Rut Busters

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Fitness-minded folks tend to be creatures of habit. This is great for staying consistent with a program, but sometimes those “habits” translate into doing the exact same exercises over and over for years, which leads to boredom and training plateaus. The obvious solution is to regularly vary your exercises to keep things fresh. Here’s a pair of alternative training methods (both backed by research) to help you do just that:

Farmer’s Walk: A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that strongman training was comparable to traditional barbell strength training in terms of improving raw strength, athletic performance and even body composition over the course of a seven-week program. Many strongman lifts are inaccessible to the masses — because most commercial gyms don’t house weight sleds, Atlas stones or tractor tires — but not the classic farmer’s walk. Just hold two heavy dumbbells (heavier than what you’d use for any other lifting exercise) at your sides and walk for distance with short, choppy steps, avoiding knee lockout. At the end of your next leg or full-body workout, do three to four sets of 50-yard walks in an open area of the weight room. Over time, increase weight as well as distance traveled. 

Battling Ropes: More and more gyms these days are equipped with heavy ropes, and science approves. Another Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study found that training with battling ropes produced significantly higher metabolic demands on the body than traditional lifting exercises using moderate to heavy weight. Tack battling-rope intervals onto the end of any upper-body or full-body session, explosively slamming the ropes down to the floor and lifting them back up in continuous fashion. Do three sets of 30-second high-intensity bouts (the same workload used in the study experiment), increasing the interval time and set count as you become better conditioned. (For more battling-rope exercise options, see Page 66.)