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The 5 Most Underrated Exercises You’re Not Doing (And Why You Should)

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The 5 Most Underrated Exercises You’re Not Doing (And Why You Should)

Undervalued, underutilized, and often under-appreciated.

Ladies and gentlemen, in my best Rodney Dangerfield voice, “some exercises get no respect.”

What gives? Why do we pay more attention to certain exercises over others?

There’s no denying that exercises like squats, deadlifts, and bench press will set you up for success in and outside the gym. Include these lifts or variations of them in your training programs.

On the flip side, exercises reminiscent of a scene the first time you went to the circus flash through social media like a bright shiny object and pull you in.

Forget the bright shiny objects and circus acts. It’s time to show some love and utilize overlooked exercises that help improve your strength, pack on muscle, and reveal a better-looking body.

Here are the five most underrated exercises you’re not doing, why you should, and how to perform each one.

Exercise #1: Supinated Grip Inverted Row

In preparation for his role as Wolverine, Hugh Jackman included inverted rows in his training once a week. If Wolverine used them, you know they’re legit.

If you want to build a strong back and get blood pumping biceps, it’s one of the best exercises you can do.

Most lifters use the pronated (overhand) grip variation of the inverted row. It works well for adding a significant amount of volume to your upper/mid back training. However, if you want to pack on muscle and equally target your back and biceps, go with the supinated (underhand) grip inverted row.

Why You Should Do It

Every guy wants a muscular back and a pair of veiny biceps that bulge against the sleeves of a t-shirt. Every woman wants their back and arms to look toned and strong in a sleeveless top or dress. In order to achieve this look, train your back and biceps to stretch under tension and flex hard with each contraction with inverted rows.

Inverted rows help you do the following:

  • Build strength in your lats, rhomboids, biceps, and core
  • Improve your ability to contract your upper back muscles
  • Take a load off joints when you need a break from heavy lifting

If done properly, this technique ignites protein synthesis. What’s that you say? Protein synthesis is a process that basically tells your muscles, “It’s time to grow baby!” In this case, the supinated grip is superior to the pronated grip because the latter doesn’t allow the bicep to fully stretch. A supinated grip stretches your bicep to its full capacity, so you have a greater potential for muscle growth.

How to Perform The Exercise

  • With an underhand grip, grab the bar and set your arms at shoulder width.
  • Allow your lats and biceps to elongate into a full stretch on the eccentric (unloading) portion of the exercise. Use a 3-second tempo.
  • Proceed with a hard contraction at the top. Squeeze your lats and biceps hard.

Use 3 x 8-10 reps to get a back and pair of biceps Hugh Jackman would be proud to see.

Exercise #2: Rack Pulls

Do you ever feel weakness in your mid to low back?

Do you experience problems with the top half of your deadlift?

If so, rack pulls may be key to help you improve your deadlift and strengthen your back.

Why You Should Do It

The rack pull is only a handful of exercises that allow you to:

  • Work your low back, traps, glutes, hamstrings, and quads
  • Improve your deadlift form
  • Add mass to your back
  • Increase your posterior chain strength

How to Perform The Exercise

  • Elevate a barbell in a power rack or on boxes, so it hits just below your kneecaps.
  • Use an overhand grip and place them just outside the hips.
  • Focus on a straight back and powerful hip hinge.
  • Pull explosively from the dead start position and lockout at the top.
  • Slowly control the weight back down.

Use 4 x 5 reps to increase your pull strength.

Exercise #3: Depth Push-Up

Like you, I grew up playing sports. It’s the most cherished part of my childhood.

The lessons you learn about teamwork, communication, and habits stick with you beyond the field of play. These are life lessons that make you a better partner, co-worker, and parent.

One of the biggest takeaways you get from playing sports is perseverance. Your ability to get back up after a brutal hit shapes your character.

Did you ever get knocked around by bigger kids on the court or field?

I sure did. I was a weak, skinny, big-head kid who wanted to fly through the air like Michael Jordan. I had to get stronger.

Before I ever laid my hands on weights, I did endless sets of push-ups in my Chicago Bulls memorabilia covered bedroom. It didn’t make me a better basketball player, but it raised my confidence.

Now, I’m older. Plain old push-ups don’t do it for me anymore. If you’re like me and need variety from time to time, include depth push-ups in your training.

Why You Should Do It

Beyond adding variety, depth push-ups help you increase monstrous chest gains. The exercise forces you to flex your pecs hard as you stretch the muscle. When this occurs, your body has no choice but to recruit more muscle fibers at the beginning of each rep.

Higher muscle fiber recruitment leads to increased fatigue. For you, it means a better chance of packing on more muscle!

How to Perform The Exercise

  • Place four large weight plates on top of each other in two separate stacks.
  • Space the stacks shoulder-width apart on the floor.
  • Get into push up position by placing each hand on a stack.
  • Keep your core engaged, lower yourself, and keep your elbows at 45 degrees.
  • As you descend, use a 3-second eccentric. Flex hard and let your pecs stretch against the resistance.
  • After the stretch, contract your pecs and push up to the start position. Each rep will last five seconds in total.

Use 3 x 8-10 reps and you’ll have blood pumping through your pecs.

Exercise #4: Contralateral (DB or KB) Split Squat

Imagine a time where you made a great deal on a big purchase like a home or piece of real estate. It feels good, doesn’t it? It’s a huge victory when you invest in a valuable asset. You could say you got a huge bang for your buck.

When it comes to training, the exercises you choose to perform are investments in the process of revealing a better body.

 

For example, let’s say you have several issues with your body you need to address like nagging back pain, achy joints, or a beer gut. In this case, the bulk of your gym time must be spent on exercises that provide a bang for your buck. The contralateral split squat is one of those exercises.

Why You Should Do It

If your core and lower body are significantly weaker on one side of the body than the other, you either have or will develop insufferable lower back pain. Instead of separate sets of regular splits squats for your legs and side planks for your obliques, use contralateral split squats to save time. Simultaneously, you attack the obliques, glutes, hamstrings, and quads in a single movement.

How to Perform the Exercise

  • Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell on one side of your body
  • Place the opposing leg forward into a split squat position
  • Hinge forward at the hip and tighten your core
  • Use a 3 second eccentric and squeeze your glute at the top of each rep.

Use 3 x 8-10 reps for a better investment in your training portfolio.

Exercise #5: Incline Plate Squeeze Press

Hold up. Did another chest exercise make the list? Damn straight!

A well-developed chest separates the strong from the weak and the men from the boys. A confident guy with a stout set of pecs walks around with his head high.

Imagine the stares you would receive at the beach shirtless on your annual Summer vacation as people admire your chiseled chest. Heads will turn and people will ask themselves how you got into great shape. Off to the bench press, right? No. The bench press won’t transform a flat chest into a set of head-turning pecs.

The barbell bench press helps you increase strength and power. It’s a fantastic exercise that can be a solid part of the foundation of your training, but it has some disadvantages. Two negatives are its lack of ability to help you build muscle and place constant tension on your chest. If your chest is underdeveloped, the muscles are lagging. You must teach your pecs how to contract and handle tension.

How can you achieve this?

If you want a better-looking chest without grabbing a barbell, try the incline plate squeeze press.

Why You Should Do It

Use the incline plate squeeze press to develop a better relationship between you and your pecs.

For lagging muscle groups like a flat chest, the best solution is for you to perform higher reps with the muscle placed under constant tension. When this occurs, your chest can’t receive oxygen, lactate (lactic acid) accumulates, and your chest produces the hormone IGF-1. Why does this matter to you?

IGF-1 is the most anabolic hormone in the body. When it’s released, your testosterone increases, protein synthesis begins, and your muscles grow.

How to Perform the Exercise

  • Place a bench into an incline position (45 degrees) and grab a weight plate.
  • After you’re seated, place one hand on each side of the plate (palms facing inward).
  • Situate the plate at your sternum, squeeze your hands hard against each side.
  • Contract your pecs and press up at a 45-degree angle for each rep.

You have two options for adding this to your routine:

  • If you have a tough time feeling your chest during workouts, perform 3 x 12-15 reps at the beginning of your session.
  • If you want to get a nice pump or burn at the end of your session, knock out 3 x 12-15 reps.

The Takeaway

Don’t be fooled into thinking you need the flashy exercises you see daily on your newsfeed. Along with the basics, use underrated exercises like the ones discussed above. You’ll get stronger, add muscle, and love the way you look in no time.