The front squat is a great choice for your squat pattern if you are thinking about implementing weightlifting into your program or have athletic performance as your primary goal. It places greater demand on the trunk as the load is stacked directly on top of you rather than behind forcing the abs and quads to work a little harder than a standard back squat. It’s important to make sure you have the required mobility through the shoulder joint in order to effectively support the weight in the front rack without putting strain on any of the smaller joints.
The modified candlestick is an advanced core variation similar to exercises like the plank. It trains your core as it functions to brace and maintain a solid and stable spine. As you lower yourself under control towards the bench, you drastically increase the demand to stay tight making the exercise exponentially more difficult. This variation focuses on holding that isometric contraction as you change your body angle. This one is really tough and often performing 2-5 really controlled reps is enough to give you a good hit for the core.
The Incline Bench Dumbbell Row is a great alternative to seated or chest support row machines if you gym is lacking or you are struggling to get on the kit. With the chest supported on the bench, you are generally able to work the pulling muscles of the upper back and arms more effectively than when you use other bent over, less supported variations. Key muscle groups here are the lats, rhomboids, biceps and other musculature around the shoulder blade and upper back. It is a fairly simple exercise and may be a good way to get upper body pulling down for those who are struggling with positioning and body alignment as they are new to the gym.
The Dumbbell Bench Press is a great upper body pushing exercise. It is normally allows for a greater ROM than a standard barbell flat bench press and is a good way to get extra volume through the pecs, shoulders and triceps. If you are trying to improve your press-ups or dips then this movement will help! When bench isn’t necessarily a priority movement, I prefer to utilise the DB Bench Press as it is easier to set up, works your arms independently and through a greater ROM and can more easily be super-setted with other exercises to increase training density.
The seated box jump is a variation of regular box jump with some subtle differences and unique benefits. Normally we are able to generate less power from a dead stop and so you should expect to jump higher during a regular box jump than from seated. It is quite safe for most who are able to box jump. Here are a few reasons why you might opt for it. The seated box jump closely replicates the start position for a snatch and for a clean. It is also useful for developing ‘Starting Strength and Power’ as it takes away the stretch reflex beforehand to store energy. This is useful for generating force from a dead stop such as when accelerating during any team sport or weightlifting.
The Incline Dumbbell Press is a great upper body pushing exercise. It is like a hybrid of a seated upright overhead press and a flat bench press and allows you to work the shoulders, chest and triceps all at the same time. Generally I don’t program this movement as a staple but it is useful when you have hit all of the other bases and want to get some extra work or variation within your routine. It can also be used as an alternative to overhead lifting to re-train the shoulder when coming back from injury.
The Face Pull is highly regarded as a magic pill or medicine for the shoulders. While this isn’t exactly true, it is a great exercise to help develop a strong upper back, balanced shoulders and keep those shoulder blade muscles moving well. Most gym programs are overloaded with pushing exercises so the Face Pull is a good exercise to integrate into everyone’s program to help balance out the demands of the shoulder. It is a very simple movement to do and will help you develop good control of the scapula which is the foundation for any movement through the shoulder.
The standing dumbbell press is a fairly simple exercise but unless you have good stability in your core and range overhead then it is an easy one to do wrong. Make sure you are able to keep a strong and neutral spine while lifting overhead, avoiding any leaning back or compensations for poor overhead mobility. If you are able to keep your core stable throughout then the standing dumbbell overhead press is great addition to your routine for overhead strength and to building muscle in the shoulders and triceps.
The Bent over rear fly is a simple movement and will help develop a strong upper back, balanced shoulders and keep those shoulder blade muscles moving well. It is a very simple movement to do and will help you develop good control of the scapula which is the foundation for any movement through the shoulder. If you struggle to keep position then use an incline bench to lie on until you become comfortable.
The Dumbbell press from the low split position is a progression of the half kneeling dumbbell press. You have 1 less point of contact as the back knee is now just off the ground making it harder to stabilise. Once you are comfortable with the half kneeling variation, you are ready to take on the low split to make it harder. It will force you to work harder to stabilise and keep tension through the core. It is also very useful as a foundational exercise for working on the split jerk and improving stability in the catch. Like the Half Kneeling DB Press, the DB press from Low Split is great for setting you up to do the overhead press well. It will highlight any compensation in the lower back to make up for poor overhead range.
Allan Young is a Personal Trainer and coach educator in Glasgow who operates Strength Coach Glasgow and is a 4x Scottish Champion Olympic Weightlifter.