You’ve heard the advice: Switch up your routine every four to six weeks to avoid plateaus. But with so many exercises to choose from, this can easily become an exercise in frustration-unless you start with the moves below. Pepper them throughout your workouts, or combine all 10, for the ultimate total-body circuit. Either way, you’ll enjoy the same payoffs: more muscle, fewer injuries, and a body that seems tailor-made for slim-fit shirts.
Dumbbell Incline Curl
The incline positions your arms behind you, allowing you a greater range of motion that you’d get with a standard curl, says Martin Rooney, founder of Training for Warriors.
Do This: Lie on an incline bench and let the weights hang at arm’s length, palms forward. Curl the weights, pause, lower them halfway, pause 5 seconds, and finish lowering. (10 reps)
Neutral-Grip Dumbbell Bench Press
“Dumbbells don’t lock in your arms like a barbell, so your stabilizing muscles work harder,” says Joe Dowdell, CEO of Peak Performance.
Do This: Lie on a flat bench and hold a pair of dumbbells over your chest, palms facing in. Lower the dumbbells to the sides of your chest. Pause, then press them back up. (10 reps)
Half-kneeling Rotational Cable Chop
“This exercise trains your core for exactly what it’s designed to do: provide stability and transfer power across multiple planes of motion,” says Dowdell.
Do This: Attach a rope to a cable station; kneel on your right knee, your left side facing the machine. Rotate as you pull the rope past your right hip. (10 reps, switch sides, and repeat)
Barbell Front Squat with Heels Elevated
“Elevating your heels helps keep your torso upright, reducing the chance of a lower-back injury,” says Dowdell. It also increases the load on your quads.
Do This: With your heels on weight plates; hold a barbell across the front of your shoulders with your palms facing up. Squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. (10 reps)
Half-Kneeling Single-Arm Bottom-Up Kettle Bell Press
“Holding the bell upside down builds shoulder stability,” says trainer Greg Robins of Cressey Performance. And single-arm reps torch your core.
Do This: Hold a kettle bell in your left hand in front of your shoulder, bottom up. Step forward with your right foot and kneel on your left knee. (Press the bell overhead 10 times. Stand up, switch sides, and repeat)
Dumbbell Chest-Supported Row
“This is the equal but opposite exercise to the bench press,” says Robins. “You’ll correct muscle imbalances while building incredible back strength.”
Do This: Lie facedown on a bench set to its lowest incline. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at arm’s length, palms facing back. Row the weights to your ribs, turning your hands so your palms face in. (10 reps)
Dumbbell Floor Press
While traditionally thought of as a chest exercise, this move also nails the triceps. “It allows for a greater load on the triceps than a press down,” says Robins. It’s also easier on the elbows.
Do This: Lie on your back on the floor and hold a pair of dumbbells above your chest with your arms straight, knees bent, and feet flat. Lower the weights until your upper arms touch the floor. (10 reps)
Barbell Hip Thrust
“This activates your glutes better than any other exercise because it keeps them under tension throughout the entire lift,” says Bret Contreras, a trainer based in Phoenix.
Do This: Sit on the floor, your upper back against a bench, a padded barbell across your hips. Squeeze your glutes and raise your hips so your body is straight from shoulders to knees. Hold 5 seconds. (10 reps)
Barbell Straight-Leg Deadlift
“This exercise teaches the all-important ‘hip hinge,’ which is essential to powerful, safe movement both in the gym and out on the field,” says Contreras.
Do This: Grab a barbell and let in hang at arm’s length in front of you. Keeping your knees slightly bent, push your hips back and lower your torso until it’s nearly parallel to the floor. (10 reps)
Standing Dumbbell Single-Leg Calf Raise
This can be done anywhere there’s a step of platform. “It helps enhance ankle mobility, which will boost performance in other lower-body exercises,” says Contreras.
Do This: Grab a dumbbell and stand on a step or a 25-pound plate. Cross your left foot behind your right ankle, balancing on the ball of your right foot. Raise your right heel. (10 reps, switch sides, and repeat)
-By John Roberts