Strength training has been around for a long time, dating all the way back to Milo in the 6th century. Fads have come and gone since then, but the barbell has stood the test of time. You want to get stronger; you better get acquainted with the barbell. It’s one of the better tools for strength training.
Squats, deadlifts, rows, and presses are strength training staples. And within these exercises there are forgotten variations done by old school strongman (and YouTube enthusiasts) to get stronger at the big three.
They’re a little unusual, but if you’re an experienced lifter looking for new accessory exercises to bust through lifting plateaus, give these four exercises a shot.
1. JM Press
When legendary lifter, JM Blakey trained at Westside Barbell and was crushing bench press world records, his training partners noticed he was doing this unusual lift as part of his accessory routine.
It was part close grip bench press; part skull crusher and they were intrigued with this move. So, they asked him how to do it and when they did it, they loved it. Thus, the JM Press was born.
How It Helps Your Bench Press
JM Presses focus on the triceps and helps improve lockout strength on the bench and overhead press. And because of the short range of motion, you’ll be able to load up on this movement.
However, be careful. This exercise puts more stress on your elbows and anterior shoulder. So, if you have any elbow or shoulder issues, it’s advisable to be mind of frequency and intensity.
With heavy strength partial range of motion exercises like the JM Press, it is advised to limit their use to 4-6 week training cycles. Try 3-5 sets of 4-6 reps for strength, or 2-3 sets 8-12 for hypertrophy as part of your bench press accessory routine.
2. Kirk Shrugs
These got their name from the guy who first used them, Kirk Karwoski. If you don’t know him, Google him.
Kirk started doing this shrug variation to increase his grip strength. But his coach, Marty Gallagher thought this would improve his deadlift numbers also. And he was right, as Kirk pulled 800-pound deadlifts. They also both discovered they put slabs of muscle on the upper traps also.
How It Helps Your Deadlift and Squat
Kirk shrugs develop the muscles of the upper back, which are important for performing deadlifts (keeping the bar close to your body) and providing a ‘shelf’ for barbell squats as they improve overall shoulder stability.
Holding on to the barbell with only your fingers, these will strengthen your grip also.
They make for a great “finisher” at the end of upper body training session. Try this for 3 sets of 8-12 reps at the end of an upper body session and choose a weight around 30-40 % of your 1-RM deadlift and do an AMRAP.
3. Snatch Grip Deadlift
The snatch grip deadlift gets its name from the Olympic lift and is the first part of the snatch movement. The wider grip of the snatch grip deadlift puts a bigger demand on your upper back muscles (to keep the spine in neutral) and your grip strength due to your hands being away from the shoulders.
How It Helps Your Deadlifts
This deadlift puts your hips in a lower position than a conventional deadlift and more power and strength is needed to pull the weight from the floor, making it a safer option than deficit deadlift for some lifters.
Combined with the increased grip strength and upper back demands, this variation will make your regular deadlifts feel easy.
Sub these in for your regular deadlifts if you’re slow off the floor and need to improve your grip strength, or you’re looking for a little variety. Try performing multiple sets between 3-5 reps if your goal is strength.
4. Pendlay Row
The Pendlay row is named after legendary weightlifting coach, Glenn Pendlay. This barbell row variation starts every rep from a dead stop position and is best used to increase maximal back strength and explosiveness in the deadlift.
How It Helps Your Deadlift
Spending more time in the hinge position with a heavy weight by your feet only helps your deadlift. And if you’re slow pulling from the floor, the explosive nature of this exercise will help.
Strengthening the upper back is always a priority but especially for the deadlift because it plays a huge role in keeping the spine in neutral and the bar close to you while you pull.
This is a more lower back friendly exercise than other rowing variations because the low back is only stressed for a brief moment unlike other bent over row variations. This isn’t a slow grinding row variation, but is best utilized for strength and power, using lower reps and more sets. Doing 3-5 sets of between 3- 6 reps works well.
Lifts that are old school or not regularly done because they’ve been forgotten about still work amazingly because some lifts simply stand the test of time. Now that you’ve been reminded, go ahead and crush your lifting plateaus and be a little old school cool while doing it.
Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.