How four exercises can have a BIG impact on your training

Even though I am slightly aging myself, the 90s smash hit All The Small Things, by Blink 182 serves as a great foundation for my training methodology. While I don’t suggest we treat our workouts like a love song, especially those that include breaking or tearing, the aforementioned song title echoes an important message which is a key factor in my approach—the impact of small and incremental changes to your training will translate into big results in the gym.

Over the last 15 years as a coach, I’ve implemented the suggested variations to the following exercises with a wide range of clients, including celebrities, executives, athletes, even my own family , including my mother. By introducing simple modifications such as altering the grip, slowing down the tempo and elevating a single foot, workouts become varied, exciting, will recruit different muscles and overall help you obtain better results.

This philosophy is the basis of the following routine, which will take approximately 30-40 minutes post-warm up. Now, turn on your favourite 90s playlist (no judgment!) and get moving!

3 sets x 8-10 reps – lower yourself to a count of 3 seconds

• Start with your weaker foot elevated (use a plate or low step approx 6 inches high) and dumbbells held by your side
• To descend, move your front knee down and forward. Think about the knee moving like an escalator, not an elevator
• Keeping your torso upright, try to get your knee past your toes and your back foot straight
• Push from your front foot back up to the starting position

KEY POINT: This is an amazing exercise to improve imbalances, and develop strength and mobility. The front foot is elevated to make it easier for the working leg. If you want to progress and make this exercise more challenging, remove the front step, meaning both feet are on the ground, and to up the ante even more, elevate the back foot only!

3 sets x 8-10 reps – lower dumbbell to a count of 3 seconds

• Start with a dumbbell held on your weaker side and raise the bench to 35 degrees
• Place one knee on the bench and the other leg out to the side and flat on the floor
• Keep your forehead against your forearm (shout-out to Kilo Strength Society for this technique) throughout the exercise and maintain a flat back
• Retract (squeeze) your shoulder blade and then row the dumbbell with your elbow going above your hip
• Lower the dumbbell, repeat until all reps complete and then switch sides

KEY POINT: Resting your forehead on your arm against the bench allows you to isolate the working arm more and increases neural drive of the muscle (creating a stronger mind-muscle connection).

3 sets x 8-10 reps – lower dumbbells to a count of 3 seconds

• Start with feet flat on floor, dumbbells held on either side of the body
• Brace your abdominals, bring your shoulder blades together and start to descend towards the floor by pushing your hips back
• Keep the dumbbells close to the body. Most importantly, maintain a neutral spine / flat back
• Bring the dumbbells below the knees feeling a stretch in the hamstrings (back of the legs) and then return to the start position, without overarching the back at the top

KEY POINT: The RDL is an amazing exercise to develop strength and mobility for your posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, lower back and calves) and can also help prevent hamstring injuries.

3 sets x 10-12 reps

• Start by sitting on the bench with the dumbbells on your thighs
• Lie back on the bench with the dumbbells, ensuring your feet are flat on the ground (if not, have a plate or something underneath them) with both dumbbells up and your palms facing each other
• Lower the dumbbells to fully stretched position at the bottom and then immediately lift again, but only partially (approx a ¼ of the total rep)
• Then bring the dumbbells back down as low as you can and then push out fully to the top – this range of movement counts as one rep

KEY POINT: By adding the quarter rep, time under tension (the amount of time the muscle is working) is increased. This causes a greater training response by working the muscle for longer.

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Photography by Todd Duncan

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