Life seems to move in cycles. History rarely fails to repeat itself time and time again, and the sad fact that great exercises are sent to collect dust for years is all but guaranteed.
As a passionate bodybuilder, it brings many a tear to my eye that the following exercises have been all but forgotten or underused by many lifters, in spite of the fact that they all work incredibly well, are relatively safe, and provide a unique training stimulus that you can’t replicate in other movements.
The bottom line: You need to implement these exercises into your next training program.
Let’s dig in.
1. (Smith Machine) Guillotine Press
One of my favorite, most effective chest exercises is one that, sadly, has become demonized and relegated to the dungeon, along with all the effective exercises that “functional trainers” decided had little bearing on real life.
But what if your “real life” goal is to build as much possible as you can? Wouldn’t you want to use the best tools for the job?
Enter the Guillotine Press. I can understand why it may get a bad rap, as if you don’t perform it correctly or try to load up the bar, you can set yourself up for injury. But, you can do that with any lift.
Purpose: To bring massive amounts of blood flow into the entirety of your pecs, while allowing you to sink into a deep stretch.
Execution: Adjust your bench or bar path so that you’re lowering the bar to just below your chin or top of your collarbone. Take a wider than shoulder width grip and flare your elbows as you lower the bar. Pause for 1-2 seconds in the fully stretched position. Drive the bar back up by “squeezing your elbows towards each other” and contracting your chest.
Why it’s been forgotten: Elevated injury risk when performed poorly, unconventional form and a preference for dumbbells have resulted in the once-fabled Guillotine Press being left in the corner to collect dust.
How to bring it back: Place this exercise in the latter half of your session, and perform 2-4 sets of 10-20 reps. Such sequencing will limit the amount you can put on the bar (you shouldn’t be using much anyways) and allow you to begin this movement with an already warm shoulder girdle and pumped chest.
Of note: I prefer to perform Guillotine Presses in the Smith Machine as the fixed bar path allows you to zero in on, and absolutely hammer ever last chest fibre. The added stability also adds a degree of safety that a freestanding barbell fails to offer.
2. Glute/Ham Raises and Russian Leg Curls
Both GHR’s and Russian Leg Curls are metabolically demanding, hamstring-focused and require a certain level of proficiency to execute effectively. Hence, their subtle ignorance and exclusion in much of today’s training culture. And of course, both are movements that achieve exceptional stimulation in your hamstrings and glutes.
Purpose: To train your hamstrings and glutes in a manner that recruits a ton of muscle fibers, achieve a strong contraction and drive blood into your legs without loading your lower back.
Execution: Hips forward, baby. Shove your hips into the pad/bench as hard as you can while flexing your glutes. Think of letting your upper body to lower in an “arc” until you feel a strong stretch. Briefly pause, than contract your glutes and hamstrings hard to bring yourself back up. If need be, use a stick or pole for balance and a little extra “push” to move through a full range of motion.
Why it’s been forgotten: Honestly, many gyms aren’t equipped to perform either of these movements with relative ease. Often leaving lifters to rig up a makeshift bench or station to perform these on. The lack of equipment, higher level of technical skill required, and today’s common avoidance of leg work has moved these fantastic exercises to the locker.
How to bring it back: Perform these movements either first or second on your leg day. This sequencing allows you to tackle one of the more demanding movements while you’re relatively fresh, bring blood into your hamstrings, and get your nervous system “excited” for the rest of your session.
3. Rack Deadlifts
These are one of my all-time favorite back movements, yet I never see anyone else doing them. Instead, most opt for the traditional, off-the-floor approach. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But if bodybuilding is your jam, I believe it makes sense to use movements that achieve maximum muscle stimulation in the area you’re trying to build.
Purpose: Rack Deadlifts are a tremendous movement to overload the top 3/4 range of your deadlift. Eliminating the need to pull right off of the floor reduces the load and shear placed on your lower back, while also allowing you to focus on using nothing but your lats to pull the bar up.
Execution: Set the pins in a squat rack that suit your biomechanics —I suggest somewhere between just below your knees and just above. From there, perform as you would a traditional deadlift. Fully reset after each rep and focus on pure lat contraction.
Why it’s been forgotten: I’ll be honest — lack of knowledge in exercise variation aside, I’m befuddled as to why rack deadlifts aren’t more commonplace for bodybuilders.
How to bring it back: Place these bad boys in the final third of your session. One of my favorite set/rep schemes is to start quite light, and work up in sets of 3-6 until I’m at a tough working weight. If you’re feeling frisky, do one balls-to-the-wall set where you do as many reps as you can until form failure. Alternatively, you can also settle into 2-4 sets with said tough working weight. A vicious, triple-drop set isn’t out of the realm of possibility either.
The Final Rep
If you’ve been looking for some exercises to bring fresh zest into your training, unlock fresh gains or have been looking for new movements to include, look no further than these three.
All are powerful, effective and never fail to help improve one’s physique.