's a tip that may get those stubborn calves to start growing again. Consider it more of a machine modification than an exercise modification. Performing calf raises on a rounded platform will increase the range of motion and give you a greater stretch at the bottom and a greater contraction at the top, and ultimately is more comfortable. You could spend a few bucks and pick up a neat calf block platform made by Body Solid, or you can try this rather inexpensive method. It involves a firm half foam roller and a yoga mat. Wrap the foam roller with a yoga mat to prevent slipping, and then place it on just about any calf machine with a flat platform. That's all there is to it. Reduce the weight a bit and do them in bare feet. You'll love the feeling!
Bonus Tip: Cable Crossovers with a Twist
The pectoralis major muscle functions not only to flex and adduct the humerus, but also to rotate the humerus medially like during an arm wrestle. In fact, this muscle really comes into play during resisted internal rotation as Dr. John Basmajian noted in his classic text Muscles Alive. Try this cable crossover variation for a serious pec contraction. Instead of D-handles, use two independent rope attachments on a cable crossover unit. Grab on to them with a supinated (palms facing forward) grip, and then basically rotate your arms from a thumbs-up to a thumbs-down position as you bring your hands together. Don't go too heavy!
About The Author
John Paul Catanzaro is a CSEP Certified Exercise Physiologist with a Specialized Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology and Health Science. He owns and operates a private facility in Richmond Hill, Ontario providing training and nutritional consulting services. John Paul has authored two books, The Elite Trainer (2011) and Mass Explosion (2013), and has released two DVDs, Stretching for Strengthening (2003) and Warm-Up to Strength Training (2005), which have sold copies worldwide, been featured in several magazines, and have been endorsed by many leading experts. In 2013, John Paul released two new webinars, Strength Training Parameters and Program Design and Body Composition Strategies, providing the latest cutting-edge information to fitness professionals. For additional information, visit www.CatanzaroGroup.com