Custom-Made Muscle

Dec 12 / Build Muscle

Squat

Easier: Band-assisted squat

Place a stretchable band around a chinup bar and stand just behind the bar. Hold the band with both hands as you squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Stand back up.

Why it works The band lends stability as you squat, and assists your legs as you press back up to the starting position.

Harder: Box squat

Stand 4 to 6 inches forward of a knee-high bench or box. With a barbell loaded onto your upper back, squat and sit on the bench for a moment. Keeping your heels pressed into the ground, stand back up.

Why it works When you sit, you kill the weight's momentum; to rise again, you need to use your lower-body muscles more. That teaches your body to move explosively.

Deadlift

Easier: Elevated straight-leg deadlift

Stand between two 6-to 12-inch-high boxes with your knees slightly bent, holding a barbell with an overhand grip. Bend at your hips and lower your torso until the barbell touches the boxes. Pause, and return to an upright position.

Why it works The box limits your range of motion, helping you master the deadlift.

Harder: Straight-leg deadlift with shrug

Hold a barbell at arm's length in front of your hips, using an overhand grip as above. Bend at your hips and lower your torso until it's almost parallel to the floor. Pause, and then come back up and shrug your shoulders.

Why it works You're emphasizing your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back, which are typically weaker than your quads.

Chinup/Pullup

Easier: Negative chinup/pullup

Stand on a box beneath a pullup bar. Jump up, pulling your chest to the bar. Then take 6 to 10 seconds to lower yourself until your feet touch the box. Repeat.

Why it works Slowly lowering your body can help build your upper-body muscles and increase the pulling power you need for chinups or pullups.

Harder: Commando pullup

Instead of facing the bar, stand as if you're looking down its length. Grab it with one hand in front of the other, your palms facing inward. Now pull up and lean to the right, so your right shoulder touches the bar. Repeat on the left.

Why it works This kind of pullup causes an imbalance of weight and forces you to work your back and arms more as you pull your body up on each side.

Barbell bench press

Easier: Negative pushup

This isn't a bench press, but it provides the same benefit. Perform a pushup, and take 6 to 10 seconds to lower your body as you keep your core tight. Once you're an inch above the ground, explosively push your body back up.

Why it works When you slowly lower your body, you activate more muscle fibers, increasing your chest, back, and triceps strength.

Harder: Cage bench press

Lie on a bench inside a power rack with the barbell resting on safety bars 3 to 6 inches above your chest. Press the bar off the rack until your arms are straight. Then lower it.

Why it works You're starting from your weakest position in the bench press, with no momentum to help out. This forces your chest to work harder and improves your ability to bench more weight.

Plank

Easier: Kneeling plank

Assume a pushup position, but rest on your forearms and your knees. Your body should form a straight line from shoulders to knees. Brace your core and hold the position as long as you can.

Why it works Bending your knees reduces the weight your core has to support. Also, if you feel back pain when you do regular planks, this eases tension.

Harder: Plank with opposite arm and leg lift

From the plank position on your elbows, lift your left foot and right arm off the floor for 5 to 10 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.

Why it works By adding movement and instability, you force your body to work harder to keep your core tight and stable.