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Part of successful training is picking the right exercises.

Most people – regardless of goals – should be basing training around how the body moves. That means some form of squat, some form of deadlift, a bench variation and a row/pull exercise. If you could only ever do four exercises, hitting deads, squats, bench and chins three times a week would get pretty stonking results over time.

Some lesser-known variations give one hell of a boost though – to new and experienced lifters.

Here’s 4 you might not know about:

Bulgarian Split Squats

Sometimes called “rear foot elevated squats”, Bulgarians are an unpleasant but highly effective tool. Not only do you need minimal equipment (a bench, or even a kitchen chair will do), but they are pretty demanding with just your bodyweight.

These squats tick SO many boxes – they’re unilateral, so help iron out strength imbalances. They are heavily glute focussed – something most people need more of. They have a degree of instability built in, which means smaller muscles that don’t get recruited in two-legged squats get hit hard. Smaller muscles have a major contribution to keeping hips, knees and ankles injury-free. If you play sports, you NEED to be split squatting.

Face Pulls

Shoulders are a victim of modern society. From driving, to desk work, to watching TV, your poor shoulder are pulled forward, shortening the muscles around your chest, and overly taxing your traps. This leads to poor posture, pain, tension headaches…and eventually actual injuries.

If only there was a simple, lightweight exercise you could employ at the end of every training session to combat all that?

Welcome to face pulls – a non-taxing, straightforward cable exercise that will help build your rear delts, improve your posture and start protecting your shoulders from injury.

Hip Thrusts

Once the preserve of Jane Fonda-esque workout DVDs, hip thrusts and glute bridges have made it into mainstream strength training circles over recent years.

An exercise that allows you to use a considerable load, works your posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, mid back) HARD, yet doesn’t require any spinal compression or real skill? That’s a winner – especially for anyone following a strength programme that seems to hammer their lower back on a routine basis.

Single Arm Farmer’s Walks

Almost any single limb variation is great for general performance and “life”. How about one that will test your lung-power, grip strength AND build a decent abdominal base? Single arm carries (heavy dumbbell held by your side in one hand), or single arm overhead carries for the more adventurous, are a great way of training your abs without having to do endless boring crunches or planks. More results in less time. Winner.

Not got any of these in your current training? Avoid them because they’re hard? Need help on form/technique? Get in touch!

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