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The Best Variations

I know I know, you're over the whole Squat, Bench, Deadlift style of program. We all know how effective and important those exercises are, but one of the main factors limiting your progress is adherence. Once the program gets boring, your motivation falls and all of a sudden you're in a rut and not enjoying your training. That was part of my motivation in creating the Big 4 template (link here). It's not breaking any new ground, but for a lot of you it might give you some ideas on how to create a better, more engaging training system that you enjoying doing. After all, only Powerlifters "have" to do competition style Squat, Bench & Deadlift. You can still get a great physique, super strong and athletic using the following variations. Here's a few of my favourites.

Romanian Deadlift

You know what sucks for a lot of people?

Their Deadlift starting position.

You know what else sucks for a lot of people?

Creating tension to pull from the floor.

The answer. The Romanian Deadlift or RDL.

What coaches and athletes consider an RDL differs depending on who you are and how you were taught. Some consider it a stiff leg style deadlift. I do not. At Smith's Fitness, I teach the RDL as the top 3/4 of a typical deadlift pattern. Basically we are missing the start and finish of a conventional deadlift. We start with the bar on the safeties of the squat rack at just below hip height. From here the lifter has already created tension from a very strong position to unrack the bar. They maintain that tension as they hinge at the hips, keeping the bar close and lowering it to roughly mid shin. This creates an eccentric (lengthening) contraction through the hamstrings, adductors and glutes before they contract concentrically (shortening) to reverse the movement back to the standing "start" position.

An RDL gives you all the benefits of a conventional deadlift, sans rate of force development, without the risks associated with pulling and creating tension from the floor.

A great variation to add or replace a deadlift for basically everyone except Powerlifters.

Front Squat

Let me start by saying, front squats aren't for everyone. If you are a very hip dominant back squatter that squats with a lot of forward lean, front squats may be a huge challenge. That said, if you can master them they will no doubt really help your mobility, quad development and subsequently your back squat. It's a matter of figuring out if the time invested is worthwhile.

Personally I think front squats (hopefully with a clean grip, oly style) are a great way to strength the upper back and develop lower body strength. They can easily replace back squats for portions of your training program. Plus, they are a MUST for anybody looking to perform the clean.

Close Grip Bench Press

We all know you're going to Bench Press so let's look at my number one Bench variation, the Close Grip Bench. Firstly let me save your wrists by letting you know that a close grip bench should use a shoulder(ish) width grip, arms straight up to the bar. Young AJ, and no doubt lot of others, have all made the mistake of going hands together in the middle of the bar, what a newbie. The only thing that's good for is jacking up your wrists. Not cool, go shoulder width.

Close Grip Benching is great because it's almost a technique corrector given that loads your triceps and limit's your elbow flare. A better techniques and stronger triceps, who wouldn't want that?? There is a bit of a three way trade-off with a closer grip. Firstly, as mentioned your elbows will be closer to your side. Secondly, the bar will typically touch lower on your chest, towards your upper abs. Lastly the focus is somewhat shifted from your anterior deltoids towards your triceps. I typically program it as 80% of Bench Press numbers and use it a lot as a secondary exercises for my Powerlifters. A lot of lifters will find that they start catching up to their normal bench numbers using a close grip. Take those stronger triceps, go back to your normal grip and smash PB's!!

There you go dudes, 3 new variations that you could use as main movements, secondary or simple have a play around with, after all, that's half the fun.

I'd love any feedback you have to these blogs dudes. Feel free to share, like, comment and all that Jazz. The fact you've read this far means you’re a legend already. Reach out and let me know or just to say wassup!

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