Have you been stuck in a fitness rut? Finding yourself bored with the repetitive workouts you’ve found on Pinterest or Instagram? Maybe you are a coach or personal trainer that needs new exercises to keep the workouts fresh. Or maybe you work out at home and you’re just looking for some variety in your normal list of exercises!
Quick Guide, click to jump to a section:
- Double Under Substitutions
- Plank Variations
- Body Weight Challenges
- Push Up Variations
- Core Crushers
- Leg Day Variety
- Partner Exercises
- Kettlebells & Dumbbells
- Next-Level Gymnastics
- Barbell Movements
Instead of just coming up with different combinations of the same old exercises, try mixing it up with totally fresh movements! Some of these may be new and some may seem familiar. But this list of over 100 different exercises is sure to add spice to the workouts in your gym!
Variety not only keeps your workouts interesting, it also helps prevent overuse injuries. And those are two things that keep athletes healthy and coming back for more. So save this page to your favorites bar or home screen for all your programming needs.
Exercises for General Fitness with Minimal or No Equipment Required:
Double Under Substitutions:
- Mini-Hops – Nothing more than an unweighted mini squat into a short jump straight into the air. A good warmup or HIIT work.
- Plate Hops – a simple hop off and on a bumper plate, as though you were jumping rope. Helps with plyometric recoil calf strength.
- Tuck Jumps – Leap straight into the air and tuck your knees to your chest. A solid boost to the difficulty of the mini hop.
- Lateral Hops – Hopping side to side over a low hurdle, maybe six inches high. A barbell loaded with standard plates works too.
- ***Note: These will not help you gain the skills you need to learn a double under, but they give you some options to throw in your conditioning workout instead of single-unders every time.
- Shoulder Taps – while planking, you rapidly lift one hand to tap the opposite shoulder and put it back down. Alternate hands rapidly – but make sure the movement stays controlled. No butt wiggles!
- Side Plank – can be done in high or low position. For an added challenge, extend the top arm to the ceiling.
- MedBall (or Bosu) Planks – a plank on a solid but unstable surface can really challenge the abdominal obliques and serratus. These are two important muscles for safety, control, and visible definition. Check out a Bosu here!
- Plank Walk-Ups – start in a high plank position (on your hands) and move to a low plank position (resting on the forearms) Then back up to the high plank position, moving one arm at a time.
- Chaturanga Planks – imagine a push-up, except you hold the position at both the top and bottom. Yeeeaaaaah, you can feel it burning already can’t you?
- Bird Dogs – starting from a plank position, you slowly raise the opposite arm and leg until they are horizontal. Lower them back down and switch sides.
- Figure 8 Planks – Using a slamball or medball, hold a plank and roll the ball around your arms. For an added challenge, you can do this with a partner and pass the ball between you!
Body Weight Challenges:
- Inchworms – start in a standing toe-touch position. Walk your hands out until you are in plank position. Then tip-toe your feet up to the hands, keeping your knees as straight as possible the entire time.
- Stance Jacks – sort of like jumping jacks, except instead of clapping your hands overhead, your jump ends with your feet wide and slightly crouched. Instead of reaching overhead, you touch the floor with one hand, then hop back up to a standing position
- Dive Bomber – start in a pike position on your hands and feet, then drop your chest toward the floor and come through, pushing up into a front press position. For you yoga enthusiasts, it’s going from a downward facing dog to a cobra position.
- Bear Crawl – walk like a bear! Hands and feet are on the ground, butt is in the air.
- Army Crawl – laying on the ground, using your forearms and legs to propel you, just like you are crawling under an obstacle.
- Mountain Climbers – start in a push-up position. Then start alternating legs as you bring a knee to your chest, and back to starting position. Sort of like running in place… horizontally?
- Dragon Walk – Starting in a push-up position, you lift one leg and bring it up touching the knee to the elbow as you reach the bottom of your push up. Sometimes called Spiderman Push Ups.
- Wall Walks – start at the bottom of a push up with your feet touching a wall. Then push yourself into a plank and walk your feet up the wall until you’re in a wall-facing handstand.
Push Up Variants:
- Hand-Release Push-Ups – At the bottom of the push-up, lift your hands off the ground before pushing back up. Make sure to keep a solid plank position with your core. Worming your way back up is cheating!
- Decline Push Ups – To work the upper chest and shoulders more just do a push up with your feet on a bench or stack of plates.
- Bird Dog Push Ups – Perform a normal push up but place your legs slightly wider than usual for balance. At the top of the push-up, perform a bird dog.
- Weighted Push Ups – a standard push up, but performed while balancing a bumper plate on your back.
- Plyometric Push-Ups – Set up with bumper plates just outside your normal hand position for a push-up. Perform one push up as normal, but accelerate through the “up” portion of the movement and land with your hands on the bumper plates. Perform one wide-grip push-up and “jump” back down.
- Bosu or Med Ball Push Ups – Standard incline push up made not so easy by doing it on an unstable surface like a Bosu or Medicine Ball.
- Ring Push Ups – add even more instability and need for core control by switching from a ball to rings, hanging just a few inches off the ground.
- Renegade Row Push Ups – a Renegade Row on each side followed by a push-up. Easy to explain, murder to do. Remember: the more they complain, the more benefit they are getting!
- Push Up To Dip – Take a pair of nice tall, heavy kettlebells if you don’t have paralletes available. Hold the handles and do a push-up. Now tuck your knees, swing your feet forward, and end up with your legs out straight in front and your heels on the ground. Take a moment to marvel at your own hip mobility. Now do a dip. Rinse and repeat.
- Russian Dips – Can be performed on dip bars, jerk blocks, or a pair of tall plyo boxes.
Need a good set of rings for your garage or gym? The great thing about rings is that you can use them more easily for gymnastic movements, unlike the suspension rigs. Here’s a great set! Maybe you are looking for some name brand suspension trainer rigs instead? Check out this package from TRX.
- Forward Ball Slams – standard slam, extend as high as possible and drive the ball to the ground between your feet.
- Transverse Ball Slams – also called Med Ball Side Tosses – stand with your right shoulder facing the wall. Hold the ball in front of you and swing it from left to right, releasing it into the wall. Alternate sides with each set. Scott Dolly and the team at Evolution love to use these for rotational stability.
- Lateral Ball Slams – similar to the standard ball slam, except you need to slam the ball to the left and right sides of your body, like a rainbow. Turn the entire trunk and pivot on your toes as you do this.
- Superman Hold – it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s going to make you use muscles you didn’t know you had!
- Dead Bugs – Great progression for Hollow Holds!
- Hollow Hold – Great core stability training. If you can master this, you are well on your way to more efficient and safer lifting. Once these are solid, try hollow rocks!
- Hollow Rocks – Get in that Hollow Hold position and start rocking back and forth, head to toes. Make sure to maintain form to avoid looking like a see-saw.
- Pole V-Ups – lay with your back on the floor and grab the rig with both hands over your head. Now lift your feet off the ground and tap them to the rig as high up as you can.
- Pole Scissors – the same position as the pole v-ups except you just lift your legs and even hips off the ground, then kick the legs alternating up and down, like a scissors kick.
- Wolf Raise – A hollow hold position… with one knee tucked up… and a medicine ball held up toward the ceiling. If that doesn’t sound spicy enough, you can really bring the heat by doing core crunches to press that ball to the ceiling. These come courtesy of our good friend Mike Gerometta at Red Bearded Viking Human Performance and Rehabilitation.
- Russian Twists – balance on your butt with your hips and knees bent. Your rear end should be the only thing touching the ground. Pick up a medicine ball, and twist at the waist, back and forth.
- Russian Taps – just like a Russian Twist, except you turn far enough to actually tap the ball on either side as you twist.
- Half-Get Ups – Lay flat on your back on the floor with a barbell pressed up in a bench press position. Now, sit straight up and press the barbell overhead. It’s good to have your feet locked into something for this.
- V-Ups – Lay flat on the floor. Lift your legs and upper body off the floor at the same time (making a v-shape) and touch your toes. Then come back down.
“What’s a Slam Ball?” you might ask? These little guys right here. They are soft, full of sand, and smoosh flat on the bottom when you slam them onto the floor. (keeps them from running away until you’re done playing with them!)
Leg Day Variety:
- Overhead Plate Lunges – Grab a bumper plate, hold it overhead with both hands, and start lunging. You can go one foot after the other to walk your way through this one as well.
- Step Ups – Choose a sturdy plyo box, preferably 20-24 inches high. Step up, one leg at a time, and stand up tall on the box. Make sure you’re driving your weight entirely with one leg. The trail leg should only touch the box once you’ve stood all the way up.
- Bulgarian Split Squats- This looks similar to a lunge, but the back foot is up on a bench. Make sure your feet are shoulder width apart to avoid losing your balance! These can be a challenge unweighted for high reps, or you can add weight with dumbbells, kettlebells, or even a barbell!
- Squat Jumps – Perform a basic air squat. Instead of simply standing, accelerate through the “up” portion of the lift and get a little air. If you’re using a light barbell, you only need to jump 1/2-1 inch at the most.
- Jumping Lunges – This is your basic lunge, but adding the challenge of jumping directly up from the kneeling position and then alternating legs in the air!
- Pistol Squats – These are, typically, alternating single-leg squats. Just because you’re on one leg doesn’t mean the same points of performance as with two legs doesn’t apply! Start with your legs fully extended. Then, pick up one foot and keep the leg out in front of you. (You can hold your toe for balance if needed!) Then squat on one leg until your hips are below parallel. Don’t let your heel touch the ground, and don’t put that second leg down until you’re fully standing again!
- Depth Jumps – We aren’t fans of rebounding box jumps due to the risk of Achilles injury. However, these are a different story! Jump down from the box forward, not backward. Land lightly on the balls of your feet and immediately jump straight up in the air again
Grab a partner, because PRODUCTIVE DISCOMFORT loves company!
- Partner Russian Twists – just like Russian Twists except the partners are back-to-back and have to pass a ball to each other!
- Team Russian Twists – everybody gets in Russian Twist position with their feet pointing into the center of the circle. One person starts with the ball and you pass it around the circle. For even more fun add another ball. Feeling sadistic? The first person to let their feet drop gets to do burpees! This particular torture was taught to us by Michael Doleman at Winchester Boxing.
- Ball Toss Crunch – you and a buddy get in sit-up position with your toes touching. Hold a medicine ball in your hands, and as you perform a crunch, chest pass it to your partner to catch. They drop to the ground, crunch up, and toss it back.
- Partner Med Ball Side Tosses – It helps to have big bulky balls for this one. Just like the transverse slams into the wall as above, except you are chucking it to a frenemy. Because bouncing a ball against a wall is fun, but it isn’t really a game. You need a partner to play a game!
- Nordic Hamstring Curls – done in pairs. One partner kneels on the ground, the other holds their feet. The kneeling partner drops face-first toward the ground, using their hamstrings to slow their fall and then pull themselves back up to kneeling position. Add a medicine ball in your hands to boost the challenge.
- Nordic Ball Toss – Ideally done with four people. Two people face each other in Nordic Hamstring Position while partners hold their feet. Now they throw a medicine ball to each other as they drop down to the ground. Really gives you an incentive to get back up ASAP!
Kettlebells & Dumbbells:
A big thank you to Scott Dolly and his team at Evolution HPR for coming up with lots of inventive ways to incorporate unilateral exercises into programming!
- Goblet Squats – this is a traditional front squat, but with a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell held just below your chin.
- Goblet Step Ups – Hold that same KB or DB in the goblet position while performing box step ups. Just do your meniscus a favor – no weighted box jumps please!
- Dumbbell Rollback Extensions – These are also known as skull crushers. Lie on the floor with a pair of dumbbells lined up by your ears. Reach overhead, then perform a tricep extension and return the dumbbells to their original position. Make sure to keep control and avoid failure, or you might find out why they’re called skull crushers.
- American or Russian Kettlebell Swings – if you’ve never used kettlebells in your planned exercise routines, you need them. They are a great complex movement that trains your glutes and core. Your shoulders are actually doing less work than you’d think. American KBS stop just at horizontal. Russian swings go all the way overhead.
- Figure-8 Swings – swing that ‘bell around one leg, then through them and around the other leg. Switch hands as you pass the kettlebell through the legs.
- Turkish Get-Ups – Check out this video for a full-tutorial! Basically, you start by lying on the ground, pressing a KB or DB straight in the air. Then you stand up, keeping the KB above you the whole time. They are fun, challenging, and humbling all at the same time! Once you’ve mastered the KB version, you can humble yourself all over again with a barbell!
- Windmills – These not only strengthen your core, but they’re also great for strengthening shoulder stability!
- Farmers Carry – grab a heavy kettlebell in each hand, stand up, and then walk! A great one for those people that like to get ALL the groceries in with just one trip.
- Farmers Lunges – the same stance as a Farmer Carry, but you are taking big long strides into lunges the whole way down the gym and back.
- Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts – A single-leg RDL starts with the athlete fully standing.These are often confused with stiff-legged deadlifts, so let’s set the record straight! You can perform this either at just bodyweight, or add a barbell, kettlebell, or dumbbell for resistance. Lift your non-weightbearing foot off the ground and keep it behind you. Leave a slight bend to your knee. We’re not squatting, but we’re not locking that knee out either. Keep your back flat and perform the negative of a deadlift. Stop when you reach the limits of your mobility – meaning, either your knee or your back is going to bend. Then come back up to a standing position.
- Halos – These can be performed either standing or half-kneeling. Take a kettlebell with both hands. Now, trace a halo around your head.
- KB or DB walking Lunges – Put either one of these in the goblet hold position and get to steppin’. Want to add a challenge? Try either two kettlebells in a front rack position, or just one side at a time!
- Single Arm Overhead Lunges – use a dumbbell or kettlebell. Alternate arms halfway through each set.
- Single Arm Overhead Squats – again, use a dumbbell or kettlebell. Alternate arms halfway through each set.
- Single Arm Side Lunge – can be performed with a dumbbell held overhead or horizontally to the side
- Double Arm Versions of the Overhead Lunges, Squats, and Side Lunges – sort of tells the story right there, yeah?
- DB or KB Press or Push Press – using these single-arm weights really increases shoulder muscle activation during these exercises.
- Single Arm Front Rack Marches – Put a KB or DB in a front rack position against your shoulder. Then start a deliberate high-knee marching walk in place. Want that “deep V”? Your abdominals are designed to resist motion of your spine. You’ll really need to brace to keep from rotating during this march!
- KB or DB Deadlifts – These are great for high-speed lifts during a HIIT circuit or in supersets of other Kettlebell and Dumbbell exercises.
- Deficit KB or DB Deadlifts – These can really improve your strength at the lift-off of a deadlift. A deadlift standing on a platform or weights
- KB or DB Thrusters – use one in each hand to add an element of scapular stabilizer strengthening to the usual thruster… because they don’t suck enough already.
- Devil Presses – Think “Burpee with dumbbells.” That’s right, someone figured out a way to make them worse!
- Man Makers – Take a Renegade Push Up and add a Devil Press! Fun times are ahead, I promise.
A lot of these require special equipment, but it can be a “ton” of fun trying to do the stuff you see the world’s strongest men do on TV! (I never apologize for a pun by the way.)
- Yoke Carries – a classic strongman yoke is pretty expensive, but it really challenges your entire body! It can also double as a squat rack and plate storage, so it’s not too bad of an investment for a gym. But if you are looking to add this to your Garage Gym, try these Swing Straps. They give you a similarly unstable load to carry but only cost around $75.
- Atlas Stone Over-Shoulder – this works with any number of large heavy objects. Soft Atlas Stones and Atlas Sand Bags are two of the more popular items at most gyms. Hoist it from the ground, toss it over a shoulder. Way easier said than done.
- Sled Drag – Most sleds come with straps to put over your shoulders, but attaching a rope will work just fine, too. Grab the straps or that rope and start walking or running depending on the weight and distance!
- Arm-Over-Arm Sled Pull – start with a weighted sled on a smooth surface. Add a big long rope to the front, and then drag it towards you, arm-over-arm.
- Prowler Push – High or Low Variations. This sled variation involves pushing the loaded sled in front of you. It’s a real hamstring workout, which is great since this muscle group is somewhat neglected during most HIIT workouts.
- Axle Bar Cleans – Your basic barbell clean, but with an axle bar! An axle bar is thicker, and it lacks sleeves so the weight can’t rotate like it does on a normal bar. This requires a ton of grip strength and slightly different technique when the weights get heavy.
- Strict Toes to Bar – Many of us use a kip to do high-rep T2B. Cutting this out makes the movement a heck of a lot harder. Start from a dead-hang with active shoulders. Press down into the bar with your hands while keeping a nice hollow position. As your body starts to lever under the bar, perform the biggest crunch of your life and lift your legs simultaneously to touch your toes to the bar. Control the descent so you don’t start swinging!
- Skin the Cat – This is something nearly every kid does without thinking about it when they approach a set of rings at a playground. But it’s pretty challenging for adults! Grab the bar, swing your legs over your head and keep going until you’ve flipped over completely. You’ll probably want to let go as your come around so you don’t twist your shoulders too much.
- L-Sits – while supporting yourself with your arms on rings or paralletes, lift your legs up in front of you until they are parallel to the floor. Hold them there for as long as you can and keep your knees straight!
- Pike Leg Lifts – seated on the ground with your legs out straight in front of you. Balance with your hands and lift your feet off the ground a few inches and then set them back down. Repeat till dead.
- Seal Walks – Remember that Hollow position we talked about earlier? Well, you’re going to find that same core position and do it from your hands and feet. Point your toes. Most of your weight should be supported by your shoulders. Your feet are really just for balance. Now walk forward on your hands. If you lose core control, you’re gonna have a bad time.
- Wall-Facing Handstand Holds – These are great because they ease you into the core and shoulder control that are your tickets to the fabled land of handstand walks.
- Body Levers aka Dragon Flags – Lay on your back and hold onto a rig or pole for support. Keeping your body in a tight Hollow position. Bring your toes straight up to touch the pole, without bending at the hip. Your shoulders should be the only part of your body touching the ground in the top position. Then come back down to the floor with control.
Paralletes can be used for many gymnastic exercises. You can either purchase them online here or if you are handy, you can make a set following the instructions here.
Beyond Your Average Clean and Jerks
- Box Squats – a simple change to the standard back squat. Place a box behind you that allows you to sit ideally to just below parallel. When you go to squat, shift your hips back and keep your shins perpendicular to the ground. You will come to a full seated position on the box. Start by pushing your traps into the bar, engaging your core. Then use your legs to drive up from the box. Box squats allow you to recover faster, train around knee injuries, and improve mobility. They also help with power development by separating the eccentric and concentric portions of the lift and cutting out the static phase that trips most people up.
- Clusters – a full clean into a thruster. Because you want your clients to have a Hate/Hate relationship with you.
- Sots Press – Start with a front squat. When you hit full depth, stay there. Now, get your core tight and do a few overhead presses from this clean grip. You can also vary this movement by taking the barbell behind the neck and pressing in a snatch grip instead!
- Duck Walks – it’s just walking in a deep squat, but with an unloaded barbell or PVC pipe in an overhead squat position.
- Snatch Balance – start with a bar in the high back rack position (resting across the upper shoulders behind your neck. Use a wide, snatch-grip on the bar. Dip with your knees and drive your body under the bar. You should catch the bar in an overhead squat.
- Sumo Deadlifts – a super-wide stance deadlift. Feet should be well wider than the shoulders, toes pointed out. Your grip is between the thighs. This produces more Quad activation than Glutes, as your torso is more vertical than horizontal.
- Good Mornings – This is a simple exercise but a bit tough to understand when just told about it. Check out the video link to see the proper form.
- Front Rack Lunges – get in that front rack position with a weighted barbell. Then lunge either forward or reverse, and return to start.
- Front Rack Step Ups – With a barbell (or KB or DB) in the front rack position, perform a basic step-up to the same points of performance we’ve mentioned. This not only adds a strength component for your lower body, but challenges your core to help keep your torso upright!
- Romanian Deadlifts – Once again, not to be confused with stiff-legged deadlifts! Same principles as the single-leg version but using both legs and a heavier barbell. I typically program these based off my 1RM clean, not my 1RM deadlift!
- When you’ve tried everything else, take any of the above exercises and make your athletes do them veeeeeryyyyyy slooooooowwwwwwly. They’ll have sore muscles they’d totally forgotten about after this!
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