Five Unique Muscle Building Exercises You Are Not Currently Doing


Jan 18, 2023
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Everyone wants to build muscle and look great naked. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

The point of working out is to look better, plain and simple.

Yeah, there is training to improve strength, function or sports performance but at the end of the day, who doesn’t love some added muscle on their frame?

With that being said, training for building muscle can get boring. How many cable crossovers and barbell curls can you do before you get tired of it and join a CrossFit gym?

Variety is the spice of life.

Sometimes just adding in a new exercise can give you an added jolt of motivation to push harder during your workouts.

Here is a list of five exercises you ARE NOT CURRENTLY DOING, that will not only help you build more muscle, but keep things interesting as well!

1- Cleans

The olympic lifts are not typically thought of as great exercises to build muscle. However, back in the day a lot of bodybuilders actually started out doing olympic style weightlifting. Even Arnold’s intro into the iron game was performing the olympic lifts.

Then, somewhere along the way, people got this idea that learning how to perform a clean or a snatch was equivalent to rocket science. Learning how to perform a clean is not that hard, learning how to perfect it can be. We are not looking for mastery here, just competency.

I recently made an effort to learn the olympic lifts. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m getting there. The one thing I have figured out above all else, is performing the olympic lifts, cleans in particular, is fun! Especially if you have never done them before. You almost get that beginner feel again. You can lift more weight nearly every week due to just getting more proficient at the movement. It’s great!

Cleans are a total body exercise, but I would primarily categorize them as a posterior chain movement (especially power cleans). The clean will work your lower back, glutes, hamstrings as well as the upper back and traps. The quads, delts and core are all involved as well.

Since you are not looking to be a competitive olympic lifter (I assume), you can get away with just doing power cleans. I would start from the hang before attempting to perform a power clean from the floor. If you are on an upper/lower type split, incorporate cleans on a lower body day either as a main movement or an accessory movement done after squats.

If you want more information on incorporating olympic lifting into your program, an excellent resource that’s not geared toward olympic weightlifters is Olympic Weightlifting for Sports by Greg Everett.

2- Farmer Walk

A strongman favorite that is seriously one of the BEST exercises no one does. This exercise is a game changer with tremendous carryover into your other lifts.

Out of all of the exercises on this list, the farmer walk may be the hardest for you to realize from a muscle building perspective.

The bottom line is the farmer walk will directly increase your grip strength which will indirectly help you get better at deadlifting, pull-ups, rows, etc.

Aside from that, you will see hypertrophy improvements across your upper back, traps, and forearms.

You can implement the farmer walk in a number of different ways. I like to use them as an assistance lift on deadlift days. Another option would be to use them at the end of a workout along with a few other exercises in a circuit “metabolic conditioning” fashion.

If your gym doesn’t have the fancy farmer walk bars, you can just use heavy dumbbells, kettlebells or even 45lb plates can work.

I would caution against hitting farmer walks a day before you need your grip fresh, say the day before a heavy deadlift workout.

3- The One Arm Dumbbell Bench Press

One arm db press

If you have been following me for any length of time you know this is one of my all time favorite exercises! I mention this exercise so much I almost didn’t put it on this list, however, it’s too good not to include. Plus, it’s still a movement that is not commonly done.

I credit a lot of my bench press strength to this movement and still, this exercise gets no respect. I think that is largely due to people thinking there is nothing special about it.

In reality it’s just an upper body pressing movement that works your chest, shoulders and triceps. However, in order to complete the movement it takes total body tension. If you do not start with the required tension, you will go flying off the side of the bench. That same tension needs to be with you at the start of the bench press.

If nothing else this exercise teaches you how to really create that tension and hold it throughout the movement.

Before jumping into this one, pick a DB that is considerably lighter than what you would regularly do with DB press. If you go too heavy right of the bat you will end up embarrassing yourself in front of everyone at the gym.

To see the one arm dumbbell bench press in action, check out this video.

4- Muscle Up / Chest to Bar Pull-Ups

It has been said the Overhead Press is the upper body squat. I don’t agree. If there was such a thing as an upper body squat it would have to be the muscle-up. The muscle-up is the only upper body exercise that will tax practically every muscle fiber across the entire upper body region. The lats, biceps, shoulders, chest, triceps, etc all receive an enormous stimulus during a muscle-up.

Anyone who disagrees with this probably can’t do one… and that’s ok. Muscle-ups are hard.

Since the muscle-up is such a challenging exercise and there is a learning curve to it, I decided to add the chest to bar pull-up to the list. While not quite the same fancy muscle builder, the chest to bar pull-up still has a lot to offer.

A lot of people recognize the pull-up as an excellent back movement. With that being said, doing chest to bar pull-ups is just that much more effective. Generally the greater range of motion you can use with an exercise the better. What I have found is most people are terribly weak in the top range of motion during a pull-up. Even people who can bust out 15+ regular pull-ups may struggle to hit five solid bringing their chest to the bar.

Here is a challenge for everyone. Replace all regular pull-ups with chest to bar pull-ups over the course of the next month and then come back to me with the results. My prediction? A noticeable improvement in upper back, lat, forearm and biceps development.

5- Dumbbell Snatch

Last, but not least, the dumbbell snatch. I have fell in love with this exercise over the last year and for some reason NO ONE else has. I have even been recognized at the gym when traveling because of this exercise. I had a guy come up to me while I was out of town and introduce himself saying he watches my YouTube videos and knew it was me because he has never saw anyone else doing a dumbbell snatch before.

The best aspect of this lift is how easy it is to learn. The dumbbell version is much easier to learn, in my opinion, than the barbell counterpart. The lift can be learned in ten to fifteen minutes.

This is another total body lift, however, the biggest benefit will be in the traps, lats, delts, core and once again (to a lesser extent) the entire posterior chain.

A few points I want to make about this exercise. One, most people lack overhead stability. The DB snatch will improve ones ability to control weight in an overhead or outstretched position. This translates to any pressing exercise, not just overhead press. Secondly, the unilateral nature of the exercise offers a unique stimulus. In order to complete the movement you need total body tightness throughout the movement – think the feeling at the start of a deadlift.

Lastly, after doing this exercise consistently for a few weeks you WILL be more explosive. This is a fast lift. Faster is better with this one. People tend to lift like old people bang, slow and careful. This exercise helps you break out of that mold.

You can also do this exercise with a kettlebell, but I like the Dumbbell version much better.