When most of us think of strength training and lifting weights, we think of the barbell basics: bicep curls, bench press, barbell squat, barbell deadlifts, Olympic lifts, and other standard movements. The fundamentals always work and keeping it simple will help you stay consistent over the long haul.
However, there comes a time, both mentally and physically, when you need a challenge. Your body also needs a challenge. Your body also needs to adapt to new stimuli to make progress. Lastly, some of the barbell basics tend to beat up on the joints, over time.
There are two exercises, in particular, that I include in my clients’ programs to help fend off joint issues, yet stress the body in a way that builds muscle and strength. Below are two alternative exercises to the barbell you should be doing.
DOUBLE KETTLEBELL DEADLIFTS
I like them for both beginners and experienced lifters. For the beginner lifter, it allows them to advance from a single kettlebell deadlift that they start with before they work up to a barbell or trap bar. It also allows for doubling up the weight and making each arm and side of the bodywork. This helps people understand how to create true tension in the body: the foundation of strength training.
For advanced lifters, it’s a chance to break away from the barbell and mix things up. I also found that it even helps improve your other barbell and even #Olympic lifting pulls. A few more reasons I like the double kettlebell deadlifts for both advanced and beginners’ lifters are that it helps people sit back low into their hips and loads their hips. They learn how to wedge their body over and into the weight and get tight with the weight. It helps improve grip strength, which many people need to drastically improve. As the kettlebell gets bigger, the handle gets bigger, and grip strength becomes more of a factor.
RENEGADE/ PLANK ROW
The renegade row combines the benefits of a plank and a traditional dumbbell row, meaning it targets your core, shoulders, and upper back. It’s also an anti-rotational core exercise – because you’re trying not to twist.
The resistance works your obliques, as well as that super-hard-to-reach deep core. Since so many muscles are involved, this move can also build strength without having to use heavyweights. The traditional barbell row is a fantastic exercise but it has its downfalls. It is hard for many folks to get into the proper position, move with control, and can cause stress to the lower back if you are not strong enough or comprised at the lower back. The plank row engages the core in a more neutral position reducing the ability to cause low-back stress.
HOW TO DO THE RENEGADE ROW
Place two dumbbells on the floor shoulder-width apart.
Assume a plank position with your feet wider than shoulder-distance apart.
Grab the dumbbells so your hands are elevated off the floor, maintaining a neutral wrist position.
Drive your right arm through the dumbbell into the floor, stiffen your entire body, and row the left dumbbell up and to the side of your rib cage – your elbow should be pointed up and back. Keep your body stable as you slowly lower the dumbbell back to the floor. Then repeat on the other side. That’s one rep.