Bent Over Row

Settle your feet firmly, and allow the knees to bend freely as you lean forward into position.

Keep the back straight; make it “tall” from tailbone to head.

Here we’re using dumbells to start with. Keep the shoulders neutral as . . .

. . . you pull the dumbells to the side of the ribs.

The main focus is on the Lat Dorsi muscles but with this technique you also get a little bit of a low back workout if you keep your posture on good form.

If this is uncomfortable, or you have flexibility issues, then . . .

. . . have a look at the supported bent over row.

Prone Flye

From the Bent Over position, this one works the trapezius muscles nicely, but here’s where people go wrong: if you’re overly ambitious with your weight selection, you won’t get the final range of┬ámotion . . .

. . . which is here; at this point, the shoulder blades are being retracted towards the spine by the rhomboids.

In fact I recommend doing this exercise at just the the last 20 degrees of motion purely for the sake of well and truly hitting those rhomboids and nowt else!

Twisting Row

Called “cheaters” in some circles, these work the Lats, but not as well as the Bent Over Rows shown above. They also work the Traps . . . but not as well as the Prone Flyes shown above. So what do they do?

First, they let you lift very heavy indeed . . .

. . . and second, they use all those muscles together with core “twisting” muscles, making it a great time-saver if you just want to burn some kcal.

Note the grip at the start is an overhand grip; as with the Bicep Curl, let the wrists turn as you go through the manouevre for comfort.

For weightlifters, this builds strength for the High Pull section of the Clean.

Supine Overhead Pull

Now does this work the chest or the back? Answer: depends where you put your elbows.

Let the elbows go wide – particularly with a hammer grip – and you’ll feel this more as a chest exercise . . .

. . . but keep the biceps close to the head (as pictured) and the elbows aligned forwards, and the Lats really get to work.

Either way, use core control to bring the lumbar spine on to the bench and keep it there to ensure proper muscle fire.

Shoulder Press

I strongly advise dumbells for these types of exercise as barbells encourage us to move our head around.

Stand comfortably, rest the weights against the shoulders when not in motion, and smoothly press the dumbells skyward.

Having a mirror nearby is very useful – look for uneven progression, the body leaning to one side, symmetry and vertical forearms throughout . . .

. . . here you can see I’m using the squat stance – both feet are level. If this makes your lower back a bit uncertain, try the split stance – one foot slightly forward, one slightly back.

Deltoid Rotator Cuff Raise

Nicknamed “drawing the sword” all you have to do is grab a dumbell and, um, pretend it’s a sword . . .

The raise works muscles not just at the shoulder, but also muscles that are actually WITHIN the shoulder . . .

. . . so this is perfect for avoiding rotator cuff injuries as well as working the shoulder.

If, of course, you find this range of motion beyond you (and it is after all a pretty big range of motion used) then try . . .

. . . only coming to shoulder level.

This removes some of the mobilisation but does retain much of the muscle activation, so a good compromise for the pregnant and hypertensives as well as someone with a shoulder injury.

Chest Press

From the chest, the bar wants to be about level with the armpits . . .

. . . and directly over the shoulder joint at extension.

Keep it even, keep it smooth, and keep both shoulderblades in touch with the bench throughout the manoeuvre.

Narrow Grip Chest Press

A neat little variation, certainly good for developing mass, notice the level of the bar – no longer coming anywhere near armpit level, more the base of the ribcage, and it still finishes the push directly over the shoulder joint.

Supine Tricep Press a.k.a. “skullcrushers”

Take a narrow grip on an EZ Curl bar (the wiggly one) and hold above the line of the shoulder – in other words, have the arms at an upwards angle.

If you don’t have your arms at that slight angle, you won’t really involve all of the three tricep muscles.

Keeping the elbow joints locked in time and space, lower the bar until it touches the top of the head.

Sitll without letting the arms move at the shoulder, extend at the elbows to return.

Bicep Curl

I recommend standing with your back flush to a wall for this one – it keeps you from arching your back as you get tired.

This exercise is massively influenced by which hand-grip you use, and here I have chosen to start with the hammer grip . . .

. . . turned into an underhand grip at the finish.

Personally, I actively encourage letting the wrists rotate during this kind of exercise, it keeps elbow injuries down!

Now any and all grips are worthwhile, but consider which sort of grip you use in your chosen sport and apply it here for best results.

Military Press

Here I’m sitting down, which gives greater support and form to the spine.

Bring the barbell behind the head, BEING SURE TO MOVE THE WEIGHT AROUND THE HEAD, NOT THE HEAD AROUND THE WEIGHT, and lower down to the top of the shoulders being careful of the neck bones . . .

. . . and extend the arms to smoothly lift the barbell above the head. The skull should remain immobile throughout.

This exercise requires a great deal of shoulder flexibility – if you don’t have it, don’t do it.

Although a nice shoulder-builder, the Shoulder Press with dumbells is much more beginner-friendly, and hits all the same muscles.