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Rules of alternative exercises

Source: IronZen © - Workout Routines

Very often during workout you need to replace one exercise by equivalent option. The reason for such a replacement could be:

  • lack of necessary equipment and inventory;

  • inability to perform the exercise due to injury;

  • desire to update usual workouts and thereby add element of novelty;

  • the need to work out a muscle group from another angle and with a different focus;

  • intention to maximally develop the athletic quality.

Here we present the possible options for replacement of bodybuilding exercises to their alternative versions with mentioning the most important moments.

The exercises are combined according to muscle groups to which they are aimed; this is convenient to quickly find the exercise you need and its possible alternatives.

Exercise Alternative exercise Comments
Chest
Barbell bench press – wide grip 1. Bar dips (chest version) with wide hands position
2. Dumbbell bench press
3. Regular push-ups, incline push-ups (wide hand position) 
It is recommended to select options on the bars or with dumbbells, because they can cause more training stress. Parallel bar dips shift focus to the lower section of chest.
Barbell incline bench press 1. Dumbbell incline bench press 2. Dumbbell incline flyes Presses are the basic exercises which allow you to work with large weights.
Barbell decline bench press Bar dips (chest version) with wide hands position Same as with usual bench press
Dumbbell bench press 1. Barbell bench press – wide grip
2. Dumbbell flyes with limited amplitude
Switching to the barbell allows you to work with large weights, but trims working amplitude of the pectoral muscles. Dumbbell flyes with limited amplitude is a more isolated exercise for chest.
Dumbbell incline bench press 1. Barbell incline bench press
2. Dumbbell incline flyes
Switching to the barbell allows you to work with large weights, but trims working amplitude of the pectoral muscles. Flyes are more aimed to develop upper part of pectoral muscles.
Dumbbell flyes 1. Cable crossover
2. Butterfly
3. Dumbbell flyes with limited amplitude in the upper part of movement
When gaining muscle mass it is better to choose free weights
Dumbbell flyes incline and decline 1. Cable crossover under the same angle 2. Dumbbell flyes with limited amplitude in the upper part of movement When gaining muscle mass it is better to choose free weights
Cable crossover Dumbbell decline flyes When gaining muscle mass it is better to choose free weights
Parallel bars dips Barbell or dumbbell bench press (regular or decline) Preferably periodically interchange bench press with dips
Regular push-ups All options of bench press with barbell or dumbbells, bar dips For advanced athletes push-ups are the easiest option of pectoral presses, which also does not allow to increase the workload without going beyond the permitted range of reps.
Upper part of the back
Bent over barbell row 1. Seated cable rows
2. T-bar row
3. One-arm dumbbell row
4. Pull-ups to stomach
Each row option gives different effect on different parts of the upper back. By varying the width and type of grip you can also add a new element in the row execution.
One-arm dumbbell row (knee base) One-arm dumbbell row (bench base) Switching to the bench option allows to slightly move up the target load.
Seated cable rows narrow grip T-bar row – narrow grip Barbell allows using larger weight.
Wide-grip lat pulldown and wide-grip lat pulldown behind the neck Wide-grip pull-ups regular and behind the neck Pull-ups with own weight or additional weights on the waist can cause more training stress than cable option
Pull-ups Same grip cable rows Cable version is more suitable for detailed workout of upper back muscles and also useful when it’s impossible to do pull-ups with own weight.
Lower part of the back
Hyperextensions on high bench 1. Superman
2. Good mornings with barbell on shoulders
3. All kinds of deadlift
Hyperextensions unlike deadlifts do not cause abnormal stress on the lumbar spine. For this reason they are often recommended as a preventive measure.
Barbell deadlift 1. Athletic deadlift
2. “Sumo” deadlift
3. Romanian deadlift
4. Stiff-legged deadlift 5. Good mornings with barbell on the back
6. Hyperextensions
Periodically change deadlift type - this will help to develop muscles in a balanced way , both in terms of weight and in terms of power performance.
Thighs
Barbell squat 1. Front barbell squats
2. Leg press
3. Smith machine squats
4. Lunges
5. Dumbbell squats
6. Trap-bar squats
Squats with free weight in many ways are better than other basic exercises for thigh muscles
Leg press 1. Barbell squats
2. Smith machine squats
3. Hack squats
Machines interchanging allows to have different load on thigh muscles. Nevertheless machines do not involved muscles-stabilizers.
Barbell lunges 1. Dumbbell lunges
2. Walking lunges
All kinds of lunges very well work out hip adductors.
Hack squats 1. Narrow leg stance press
2. Front barbell squats
All three exercises also allow to handle the popliteal region of the quadriceps.
Smith machine squats Leg press Swith to the platform eliminates the load on spine.
Leg extension Seated one-leg extension One-leg option allows changing the type of load, including the possibility to rotate the sock in our out.
Stiff-legged deadlift Hyperextension with pelvis far over the edge of the bench Both versions should be the training basics.
Leg curl Standing one-leg curl Different machines are used
Calves
Standing calf raises 1. Barbell standing calf raises
2. Dumbbell one-leg calf raises
3. Calf press on the leg press machine
4. Hack machine calf raises
6. Donkey calf raises
All exercises are performed with knees slightly bent
Seated calf raises Barbellseatedcalfraises The bar can be wrapped with towel in the middle
Calf press on the leg press machine 1. One-leg calf press on the leg press machine
2. Hack machine calf raises
Watch the comfortable feet position
Shoulders
Standing barbell press 1. Barbell shoulder press
2. Dumbbell press seated and standing
3. Barbell press behind the neck
4. Clean
5. One-hand dumbbell press
Seated options of press performed on benches with back allow to eliminate the load on lumbar spine.
Seated barbell press Seated barbell press behind the neck Behind the neck option requires more flexibility in the shoulder joints and carries the target load on medium deltoid muscles.
Seated barbell press behind the neck Seated dumbbell press Dumbbell type allows to preform press movement on the curved trajectory; this additionally stimulates deltoid muscles and upper traps.
Standing dumbbell press Seated dumbbell press, on the bench with or without the back, neutral and usual grip Seated presses show real power of shoulder girdle.
Seated dumbbell press 1. Standing dumbbell press
2. Barbell shoulder press
Standing option allows using momentum and working with heavy weights, but also makes greater demands on lumbar spine.
Upright barbell row Upright dumbbell row Dumbbells version allow to perform something between rows and flyes.
Dumbbell lateral raise Cable rope lateral raise Cable option is more suitable for honing muscles.
Bent-over dumbbell lateral raise Bent-over cable rope lateral raise Cable option is more suitable for honing muscles.
Front dumbbell raise Front cable rope raise Cable option is more suitable for honing muscles.
Biceps
Barbell curl 1. Barbell curl – EZ bar
2. Wide-grip barbell curl
3. Short amplitude barbell curl
EZ-bar allows eliminating usual for direct bar overload for forearms and wrists. Wide-grip helps tap inner biceps beam.
Seated option helps workout upper part of amplitude without lunar spine help.
Barbell curl – EZ bar Standing barbell curl - regular, hammer and reverse grip Different grips help differently load shoulder flexors. Some people state that only dumbbell exercises can develop biceps.
Dumbbell bicep curl – standing and seated All biceps exercises with barbell or cable, standing or seated Barbell allows to work with heavy weights
Preacher barbell curl Same, but with dumbbells Dumbbells provide good stimulation of stabilizers
One-arm preacher dumbbell curl Concentrated bicep curl standing or seated Both exercises are considered to be the best isolated exercises for biceps
Concentration barbell curl – standing or seated One-arm preacher dumbbell curl Both exercises are considered to be the best isolated exercises for biceps
Triceps
Close-grip barbell bench press 1. Parallel bar dips with vertical body position
2. Bench dips
3. Push-ups with close hands position
Bardipsallowworkingwithreallyheavyweights
Lying barbell triceps extension behind the head 1. Lying EZ-bar triceps extension behind the head
2. Lying dumbbells triceps extension behind the head
In all exercise don’t put elbows to much aside – it will decrease the load on triceps
Standing barbell triceps extension over head Seated dumbbell triceps extension behind the head In terms of balance the dumbbell version is more comfortable to perform seating on the bench with back under 80 degrees
Seated dumbbell triceps extension behind the head Can replace with one-arm option Two-arm version allows working with heavy weights. One-arm is more isolated.
One-arm dumbbell triceps extension behind the head – standing or seated Same, but with cable rope Cable rope is better for more detailed working out the triceps.
Cable rope triceps push-down Push-upswithclosehandsposition  
Cable rope overhead triceps extension Same, but with dumbbells Dumbbells allow working out stabilizers better
Parallel bar dips 1. Lying barbell bench press – narrow or wide grip
2. Bench dips
Both alternative versions should be performed in the style imitating bar dips
Forearms
Standing palms-up wrist curl 1. Same, but with EZ-bar
2. Dumbbell hammer curl – standing or seated
Hammer grip allows using larger weights
Seated palms-up wrist curl Same, but standing and holding barbell behind the back Standing option allows using larger weights
Seated palms-down wrist curl Same, but standing and holding the barbell before you Standing option allows using larger weights
Hanging on the bar Holding barbell or dumbbell, farmer’s walk During farmer’s walk it’s more difficult to hold the weight because of constantly changing centroid.
Abs
Crunches 1. Cable seated crunch
2. Cable crunch on the knees
3. Cable standing crunch
Cable rope allows using larger weights and what’s important – without losing feeling of control over abs muscles
Decline crunches Crunches in Romanian chair Both options overload lunar spine. Choose the more comfortable one
Decline reverse crunch 1. Hanging leg/knees raise
2. Hanging leg/knees raise on parallel bars 3. Reverse crunches
4. Seated dumbbell leg pull-in
Vertical raises are the hardest. But also they help reduce extra overload of the spine in the end of workout.
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