Lexus redesigns its cars and SUVs so they stay fresh and they’re ALWAYS better than the ones that came before. Spartans are no different. They’re always redesigning the way they train, eat, and think — whether it’s to prepare for the next unbreakable feat or overcoming obstacles like injury or age. In this five-part series, we spoke with Spartan founder and CEO Joe De Sena about how redesigning his training, nutrition, and recovery over the years has forged him into the Unbreakable CEO that he is today.
You’d be surprised just how much the slightest variation to an exercise can turn on a whole lot of other muscles. For example, if you’ve been doing the same exact exercises for months (or even years), while you have become strong and efficient in those movements, you most likely still have hidden weaknesses or imbalances. Those weaknesses or imbalances could either be holding back your performance, or — in worse scenarios — creating compensations that can set you up for injury.
Related: The 7-Day Body Redesign Training Program
While there are lots of variations to lots of exercises, we honed in on six that don’t get enough coverage. Here, Spartan Coaches Gabe Snow and Kristina Centenari share how small tweaks in your training can lead to big results.
Exercise Variations You Can Use to Redesign Your Training Right Now
Instead of the shoulder press, do the half-kneeling bells up overhead press.
“With the bell being away from the body, it activates the core more,” Coach Gabe says. “And holding it upside down creates a real challenge for the shoulder."
Instead of the bent-over row, do the isometric quadruped single-arm row.
“One of your core’s primary goals is to prevent overextension, flexion, or rotation of the lower lumbar,” he says. “When rowing, form breaks down at the lower lumbar due to weak core strength and stability, so this movement will reinforce your core and improve your rowing strength."
Instead of the forward or reverse lunge, do the rotational lunge.
“As humans, we almost always move in the sagittal (linear) plane, we rarely move in the frontal (lateral) plane, and we almost never move in the transverse (rotational) plane,” Coach Kristina says. “By working in the transverse plane, you're working on becoming more powerful, and by incorporating the rotational lunge into your workouts, you're building your power unit from the ground up."
Instead of the deadlift, do the single-leg deadlift with adduction and rotation.
“If you have an imbalance and you're lifting bilaterally, the dominant side ends up pulling more than its fair share of the load,” Coach Gabe says. “Throwing the SLDL with adduction and rotation into the mix is great because it gives each side of the body a fair shot to get strong."
Instead of the broad jump or box jump, do a two-footed jump into a single-foot land.
“I’ve seen a lot of people get obsessed with concentric power (the jumping part) but pay no attention to the eccentric part (the landing), and this is where a lot of injuries happen,” Coach Kristina says. “Our ability to eccentrically control a load is important in avoiding injuries and building power, so the two-foot jump into single-foot land is a great way to build super eccentric control."
Instead of crunches, do tall-kneeling to standing knee drives.
Crunches promote excessive spinal flexion, which can become problematic, says Coach Gabe. "The tall-kneeling to standing knee drive, on the other hand, builds functional core strength by teaching you how to activate your core during movement and how to resist excessive spinal flexion or extension."