The 30 Most Underrated Exercises for Men, According to 11 Trainers

Man doing weighted hip thrust on bench
James Michelfelder

You probably rotate through an arsenal of tried-and-true moves in the gym you know you should absolutely be doing: bench press, squat, deadlift, pullups, dips, etc.



But then there are plenty of other moves you probably know about but can’t be bothered to do—whether it’s because they’re awkward, not as appealing as one of the impressive moves above, or simply a variation you’ve never taken the time to perfect. Well, today is the day you break out of your comfort zone and put your body through something a little less predictable.

Here, 11 personal trainers, performance specialists, exercise physiologists, strength experts (and more) detail the underrated moves guys should be doing. Get to work.


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1. Pullovers

Why you should do it: “This exercise was a staple of many old-school bodybuilders—including Arnold Schwarzenegger—and for good reason: it works,” Joel Seedman, Ph.D., exercise physiologist, athletic performance specialist, and owner of Advanced Human Performance in Atlanta, GA, says. What it does for your upper body is comparable to what a squat does for your lower, he adds. Pullovers target the majority of the muscles in your torso, like the lats, triceps, chest, shoulders, upper back, and core. The move is unbelievably versatile, too; you can use dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, and cables. Expect to feel your abs working overtime, since this is also an anti-extension core drill. You’re forced to resist arcing and extending your lumbar spine by keeping your core tight and braced throughout the exercise, he explains.

The reason guys have shied away from the move is, for one, you’re holding some serious poundage over your face at the top of the movement; and there’s also fear of shoulder injury. Your setup can mitigate this risk, though. Rather than lie perpendicular to the bench, which sets you up for an excessive range of motion that destabilizes your scapula and causes excessive curvature of your spine, Seedman advises lying flat on the bench.

How to do it: 
1. Lie down on a bench while holding a dumbbell, barbell, kettlebell, or cable pulley in your hands.
2. If holding a dumbbell, grasp it with both hands so your palms are against the underside of the far weighted end. Hold it at arms length straight over your chest.
3. Extend your arms overhead and behind you, moving predominantly at your shoulder joints so little, if any, movement comes from your elbows. “Think about bringing the weight as far in back of you as possible while keeping your arms relatively straight,” Seedman says.
4. “A slight elbow bend is acceptable, and in fact, advisable,” he adds. As you pull the weight back to the starting position just above your chest, focus on activating your lats and chest, not just your triceps, as you follow the same arc motion you made in the descent.

Expert tip: “If you want additional core activation and to force the move to be stricter and more locked in, try to perform pullovers with an isometric leg raise by holding your legs 6-12 inches above the height of your torso, keeping them straight throughout,” Seedman suggests.

2. Duck Walk

Why you should do it: Ngo Okafor, a personal trainer in NYC and two-time Golden Gloves Boxing Champion says, “Duck walks build an insane amount of strength endurance in the lower body.” Due to the pressure (this is actually a good thing!) it places on your hips and ankle joints, it safely creates much more mobility, Okafor says. In turn, this added mobility will help you squat better because you’ll be able to sink lower and deeper, and drive better through your hips because the muscles and joints are properly engaged and firing. You’ll also reap some serious strength gains in your glutes, hips, and thighs because of how much weight it puts on these areas for support. This move serves as an excellent warmup drill (say, 20 steps per leg or walking for 30-60sec).

How to do it: 
1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Hinge a little at your hips, pushing them back, and bend your knees to come down into a squat. Go as low as you possibly can and work toward getting lower and deeper as you progress.
2. Position your arms out in front of you or hold them behind your head for added balance. Keep a proud, puffed chest and sink your weight into your heels as you slowly walk in the bottom position of the squat.

Expert tips: Resist the urge to bounce your butt up in the air; staying low will keep your muscles under tension. “If your hips and/or quads are tight, duck walks can place a lot of pressure on the knee joint, so if you have knee issues, don’t do this exercise,” Okafor says.

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3. Cable Pull-Through

Why you should do it: “While a good warmup plays a pivotal role in physical preparation and injury prevention, it’s not the most important training factor,” says Felix Bangkuai, NASM-CPT, fitness member ambassador and exercise physiologist at the CREATION HEALTH Wellness Center at Florida Hospital Zephyrhills. “The most effective way to order your workout is to include a ‘primer movement’ between your warmup and your first big compound exercise of the day,” he argues. Consider the cable pull-through (and the other moves below) an extended warmup designed to lubricate your joints, activate specific musculature, and hone movement patterns before you tax your body with near maximal effort. The cable pull-through is your lower-body primer. It hits the posterior chain (low back, glutes, hamstrings) and gets your hip and knee joints and smaller stabilizing muscles ready to go.

How to do it: 
1. Set an adjustable cable in a low position—not the lowest because you want the line of pull to be more horizontal than vertical, Bangkuai says. Attach a tricep rope.
2. Face away from the cable and assume a slightly wider-than-shoulder-width stance, thinking about pushing your knees out from the center and keeping them slightly bent.
3. Reach down and back through your legs and grasp both ends of the rope (palms facing one another) so you’re straddling it. Push your hips and butt back, keeping your arms straight and spine neutral (maintaining the natural arch of your lower back).
4. Now, like a kettlebell swing, hinge at your hips, driving through them to draw the rope forward and come to a standing position. Keep your chin slightly tucked so you don’t hyperextend your neck.
5. At the top of the movement squeeze your glutes, but don’t lock your knees.

Expert tip: “Be mindful during the movement and make sure your back stays flat, your neck doesn’t hyperextend, your legs stay straight, and you feel those glutes and hamstrings firing!” Bangkuai says. “You’ll really feel a stretch in your hamstrings if you’re doing it correctly,” he adds.

4. Cable Face Pull

Why you should do it: We can’t mention a lower-body primer without suggesting an upper-body one (or two). “Due to our sedentary desk jobs, we sit for hours with a forward, rounded posture, so the anterior cuff and internal shoulder rotators aren’t in need of priming, but the backside of the body is,” Bangkuai says. The cable face-pull is a great go-to because it provides stability to your shoulder blades; it’s a great rehab move and primer for pressing.

How to do it: 
1. Attach a rope to a pulley station set at about chest level. Grasp both ends of the rope with an overhand grip.
2. Step back so your arms are completely outstretched and assume a staggered stance so one foot is forward, one back. Bend your knees slightly to create a stable base.
3. Retract your scapulae and squeeze your shoulder blades, pulling the center of the rope slightly up toward your face. Think about pulling the ends of the rope apart, not just back.
4. As you near your face, externally rotate your hands so your knuckles are facing the ceiling. Hold for one second at this top position, then slowly lower. Don’t push your head forward to meet the rope either; keep the motion slow and controlled.

Expert tips: Avoid using too much weight. “Going too heavy forces you to involve the lower back to complete the rep, completely defeating the purpose of the exercise and ratcheting up the potential for injury,” Bangkuai says. Also, make sure you keep your shoulders, elbows, and wrists in a straight line so you put the emphasis on your upper back (dropping your elbows into a low row position targets your lats more). And, lastly, stretch your pecs between sets by holding your arm at a 90 degree angle against the side of a doorframe, leaning into it until you feel a stretch in your pec; this will lengthen the muscles.

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5. Straight-Arm Pulldown

Why you should do it: “The cable straight-arm pulldown is superior to maximally target the lats because the tension is more constant throughout the range of motion, whereas dumbbells or a barbell only load half the movement,” Bangkuai says. Straight-arm pulldowns are your pulling primer. And they’re incredibly efficient. Plus, the exercise completes the look of your lats and increases the width of your back and posterior delts.

How to do it: 
1. Stand at an adjustable cable machine and grab the lat pulldown bar with an overhand grip that’s about shoulder-width apart. Keep your knees slightly bent and feet shoulder-width apart.
2. Exhale, then pull the bar down to your thighs. Your arms should remain straight, elbows locked. Pause, then return to the starting position.

Expert tips: Don’t go too heavy—form is crucial. “Emphasize the contraction of your lats at the bottom of the motion,” Bangkuai says. “Remember, you’re priming your back muscles for all the heavy weight you’re about to lift.”

6. Banded Pull-Apart

Why you should do it: Just like with the cable face pull, you need an exercise that stimulates the back of your body to warm and loosen tight muscles and joints. This move is also great when used in tandem with bench press, before or in between sets. It works your posterior delts and upper traps, says Liz Lowe, C.S.C.S., head program designer at Scorch Fitness, a high-intensity interval training gym in Sarasota, Florida.

How to do it: 
1. Stand and hold a resistance band out in front of you at chest height with arms extended and hands spaced shoulder-width apart, Bangkuai says.
2. Using light to moderate tension, pull the band apart, keeping your arms straight while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Slowly return to the start.

Expert tip: To reduce your risk for injury and improve pressing movements, you need to build a stable shoulder blade. Make this a prehab move you do consistently.

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7. Single-Leg Deadlift

Why you should do it: “This move is underrated because it doesn’t appear to be as systemically challenging as, say, a very heavy squat,” says Holly Perkins, C.S.C.S., a strength expert and author of Lift to Get Lean. “And while it won’t lay you out with exhaustion, it’s a fantastic way to correct imbalances by focusing on one leg at a time,” she adds, because it forces you to see and correct muscle weaknesses and biomechanical issues you miss with traditional squatting. “This move is hands-down the most important foundational move to keep you functional and injury-free,” she concludes.

How to do it: 
1. Begin standing on your left leg with an unlocked knee. Rotate and hinge forward from the hip, keeping your right leg straight as you lower your torso.
2. Lower until your chest is nearly parallel to the floor. Then, drive into your left heel to rotate back to the starting position.

Expert tip: Use your arms to help maintain balance. Add dumbbells or kettlebells to increase the challenge.

8. Back Extensions on Stability Ball

Why you should do it: The span of muscle (called erector spinae) that straightens and rotates your spine is incredibly overlooked. “Many times there’s hyper-focus on abdominals with little regard for training this segment of your core,” Robert Reames, C.S.C.S., Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute and Pear Training Intelligence System’s weight control coach says. “But it’s key for posture, core strength, balance, and muscle endurance to maintain all of these things throughout your day,” he adds.

How to do it: 
1. Position yourself face down on the stability ball so your pelvis is resting against its center.
2. Spread your legs straight behind you with your toes on the floor for stability. Hold your arms straight, directly beside you, for the least amount of resistance or straight behind you for max resistance.
3. Curl your upper body somewhat around the ball, then extend upward from the base of your spine. Pause here at the top for a split second, then repeat. This is, in essence, a reverse crunch.

Expert tip: “Be sure to continue looking at the floor as to not hyper extend the cervical spine,” Reames says.

9. Military Press

Why you should do it: “Most men turn this exercise into a push press, using the lower body for strength, or by sitting down,” says Jaclyn Sklaver, FITMISSNYC, NASM-CPT, sports nutritionist. “But, used as a strict standing press, this exercise can increase overhead and core strength while boosting range of motion needed for the gym and in everyday life,” she explains.

How to do it: 
1. Stand with legs shoulder-width apart with no bend in your knees. Position the barbell on the front of your shoulders.
2. Press the bar overhead using only your arms.
3. Once your arms are fully extended overhead, return the bar to the starting position.

Expert tip: “This movement, done from a standing position, uses very ‘strict’ positioning and no lower body movement to work the deltoid muscles in the shoulder,” Sklaver says. Your triceps are your secondary movers, and your core and legs serve as stabilizers.

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10. Goblet Squat

Why you should do it: “High volume squatting has been a staple in any mass building program, with technical breakdown being a pitfall,” says Lucas Dunham, CPT, XPT, performance specialist at EXOS. “This squat variation, however, mitigates the risk of your technique breaking down and allows you to keep constant tension on your quads, glutes, adductors, and hamstrings,” he explains.

How to do it: 
1. Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell and hold the weight at your chest, with your elbows pinned to your sides.
2. Come down as if you were going to sit between your heels. To stand, push through the ground with your heels. Keep a 2:2 tempo (two seconds up, two seconds down).

Expert tip: “Before you start the movement, create tension in your hips by attempting to ‘rip the floor apart’ with your feet,” Dunham says. “This will keep your knees safe and allow you to maximize tension in the legs.”

11. Stepup

Why you should do it: Stepups are highly effective for ramping up your stability and leg strength. Becasue it’s a unilateral (one-legged) movement, you’re forced to balance, improve weaknesses, and strengthen small stabilizing muscles. “If the box is high enough, you’ll tax your glutes in places you’ve never felt before and your quads will also work overtime,” says Philadelphia-based personal trainer Henry Halse, C.S.C.S.

How to do it: 
1. Get a box, tall bench, or something stable enough to stand on that’s at least two or three feet high.
2. Plant one foot on top of the box, then lean forward and step up, pushing through the heel of this planted foot. Pump your opposite arm to leg.
3. Tap the box with your other foot once you reach the top (optional), then lower back to the ground. Keep the same “working” foot on the box until you’re done with your set. Then, switch legs.

Expert tip: Hold dumbbells for added resistance, Halse suggests.

12. Hip Thrust

Why you should do it: The hip thrust is greatly underutilized for a number of reasons. “For one, to perform a proper hip thrust, you essentially have to thrust your pelvis up and down; for the more bashful gym goer, this could be less than appealing,” says Mike Krajewski, PT, C.S.C.S., owner of MK Fitness in Nashville, TN. “However, the strength transfer that occurs from regular hip thrusting into improving deadlift and squat strength makes it worth it,” he adds.

How to do it: 
1. Sit on the floor with your upper back and shoulder blades leaning against a bench, with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
2. Drive your hips into the air, pushing your back against the bench and feet firmly into the floor. Focus your weight into your heels to encourage full glute activation.

Expert tip: To progress this exercise, load your hips with a band, dumbbell, or a barbell (a yoga mat wrapped around for padding is strongly suggested), Krajewski says.

13. Heavy Barbell Split Squat

Why you should do it: “Most lifters incorporate lunges as a finishing movement at the end of a lower-body workout using higher reps and lighter loads”, Seedman says. This isn’t a bad thing, per se. And neither is the most common method of performing lunges in a walking fashion. “Unfortunately, these protocols are not as affective for injury prevention—or for maximizing strength and muscle growth,” he explains. To fully exploit the benefits of lunges you want to incorporate them as one of your primary lower-body lifts. This means you need to go heavy and perform them in a stationary or split squat fashion in a squat rack. “This allows you to use heavier weights in a safe and effective manner while slowing the movement down and working on technique in a systematic and controlled fashion—something that’s difficult to do with walking lunges,” Seedman adds.

How to do it: 
1. Assume the top of a lunge position by placing one foot several feet in front of the other.
2. Slowly lower yourself into the bottom of a lunge, pause, then powerfully but smoothly drive the weight back to the top.
3. Repeat this sequence of the desired number of repetitions before repeating this on the other leg.

Expert tip: “If you have proper muscle function, movement mechanics, and lower body development, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be capable of handling approximately 50% of your 1RM squat for sets of 3-5 reps on stationary barbell lunges and split squats,” Seedman says.

14. Low-to-High Cable Chest Flyes 

Why you should do it: “The cable chest flye is a classic move in any chest workout, as it builds definition within your pecs and shapes the muscle,” Okafor says. Guys usually set the cables at high to mid height, bringing the cables either straight down or directly in front of themselves, generating tension as the cable travels down. With the cable machine set low, though, you target growth and strength in your upper chest—key to building a strong, aesthetic upper body that’s evenly developed.

How to do it: 
1. Set the cable pulley on a low setting. Step forward in front of both pulleys and bring your arms together in front of you.
2. Keep a slight bend in your elbows as you extend your arms straight out to either side, moving in a wide arc. When you feel a stretch in your chest, use the same arc motion to return to the start.
3. Pause at the starting position, then repeat.

Expert tip: “I like to perform a higher rep range (15-20 reps) for this version as it builds great definition in the upper chest,” Okafor says.

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15. 50-Yard Sprints

Why you should do it: “Very rarely do guys actually go into an all-out sprint,” says Chase Weber, celebrity performance trainer. But, leaving the gym will leave you with some serious rewards if you work hard enough. Sprinting torches calories, builds muscular legs, and drastically improves cardiovascular fitness. “You’ll be sore in places you forgot about,” Weber guarantees.

How to do it: 
1. Go to a track, football field, or measure out 50 yards on the street.
2. Do 10 sprints with a minute rest in between.

Expert tip: Maintain proper form throughout, especially as you fatigue.

16. Weighted Bulgarian Split Squat

Why you should do it: Comprehensive leg strength, plain and simple. “Often due to bilateral (working both sides together) exercises like various leg presses, squat variations, jump squats, leg curls, and extensions, you can overlook working each leg unilaterally,” Reames says. Because of this, you can develop imbalances in strength and/or flexibility, which can become even more pronounced as fatigue sets in; on a given exercise your “strong” side can compensate and take over the brunt of the load.

How to do it: 
1. Holding dumbbells in either hand, set one foot forward (the side you want to focus on), planting this foot firmly on the floor. Elevate your back foot on a ledge or box so the top is braced against the surface.
2. Lower your body by bending the front leg to approximately 90 degrees, then return to the start and repeat. Do the same on both sides.

Expert tip: Keep your front knee tracking directly over your foot, so you’re not jutting your knee forward, Reames says. Also, make sure the front foot is planted firmly on the floor.

17. External Shoulder Rotation

Why you should do it: “This is underrated because it appears to be so specific and ‘boring,’ as my clients say,” according to Perkins. But it’s so important because the shoulder is a very unstable joint waiting for injury to happen, she explains. You need exercises that improve the stability of the joint so you can handle the stress caused by moves like bench press, pushups, and overhead pressing.

How to do it: 
1. Attach a D handle at stomach height on a cable column. Stand to the right of it.
2. Hold the handle with your left hand and bend your elbow. Keep this left elbow close to your rib cage, pull the handle from the column out toward your left, keeping the same bent angle in your elbow.
3. Pause in the open position for 2 seconds, then return the handle to the cable column.

Expert tip: “Make sure the rotation only happens at your shoulder,” Perkins says.

18. Ankle Dorsiflexion

Why you should do it: Ankle dorsiflexion (back-bending your foot) is great for your tibialis anterior, a muscle group located along the front of your lower leg, along the shin, Reames says. “It’s an often overlooked muscle group, and its inflammation is the main culprit in shin splints,” Reames explains.

How to do it: 
1. Sit in a chair or on a bench with one leg extended straight out in front of you.
2. Draw your toe towards your knee, then point your toe (this is plantar flexion).
3. Continue this motion, flexing and pointing your toes, maximizing your range of motion each rep. Repeat on both sides.

Expert tip: “You can use a theraband here for resistance as well,” Reames suggests.

19. Power Clean

Why you should do it: “Men think only athletes or CrossFitters need to do power cleans, but the reality is this one exercise trains your fast-twitch muscle fibers, kicks up your central nervous system, builds strength, and improves metabolic conditioning,” Sklaver says. The explosive lift is a bona fide full-body builder that’ll hit your back, glutes, hamstrings, calves, traps, deltoids, and core.

How to do it: 
1. Start with a barbell in the deadlift position on the ground with your feet shoulder-width apart. Place your hands on the barbell just outside your legs.
2. Begin the lift as you would a deadlift, bringing the bar to mid thigh. Once here, extend through your hips, knees, and ankles. Shrug your shoulders up with the bar, forcing your elbows and body to get underneath the bar while catching it in a 3/4 front squat position.

Expert tip: Keep the bar close to your body; the closer it is, the more control you have.

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20. Incline Dumbbell Bench w/ Squeeze 

Why you should do it: “The barbell bench is an exercise that almost every guys does,” Dunham says. “But it’s not the most effective method for packing size on your upper chest—using dumbbells, which allow you to focus more on your pecs, is,” he explains. At the top of the movement, you can give the dumbbells a squeeze that’ll stimulate more hypertrophy.

How to do it: 
1. Grab dumbbells equivalent to 40% of you max barbell bench press (20% each hand), Dunham says. And set a low incline on the bench (1-2 setting).
2. Bring the dumbbells to your lap as you sit down, and use your knees to help you get them up over your shoulders in a starting position. Turn the dumbbells so your palms are facing each other.
3. Squeeze the dumbbells together, hard. Pinch your shoulder blades back as if you were hugging the bench, then pull the weights down to your chest. As you press the dumbbells up, continue to squeeze them together, with a maximal squeeze as you lock out your arms. Keep a 2:2 tempo (2 seconds up, 2 seconds down).

Expert tip: “Don’t rush the upward portion, and consciously think about trying to squeeze the weights together throughout the entire movement,” Dunham says.

21. Single-Leg Situp

Why you should do it: You know blasting out 1,000 crunches isn’t really getting you anywhere. But slight variations on the ab move can yield great results. The single-leg situp works your rectus abdominis and obliques, Halse says, by forcing your core to keep you balanced and stabilized throughout the movement.

How to do it: 
1. Lie on your back with legs straight out in front of you. Bend your right knee and plant your right foot flat on the ground.
2. Raise your arms up toward the ceiling. Perform a situp, reaching up toward the ceiling the entire time. Keep the movement slow and controlled.

Expert tip: “If you let your arms fall forward, the momentum will help you cheat the exercise, rather than making your abs do the work,” Halse says.

22. One-Arm Dumbbell Chest Press

Why you should do it: “I firmly believe a combination of bilateral and unilateral training greatly reinforces structural balance,” Krajewski says. “The one-arm dumbbell chest press is less sexy than performing a heavy barbell bench, however, by training with dumbbells you expose any discrepancies in strength between left and right limbs,” he explains.

How to do it: 
1. Set up on a flat or incline bench holding one dumbbell.
2. With your non-working hand on your hip, perform a chest press movement with only the working arm. Switch sides after the desired number of reps.

Expert tip: “Squeeze your chest at the top of the press to really engage your muscles,” Krajewski says.

23. Rack Pulls

Why you should do it: “Deadlifts have long been considered one of the most effective strength and mass building movements—unfortunately most individuals lack the mobility, joint stability, motor control, postural alignment, form, and lifting mechanics to properly perform deadlifts from the floor,” Seedman says. The result? Serious lower back injuries. But, rather than forego the movement, the key is to modify it so you enhance the benefits while eliminating the negatives that make it risky—enter rack pulls! “Rack pulls are essentially a partial deadlift where you set the safety pins in the squat cage at approximately knee height and perform deadlifts with a reduced range of motion, rather than from the floor,” Seedman says. This move is easier on your low back, easier to master in terms of form and mechanics, and easier to load with heavier weight, meaning you’ll experience higher levels of functional strength and hypertrophy throughout the traps, lats, upper and lower back, glutes, hamstrings, neck, forearms, shoulders, spinal stabilizers, and more.

How to do it: 
1. Set up a power rack with the bar on the pins just below or above your knees. Assume typical deadlift form (stick your butt out, keep the bar close to your body, and maintain a neutral arch with a tight core) and take a mixed grip if the weight is really heavy.
2. Looking straight ahead, inhale, then drive through your hips and knees to pull the weight up. Lock out at the top and pull your shoulders back.
3. Retrace your path by controlling the negative motion and repeat.

Expert tip: “They key is to hinge at your hips rather than squatting down with your knees,” Seedman says.

24. Incline Pushup

Why you should do it: “The pushup is an old-school calisthenic exercise that always seems to find its way at the bottom of the list of exercises guys do to build size and strength in the chest, but it shouldn’t be ignored,” Okafor says. “The incline pushup adds another dimension of intensity to the tried-and-true bodyweight move. “The incline pushup is so simple yet extremely effective because you can do it practically anywhere, anytime, and supplement it with any exercise as a superset,” Okafor adds. This will target the oft-neglected upper chest.

How to do it: 
1. Put your feet on an elevated surface, then perform a traditional pushup.

Expert tip: “As you get stronger, increase the height of the elevation,” Okafor suggests.

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25. Ladders

Why you should do it: “People get embarrassed to try things they’re not good at,” Weber says. Case in point: Ladder agility drills are far more difficult than they look. But they’ve got a metabolic aspect and a neurology angle by forcing you to become in sync with your body. “With time and patience, you’ll get better with your coordination; this is a great way to add a different movement to your workouts,” he adds.

How to do it:
1. Set up a ladder. Work through a series of drills that have you moving through jumps, multi-directional sprints, single-leg hops, and quick-moving steps. Here are some examples:
– Single-leg hops every other space, reverse sprint to start, then single-leg hops on opposite leg
– Lateral quick steps in and out of boxes
– Quick steps on side of ladder, stepping one foot then another in and out of the same box, working your way down
– Two-legged jumps in and out of boxes along side of ladder
– Explosive two-legged jumps, skipping two boxes

Expert tip: Move as quickly as possible through the drills to keep your heart rate up and trigger fast-twitch muscle fibers.

26. Reverse Narrow-Grip Lat Pulldown

Why you should do it: “Most men automatically default to the wide-grip version so they can broaden their back and shoulders,” Perkins says. But the narrow-grip variation is important because you’re better able to develop strength due to the hand position change. “This move will improve your pulling ability with no stress on the posterior shoulder,” Perkins adds. Plus, it’s the best exercise to serve as a primer for chinups, and, eventually, pullups.

How to do it: 
1. Using a straight bar on the lat pulldown cable machine, hold the bar with your hands directly above your shoulders.
2. Sit so you’re anchored at the knees and both arms are fully extended.
3. Draw your shoulder blades back and down towards your waist. Then pull the bar down until it nearly touches your upper chest.
4. Pause for 2 seconds, then deeply contract the muscles of your back from your shoulders to your waist. Slowly release until your arms are straight with unlocked elbows.

Expert tip: “When done correctly, this move is fantastic for improving the muscular connection between your core and your shoulder girdle—meaning you’ll feel it in back, core, and biceps,” Perkins says.

27. Slow-and-Go Rows

Why you should do it: “A thick, wide back is a tell-tale sign of true strength; but guys often think heavy, fast-pulling exercises are the way to achieve this,” Dunham says. Spoiler alert: It’s not. A well-built back has a combo of fast-twitch and slow-twitch musculature. “Slow-and-go rows are a way to maximally recruit both types, building a platform for more muscle mass,” Dunham adds. Perform it with any of the following pieces of equipment: TRX, a T bar setup, dumbbells, or a seated row machine. “I personally use TRX rows, because they mitigate technical errors,” he says.

How to do it: 
1. Grab onto the TRX handles and set up with a fairly challenging angle between you and the ground (<45 degrees).
2. Spike your heels into the floor and stiffen up as if you were in a plank position.
3. Your shoulders should be down away from your ears, and your body should feel solid from head to toe.
3. Drive your elbows down toward the floor, then straight back simultaneously. Once you feel a squeeze between your shoulder blades and deep in your lats, push yourself back down as if you were doing a slow pushup.
4. The first rep should be done very slowly—3 seconds up, 3 seconds down. The second rep should be performed explosively with the same exact technique. Repeat this cadence until your technique starts to break down or your grip fails. Make sure you keep your forehead in line with your chest and stay tall; it’ll be tempting to crunch and flex forward.

Expert tip: “With the TRX rows, you can push a lot more out of the set by simply taking a step back away from the wall and increasing the starting angle of your body and the ground,” Dunham says.

28. Bentover Barbell Row

Why you should do it: An incredibly effective exercise to bulk and broaden your back, the bentover barbell row gets a lot of mixed opinions from lifters. Bottom line: If you have back problems, skip this exercise. Unlike dumbbell bentover rows, your legs and low back have to work overtime to preserve your form. But if you have a healthy back, your hamstrings will get a good amount of stimulation from this variation. If you’re still hesitant, use lighter weight.

How to do it: 
1. Grab a barbell with an overhand grip. Stick your butt back and keep your elbows straight until the barbell is touching your knees.
2. Pull the bar in towards the bottom of your rib cage.

Expert tip: “As you bring the bar up, pinch your shoulder blades back and stick your chest out to maximize the amount of work your back muscles do,” Halse says.

29. Three-Way Cable Wood Chops

Why you should do it: “I see wood chops done from time to time, but the trend leans heavily towards regular mid-level wood chops,” Krajewski says. “I like to vary the style of chops I perform by alternating the handle position each set,” he explains. The small tweak seriously challenges your abdominals and obliques. “For those trying to get that nice v-shape out of their torso, I would definitely recommend this move,” he adds.

How to do it: 
1. Set up a cable machine with 1 handle at eye level for high to low chops, waist level for regular wood chops, and foot level for low to high wood chops.
2. Standing about arms-length away from the cable machine, grab the handle with both hands. Lock and flex your arms.
3. In one motion, rotate your hips and pull the cable down toward your far hip.

Expert tip: Keep the motion slow and controlled.

30. Barbell Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

Why you should do it: This move’s accolades coincide with all the other unilateral moves on this list. It exposes and strengthens any imbalances or weaknesses you might have. The barbell single-leg Romanian deadlift works the hamstrings, glutes, erector spinae (muscles along your spine), postural stabilizers, and core strength all in one go, Liz Lowe says.

How to do it:
1. Holding the barbell in front of your body, put all your weight onto one leg. Lift the other off the floor and kick back your heel as you hinge forward from the hips.
2. Keep your body in alignment with a flat back as you lower the barbell a couple inches below your knee, and, slowly, using your hamstrings on the grounded leg, come back to standing.

Expert tip: Don’t rush the move or use momentum to swing you back and forth. If you’re a little wobbly, give your planted leg some time to set before continuing with the movement.

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