The lying leg curl is an isolation exercise that is performed to target the knee flexors, specifically the hamstrings and calf muscles. It is performed by flexing the knee against an external resistance to improve strength and flexibility in the key muscles. Although performing lying leg curls is an effective way to develop and improve knee flexor strength, a number of factors including equipment availability may hinder an individual to perform the workout.

Alternative exercises that also target the knee flexors may be done in place of a lying leg curl. These alternative exercises may be performed with or without the use of machines or equipment, but provide the same benefits as doing leg curls, and include the following: Nordic Hamstring Curls, Slider Curls, Swiss Ball Hamstring Curls, and Hamstring Walkouts.

Understanding the mechanics of doing lying leg curls, the benefits it offers, and learning the muscles engaged in this activity is paramount in optimizing muscle growth and enhancing strength. 

What Is A Lying Leg Curl

The lying leg curl is a lower body exercise that is very effective in isolating the knee flexors. It involves the use of a leg curl machine, and requires the participant to lie prone on the machine with the ankles tucked under a roller. This exercise targets two main muscle groups, namely the hamstring muscles (biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus) and the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus).

To perform a lying leg curl, the individual pulls their heels towards their buttocks while in the prone position. This pulls the weight that is connected to the machine. One repetition is completed by slowly lowering down the feet to the starting position.

Benefits

The primary benefit of doing lying leg curls includes enhancing the flexibility and strength of the hamstring muscles. However, this also translates to a general improvement in an individual’s overall balance and stamina. The lying leg curl ensures that the front and back of the legs are balanced both for aesthetic purposes and injury prevention. In addition, strengthening the hamstrings through the lying leg curl helps in performing activities of daily living.

Disadvantages

The main disadvantage of performing lying leg curls is the need for a leg curl machine which is often only found in commercial gyms. The inaccessibility of the equipment required for the exercise makes it impractical. Additionally, the movement involved in executing a lying leg curl is not considered a functional exercise, thus carry-over benefits to daily activities are not maximal.

Alternatives to Lying Leg Curls

Although lying leg curls are effective in developing the hamstrings, equipment unavailability is a factor why one can not perform the activity. The following alternatives may be performed to reap the same benefits as doing lying leg curls. 

Hamstring Walkouts

The hamstring walkout is an exercise that targets the hamstrings through knee flexion and hip extension. It is an equipment free exercise that anyone can do even in the comforts of their own home. Although it only uses one’s own body weight for the activity, hamstring walkouts optimize hamstring muscular strength, endurance, and growth due to the increase in the muscle’s time under tension.

To perform hamstring walkouts, the participant positions themselves lying down supine on the floor. Both knees are flexed with the feet flat on the ground and placed near the buttocks. The movement starts by pushing the hips upward and assuming a glute bridge. Upon getting into position, the knees are slowly extended by taking short alternating steps until the legs are completely extended and the weight is supported on the heels. This position is held briefly before taking short, alternating steps back in to return to the glute bridge position. 

Slider Curls

Another alternative to lying leg curls that require minimal equipment are slider curls. A slider curl is a hamstring workout that involves the use of sliding discs, or anything that would reduce friction between the foot and the floor such as a towel.

Slider curls are performed by placing the feet on a pair of sliding discs. The discs are slid along the floor towards the gluteal area to bend the knees, then the individual raises the hips to assume a glute bridge position. From this position, the core is engaged while the knees are slowly straightened out until the knees are almost fully extended and the weight is supported on the heels. The buttocks must remain off the floor while the position is held for a second before sliding the heels back to return to the starting position.

Slider curls may be progressed when the activity becomes too easy for the individual. To make the activity more challenging, it may be performed with the other leg resting on the thigh, assuming a figure of four position. The same procedure is executed with only one leg carrying the weight.

Nordic Hamstring Curls

The nordic hamstring curl is an exercise that focuses on eccentric strengthening of the hamstrings. It involves the use of one’s own bodyweight as resistance and as an eccentric contraction exercise, the hamstrings work to control the lengthening of the muscle against the resistance.

A nordic hamstring curl is performed by kneeling on a pad or mat with the ankle held in place by a partner, a fixture, or a weighted barbell. The person maintains the hip in extension while leaning forward from the knee. Knee extension must be controlled by engaging the hamstrings to produce a gentle drop of the trunk towards the ground. When the person reaches the ground, they push themselves up using their hands to return to the starting position.

Swiss Ball Hamstring Curls

The swiss ball hamstring curl is an intermediate exercise that is effective in isolating the hamstring muscles that work to flex the knee and extend the hip. The activity relies on the person’s body weight for resistance and involves the use of a swiss ball. The movement is challenging because of the need to maintain the balance on the ball while performing the hamstring curl.

To perform a swiss ball hamstring curl, the individual lies down with their back flat on the ground and the heels propped up on a swiss ball. The arms lie on the side in line with the shoulders and should be flat on the floor to assist with stability. The hips are pushed upward by squeezing the glutes and pushing down on the ball with the heels.

Upon assuming the position, the ball is slowly pulled toward the body by bending the knees while continuing to push the hips upward all throughout the movement. A pause is observed when the ball is several inches away from the buttocks before slowly extending the knees to push the ball away and return to the starting position. The hips must remain elevated all throughout the activity. The movement is repeated until a set is completed.

Common Mistakes in Hamstring Exercises

Working the hamstrings is important for athletes such as deadlifters and runners, thus it is necessary to perform hamstring exercises and to avoid common mistakes when doing them. However, many individuals avoid “leg day” leading to decreased lower body strength.

In beginning hamstring training, one common mistake is not paying enough attention to the area through a lack of variety. In order to achieve optimal leg bulk, the hamstrings should be worked as much as the other muscles by adding variation to hamstring workout routines. The individual should not be content with just one exercise that targets the hamstrings.

Another common mistake in performing hamstring exercises is ignoring the eccentric part of the movement. This is often the part of the exercise that involves the release of the movement such as that in a lying leg curl where the eccentric part is the return to the starting position. In hamstring exercises, the eccentric portion should be done slowly as this helps minimize injury occurrence as well as helps in recovery from injuries.

Lastly, there is a need to exercise and focus on each side individually which means working out the right and left hamstrings separately. This is done to further strengthen the muscles just like the arms are worked out individually.

Final Thoughts

The lying leg curl is a great exercise for isolating and strengthening the hamstrings. The available alternative exercises, however, are also able to provide the same benefits as well as add variety to workout routines which is of great advantage as variety further strengthens the muscles. It is important to keep in mind to avoid common mistakes in performing hamstring exercises in order to optimize muscle building and strengthening.

References

The dip exercise is a workout that targets the triceps, deltoid, and pectoral muscles. While the movement required by the exercise is fairly simple, the upper body strength needed to carry an individual’s entire body weight may not be achievable for some people. Hence, alternative exercises that work the same muscles to enhance strength and increase size in the arms, shoulders, and chest may be preferable.

Alternative exercises to the chest dip are workouts that are able to provide the same benefits of targeting the chest, shoulders, and arms. Some of these alternatives may use added weights or equipment while others may use body weight alone. These exercises include close grip push-ups, decline dumbbell bench press, cable rope pushdown, and close grip bench press.

Knowing how to perform a chest dip, the muscles it targets, and the benefits gained from properly executing the exercise is key to understanding how alternative exercise may be useful in building the arms, shoulders, and chest. 

What is a Dip?

A dip is a compound exercise that uses an individual’s own body weight to work large groups of muscles simultaneously. It is an exercise performed on parallel bars or on a pull-up and dip bar and is used to target the chest, triceps, and shoulder muscles. Depending on which muscles are desired to be targeted, dips offer variations by changing the form, arm position, and angle to alternate the focus among different muscle groups.

Triceps Dip vs Chest Dip

There are two main variations of the dip to target either the triceps or pectoral muscles more, namely the triceps dip and the chest dip. Both the triceps dip and chest dip make use of a dip bar and an individual’s body weight to execute the workout.

The bar is held straight in the hand with the forearm almost perpendicular to the bar for the chest dip, whereas for the triceps dip, the bar is held diagonally. Because of the hand position, the form for each dip differs.

In executing the chest dip, the elbows should flare to the sides and the trunk must lean forward as the body is lowered into the dip. The knees and hips should also bend during the exercise. This movement targets more of the pectoral muscles, thus strengthening the chest and increasing its size.

chest dip
Chest Dip

For the triceps dip, the upper arms should be held close to the body. As the individual lowers into the dip, the torso is held upright and the elbows should only bend straight back. In this variation of the dip, the lower extremities remain in an extended position as compared to the flexed position for the chest dip.

tricep dips
Tricep Dip

Dip Alternative Exercises

Close Grip Push-ups

The close grip push-up is a variation of the standard push-up that involves placing the hands closer together than shoulder-width apart. In this position, there is greater triceps brachii and pectoralis major activation as compared to that in a standard push-up. Because it is a calisthenic exercise, close grip push-ups may be performed anywhere without the need to worry about equipment restrictions.

Close grip push-ups are performed by getting into all-fours with the knees flexed and positioning the hands a few inches apart. The scapula should be protracted as the participant gets into position. The lower extremities are straightened out to lift the knees off the ground while keeping the elbows extended to assume a high plank position. 

close grip pushup

Upon getting into position, the core is engaged to maintain the plank as the chest is slowly lowered down by bending at the elbows. As the trunk approaches the ground, the scapula should be retracted. The elbows are to be maintained close to the torso and should not be allowed to flare out. The body is lowered until the arms are at the side of the body, parallel to the trunk. A pause is observed at the bottom of the movement before initiating the upward movement.

The upward movement is started off by forcing through the pectoral muscles as the elbows are straightened out. The shoulder blades are protracted as the trunk is lifted. At the top of the movement, the triceps and pectoral muscles are squeezed before repeating the process until a set is completed. 

Decline Dumbbell Bench Press

The decline dumbbell bench press is a variation of the flat bench press where the bench is set 15 to 30 degrees from the horizontal. This position puts emphasis on the lower pecs while also working the triceps and shoulder muscles.

To perform a decline dumbbell bench press, the individual lies on their back on a declined weight bench with dumbbells in hand. The dumbbells are held directly above the chest with the elbows fully extended and arms perpendicular to the ground. The dumbbells are slowly lowered to the sides of the chest by bending at the elbows while holding it close to the body, creating a 45-degree angle at the bottom of the movement. This position is held for a second before pressing back to the initial position.

Cable Rope Pushdown

Another alternative which may also be used as an initial exercise before progressing to a dip is the cable rope pushdown. Cable rope pushdown, or tricep rope pushdown, is an exercise that involves the use of a cable machine with a rope handle attached. This exercise isolates the triceps muscles. Although it is not a calisthenic exercise, the activity could be used as a stepping stone towards doing dips when there is insufficient muscle strength that hinders an individual to carry their body weight.

cable push down

To prepare for the activity, the individual positions themselves in front of the cable machine after adjusting the weight setting. The rope handle is grasped in both hands and should be situated at about chest level. The movement is initiated by pushing downwards, until the elbows are fully extended without overextending and locking the elbows. The position is held for a brief moment before slowly returning to the initial position. The elbows must remain close to the body with the torso upright throughout the duration of the activity.

Close Grip Bench Press

The close grip bench press is a variation of the standard bench press that involves having the hands closer together on the bar. The standard bench press works the triceps, shoulders and pectoral muscles with emphasis on the chest, while the close grip bench press puts the bulk of the work on the triceps. By utilizing a narrow grip, the focus shifts from the pectoral muscles to the elbow extensors to complete the activity.

close grip bench press

A close grip bench press is performed by having the individual lie on the bench with the feet flat on the floor. The barbell is grasped with the hands placed slightly less than shoulder-width apart. The core is engaged and the shoulder blades are squeezed to stabilize the body as the weight is lowered slowly. Upon reaching the bottom of the movement, the weight is pressed up in an explosive motion. The elbows are kept close to the sides throughout the duration of the activity to emphasize triceps activation. 

Dip Common Mistakes

There are a couple of mistakes commonly committed by people who perform chest dips. Because of these, individuals do not gain as much as they could from the exercise. Additionally, some of the mistakes committed may even lead to pain and injury. These mistakes include not going low enough in the dip, going too low in the dip, not keeping the chest up, not locking out the elbows, and going too fast.

Not Going Low Enough in the Dip

When executing a dip, the upper arms should be slightly below parallel at the lowest point of the exercise which places the shoulders a little below the elbows. However, some individuals do not reach this point as they stop halfway into the dip. Not going low enough into each dip repetition results in reduced benefits.

Going Too Low in the Dip

While not going low enough is a mistake in executing dips, going too low also poses a problem. The amount of pressure placed on the shoulder joints when an individual goes too low in the dip may lead to injury. Thus, maintaining a position where the upper arms are parallel or slightly below parallel at the lowest point of the exercise is ideal.

Not Keeping the Chest Up

The two variations of the dip, chest dip and tricep dip, require different chest positions. The individual should lean forward more during a chest dip while keeping the body more upright is appropriate for the tricep dip. However, both variations will benefit from positioning the chest up and keeping it tight to ensure that the shoulders stay back, as well as to avoid torso pain.

Not Locking Out the Elbows

Locking out the elbows helps prevent injury in the joints while making sure that each repetition is completed. Not locking out the elbows is similar to not going low enough in the dip as this reduces the benefits gained from the workout.

Going Too Fast

Many individuals make the mistake of performing a workout too fast as if trying to get through an exercise as quickly as possible. This mistake is often seen in doing dips where individuals bounce up and down on the parallel bars. When this occurs, the aforementioned mistakes are also often committed. Hence, the individual is either not reaping the benefits of the exercise or risking injury.

Final Thoughts

Dips are useful exercises for strengthening and growing the muscles of the chest, shoulders, and arms. However, alternative exercises to the dip such as the close grip push-ups, decline dumbbell bench press, cable rope pushdown, and close grip bench press are able to provide the same benefits while adding variety to workout routines. One exercise is not necessarily better than the other, thus the choice of workout for targeting the triceps, deltoid, and pectoral muscles still relies on individual preference.

References

The cable pull through is a compound exercise that focuses on and strengthens the muscles of the posterior chain including the glutes, hamstrings, back, and core. The benefits that come with performing cable pull throughs, however, are also provided by alternative exercises. These alternative exercises include workouts that mostly use weights or barbells as equipment but without the need for a machine.

There are several exercises that may be performed in place of cable pull throughs. These exercises strengthen the posterior chain muscles with particular attention to the gluteal muscles, and include the following: kettlebell swings, barbell hip thrusts, banded pull throughs, deadlifts, and dumbbell squats. Alternative exercises are especially useful when a cable pull through machine is not accessible.

Understanding the what and how of a cable pull through allows individuals to perform the workout optimally. This also allows proper execution of alternative exercises that helps provide variety to workout routines.

What is a Cable Pull Through?

The cable pull through, also known as glute pull through, is an exercise that trains the posterior chain muscles which include the glutes, hamstrings, and the muscles in the lumbar area. It requires a hip hinge motion controlled by the gluteal muscles and promotes hypertrophy through progressive overload. Progressive overload may be achieved by increasing intensity, duration, frequency, or tension. 

A cable pull through involves the use of a cable machine with a rope handle attached. The desired weight is set on the machine with the pulley set on the lowest setting before starting the activity. The individual positions themselves facing away from the machine and grabs the rope handle from between the legs. The rope is pulled forward as the individual walks away from the machine until the weight is off the stack. The weight should not come in contact with the stack at the bottom of the movement.

cable pull through

The movement begins by positioning the feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and the knees slightly bent. The hips are hinged backwards while keeping the spine in neutral extension. The hips continue to move backward until a stretch is felt at the hamstrings area and the torso is almost parallel to the floor.

Upon reaching the bottom of the movement, the upward motion is initiated by extending the hips while maintaining the neutral extension of the spine. As the hips drive forward, the gluteal muscles are squeezed until the individual is standing tall to complete one repetition.

The cable pull through is an excellent exercise for increasing time under tension, and overall gluteal and hamstring activation. Because of the muscle isolation of this activity, it can often be done in higher repetitions without having the participant tiring out prematurely or causing lower back stress.

Cable Pull Through Alternatives

The alternatives to the cable pull through are exercises that mainly target the gluteal muscles without the need of a machine. These exercises include the banded pull through, kettlebell swing, barbell hip thrust, deadlift, and dumbbell squat.

Banded Pull Throughs

One of the most common reasons to look for alternatives to certain workouts is equipment unavailability. In these cases, a resistance band may prove useful for a lot of workouts. The same is true for cable pull throughs where a resistance band may take the place of a cable machine. 

To do a banded pull through, the resistance band should be anchored to a pole or any immobile object. The band is grabbed by reaching backwards between the legs, and the individual moves forward until there is constant resistance even at the bottom of the movement. The individual assumes the same position and executes the same movement pattern as that in a cable pull through but adds and reduces resistance by switching out resistance bands.

Kettlebell Swings

The kettlebell swing, like the cable pull through, is a compound exercise that enhances total body strength, stamina, and cardiovascular endurance. It is a low impact exercise that engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Although the kettlebell swing appears as if it is an upper extremity workout, the movement is reliant on the hinging of the hips rather than the lifting of the arms to drive the weight upward, thus making it a glute-predominant activity.

A kettlebell swing begins with the participant grabbing the kettlebell, their hips hinged, and knees slightly bent. To create momentum, the weight is positioned between the legs and pulled backward. The kettlebell is then driven upward by pushing the hips forward while maintaining a neutral spine. The weight is allowed to move upward until it reaches shoulder height before letting it fall to return to its position between the legs.

kettle bell swing

Swinging a kettlebell mostly works the gluteal muscles. The core, grip, shoulder, quadriceps femoris, adductors, hamstrings, and calf muscles are all strengthened by this exercise. Because this exercise requires strong hip extension, the gluteus maximus acts as the primary mover while the hamstrings aid in the movement.

Barbell Hip Thrusts

A barbell hip thrust involves the placement of a barbell on the anterior hip in order to act as a resistance against the muscles working to drive the hips forward. Aside from a barbell, this exercise also makes use of a bench.

The movement begins with the individual sitting on the floor, the knees bent, the back against the bench, and the barbell positioned at the crease of the hips. The individual then lifts the hip, as well as the barbell, by pushing the back towards the bench while the feet drive into the ground.

As the individual reaches the top of the movement, the knees should be flexed close to or at a 90-degree angle. Additionally, the torso should be parallel to the ground during this phase while the scapula is stable on the bench, making a straight line. This position should be held for at least one second before going back to the starting stance and completing one repetition.

Deadlifts

The deadlift is considered a weight lifting workout that has several variations. In general, the exercise involves lifting a loaded bar off the ground to an upright position with the weights kept at hip level.

To begin a conventional deadlift, the feet are placed under the bar at a hip-width distance with the barbell right above the midfoot. The hands then grasp the bar with the palms facing the individual. The distance between the hands should only be wide enough for the legs to fit in between. Mixed grips where the palms are facing opposite directions may be used for heavier lifts.

barbell deadlift

As the bar is grasped, the individual should hinge at the hips with a slight bend in the knees while keeping the shins perpendicular to the ground. The spine should be kept in a neutral position with the core engaged. The individual then lifts the bar off the ground by driving the hips forward.

While all variations of the deadlift activate the gluteal muscles, there are some variations that recruit the glutes more than the others. The sumo deadlift and romanian deadlift are two types that are able to do such.

Dumbbell Squats

Another alternative to cable pull throughs are dumbbell squats. The dumbbell squat stimulates the glutes, quads, and hamstrings in the same way that a typical squat does while also improving leg strength and explosive power.  This variation of the squat is an essential exercise for any athlete looking to improve leg and hip strength and power, especially in the quadriceps and glutes. It eliminates the weight stress on the upper back as when doing barbell squats which can pose technique issues in inexperienced lifters.

To perform a dumbbell squat, the lifter stands with the dumbbells at the sides and feet slightly wider than hip width apart. The spine is kept in neutral extension as the hips hinge backward and the knees flex to lower into the squat until thighs are parallel to the ground. The squat is held for a second before extending the hips and knees to drive up out of the position and stand erect.

What to Avoid When Doing Glute Exercises

Glute exercises are very popular but some individuals still commit a lot of mistakes in performing these workouts. These mistakes may then lead to injuries and suboptimal outcomes. Some things to avoid in doing glute exercises include rounding and caving of the back, non-engagement of the core, allowing the knees to go too far past the toes, and lack of workout variation.

Rounding and Caving of the Back

Rounding and caving of the back is the same as not keeping the spine in a neutral position. This places pressure on the spine, thus possibly leading to injury. Additionally, when the back is allowed to round or curve, the work is taken off the gluteal muscles which does not allow them to work maximally. This means that not keeping the spine in a neutral position decreases the gains from glute workouts.

Non-engagement of the Core

Engagement of the core is often forgotten in glute exercises because it is seen as a lower body workout. However, engaging the core is essential in maintaining the spine in a neutral position in order to help in keeping proper form and balance. Non-engagement of the core may lead to injury same as that seen in rounding and caving of the back.

Allowing the Knees to Go Too Far Past the Toes

Glute workouts often involve a squatting position which places the knees past the toes. However, some individuals allow the knees to move too far forward, thus placing more work on the quads while reducing the work of the glutes. This movement also places more pressure on the knees which may lead to injury. In order to correct this, a slight lean forward should be done to redistribute the weight.

Hinging of the hips is also used in glute exercises. However, some individuals commonly mistake this as a squat, thus allowing the knees to move forward. The problem with allowing the knees to move forward during a hip hinge is that it reduces the work placed on the glutes.

Lack of Workout Variation

Sticking to one glute exercise does not work the gluteal muscles to their fullest potential. This is because certain glute exercises may target one muscle more than the other. Hence, a variation in exercises is important in attaining optimal gains. This is also applicable to adding weights and resistance because sticking to a single weight does not maximize the muscle’s capacity to increase its size and strength.

Final Thoughts

Cable pull throughs are able to target the posterior chain muscles, especially the gluteal muscles, the same way that its alternatives can. A combination of these exercises are useful in growing the glutes as they maximize and mimic basic lower body movement patterns. In order to attain optimal results, proper form and workout variation should be applied by avoiding common mistakes.

References

The diamond push-up is a bodyweight exercise considered as an advanced push-up variation. It makes use of a narrow palmar distance where the hands are positioned close together in the shape of a diamond. The diamond push-up has gained popularity as a tricep-focused exercise; however, its benefits go beyond just tricep activation.

There are several benefits that can be gained by adding the diamond push-up to an individual’s workout routine. This includes an increase in triceps activity, increase in chest muscle activity, improvement in core strength and stability, and enhancement of shoulder strength. Hence, performing diamond push-ups is beneficial not only for tricep activation but for almost the entire upper body, and even the lower extremity muscles as well.

Because there are misconceptions regarding diamond push-ups, it is important to know the real benefits of this exercise. Furthermore, learning about the common mistakes in the execution of a diamond push-up will help in optimizing gains from the workout.

What is a Diamond Push-up?

Diamond push-ups, often referred to as triangular or tricep push-ups, are a more sophisticated version of the traditional push-up. From the name itself, diamond push-ups are performed by positioning the hands in the shape of a diamond.

The diamond push-up is one of the more challenging variations of the push-up because of the narrower base of support. The load of the work is placed on the triceps due to the biomechanical disadvantage the hand position puts on the muscles that usually bear the brunt of the load in a classic push-up.

Performing a Diamond Push-up

This exercise does not necessarily require the individual to construct a diamond shape with the hands. The idea is to keep the hands closer together than one would in a traditional push-up. The actual distance may vary, but the goal is to keep the hands closer so the triceps brachii is engaged more.

The set-up is similar to a traditional push-up wherein the individual assumes a high plank with the feet parallel to the hips, and the hands on the floor beneath the chest. The hands and forefingers are brought together almost directly under the chest to make a diamond or triangular configuration. The body should be tight and straight which may be maintained through squeezing the thighs and glutes to increase support.

As the chest is lowered toward the ground, the elbows must be pointing back to the feet. The body is lowered until the arms are along the side of the ribcage, pausing for a second before initiating the upward movement. While maintaining the alignment, the body is driven upward by pushing the floor away until the elbows are straightened out.

Muscles Activated

Several muscles work together in order to execute the diamond push-up. The primary muscle is considered to be the triceps brachii while the secondary muscles include the pectoralis (chest) muscles, deltoids (shoulders), and serratus anterior.

In a classic push-up, there is greater activation of the pectoralis muscles than the triceps brachii. However, studies have found that diamond push-ups lead to an increase in activation of both triceps and pectoralis muscles in contrast to that seen in a classic push-up. This means that while individuals consider the diamond push-up as a tricep-predominant exercise, this workout actually better activates the chest muscles as well.

Aside from the upper extremity muscles, push-ups in general, engage the core, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps femoris and calf muscles as well. These muscles help keep the body tight to maintain the plank position as the activity is performed.

Benefits of the Diamond Push-up

Although the diamond push-up is a bodyweight exercise and thus does not use any equipment, it still carries with it several benefits. These benefits include an increase in triceps activity, increase in chest activity, improvement in core strength and stability, and enhanced shoulder strength.

Increased Triceps Activity

A study conducted by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) claims that diamond push-ups are the best triceps exercise being the most effective. This is followed by the tricep kickbacks and the dips.

The increase in triceps activity in this workout is due to the narrower position of the hands which places a heavier load on the triceps. This is evidenced by another study which found that there is greater electrical activity in the triceps brachii when doing diamond push-ups as compared to when executing classic push-ups.

Increased Chest Activity

There is a common belief that the diamond push-up activates the chest muscles less than the classic push-up. However, studies have shown that while there is an increase in tricep activation in diamond push-ups, there is also an increase in the activation of the pectoralis muscles. Hence, this workout is actually great for building muscle in the chest as well.

Improves Core Strength and Stability

Because of the narrow base created by the hand position in a diamond push-up, balance becomes a challenge in executing the exercise. In order to maintain balance, the exercise recruits the core muscles, specifically those that function in trunk rotation such as the external and internal obliques. Recruitment of core muscles for maintaining balance leads to an improvement in both strength and stability.

Enhanced Shoulder Strength

Placing the hands close together for a push-up places more work on the shoulders, particularly the anterior deltoid. Thus, performing diamond push-ups are able to result in stronger and more defined shoulders.

Because the diamond push-up is able to strengthen the anterior deltoid, it serves as a good preparatory exercise before progressing to workouts that place more work on this muscle. Workouts that require greater anterior deltoid strength include planche push-ups and one arm push-ups.

Common Mistakes of Diamond Push-ups

Proper form and technique must be observed when doing any type of exercise to avoid risk of injury. The following mistakes should be avoided to maximize the benefits of doing diamond push-ups.

Hands Too Forward

It is important not to allow the hands to go too far forward. When the hands are positioned superiorly than the shoulders, it may cause excessive stress on other muscles and joints. In this position, the core and gluteal muscles are not engaged properly, thus the hips appear to be higher and stick out at an angle. To correct this mistake, the hands must be directly under the shoulders when in the high plank position, and the glutes and core muscles must be engaged throughout the entire movement. 

Elbows Flare Out

One of the most common flaws when doing push-ups is letting the elbows flare out, or point out to the side. The angle between the torso and the arm must be at around 45 degrees with the participant aiming to point the elbows toward the toes. 

Dropping the Hips

It is important to keep the body in a straight line throughout the activity. The hips should be level with the shoulders from start to finish. Allowing excessive extension in the lumbar area “drops” the hips which puts unnecessary excessive stress on the spine. This happens because the core muscles are not properly engaged. The core muscles, especially the abdominals, must contract adequately to keep the body in a straight line.

Progressing Too Fast

The narrow hand position of diamond push-ups places more load on the elbows than a conventional push-up does. Due to the biomechanics of this push-up variation, improper progression may cause elbow pain. To avoid injury, it is vital to master a regular push-up, and over the course of a few weeks, slowly progress by bringing the hands closer together.

Final Thoughts

The diamond push-up is a great bodyweight exercise that carries with it the benefit of both greater tricep and chest activation. While it is more advanced and hence more difficult to perform than a classic push-up, adding the diamond push-up to an individual’s workout routine may be worth the effort because of its added benefits.

References

Jump rope, or jumping rope, is a full body workout that has gained popularity due to its benefits and the variations that come with the exercise. It carries with it multiple gains including burning calories, improving coordination, strengthening bones, and improving overall health among others. However, when a rope is not available or when an individual finds difficulty in executing the jump rope, there are alternative exercises that provide similar benefits.

Alternative exercises to the jump rope are cardio workouts that may be performed with and without the use of equipment. These exercises include jumping jacks, high knees, swimming, elliptical training, and cycling. In addition to providing similar benefits, these alternative exercises give variety to workout routines as well.

Knowing the benefits of the jump rope and its alternatives allows for better understanding of why these exercises should be incorporated in workout routines.

What is Jumping Rope?

Jumping rope is a simple yet very effective calorie-burner which also improves cardiovascular endurance. With the use of only a small space and a jump rope, this exercise enhances coordination and agility as well. 

jumping rope

Studies have shown the efficiency of jumping rope to burn calories as compared to jogging, and even running. It takes about only 10 minutes of jumping rope to be able to burn the same amount of calories as running an eight-minute mile. It may also cause less stress to the joints due to having both feet absorb the impact as compared to running where the body is pushed forward through a single limb support all throughout the activity.

Jump Rope Alternatives

There are various alternatives to the jump rope as these include any exercise that functions as a cardio workout. Alternatives to the jump rope are exercises that range from workouts that may be done without the use of equipment to those that require a machine. Some of these alternatives offer lower impact activities that reap the same benefits as jumping rope without the added stress to the joints.

Jumping Jacks

The jumping jack is a workout that enhances cardiovascular health the same way that the jump rope does. It is performed by starting in a standing position, feet placed together, and the arms at the sides. The individual then jumps to a position where the legs are spread wide apart with the hands going above the head. Jumping back to the starting position completes one repetition. Some individuals prefer to clap as the hands meet overhead.

jumping jacks

The number of repetitions that an individual should perform depends on their fitness level and experience. As with any other exercise, it is ideal to start at a low number of repetitions, about ten repetitions for three sets, at a low-to-moderate intensity, and work their way up. This allows the body to acclimatize to the routine as well as to avoid injury.

High Knees

High knees are a cardio workout that improves coordination, flexibility, and lower body strength. This exercise also engages the core and can be done anywhere as there is no need for equipment, just like the jumping jacks. High knees are usually incorporated into warmups and in between exercise sets to keep the heart rate elevated.

To perform high knees, the individual stands with the feet hip-width apart. The right leg is lifted so that the knee is higher than the waist. The knee is flexed at a 90-degree angle before switching legs by bringing the right leg back to the ground while simultaneously lifting the left leg. The arms are allowed to move in a controlled motion with the opposite arm and leg lifting at the same time. The movement is continued by alternating legs and moving at a pace as if running in place.

Swimming

Swimming is the act of propelling oneself through water with the use of arms and legs. It is used in both recreation and sports, and as an exercise, it develops muscles all over the body and enhances cardiovascular endurance.

swimming

Swimming is a great alternative to jumping rope because it is a low impact exercise that trains almost every skeletal muscle in the body.  Being an overall exercise, swimming helps maintain a healthy heart and lungs. It tones muscles all throughout the body and helps with weight management.

Elliptical Training

The elliptical trainer is a stationary machine that allows an individual to stair climb, walk, or run without the stress on joints caused by these activities without the machine. It allows for a cardio workout that develops both the upper and lower extremities. Although it is a low impact activity, elliptical training is a weight bearing workout which is beneficial to building stronger bones, muscles, and connective tissue. 

elliptical muscles

Cycling

Cycling is the use of bicycles for transport, sports, recreation, or exercise. Like swimming and elliptical training, it is a low impact exercise that boosts cardiovascular fitness. It develops muscle strength, flexibility and improves joint mobility. By increasing the metabolic rate, cycling also helps with weight management.

cycling muscles

Benefits of Cardiovascular Training

Cardiovascular training has a lot of benefits which is why it is often recommended in both healthy people and individuals with lifestyle illnesses such as hypertension and type 2 diabetes mellitus. These benefits involve the various organs of the body as well as an individual’s mood and sleep.

Mental and Cognitive Benefits

Some studies claim that physical activity such as cardiovascular training reduces the risk for developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This also improves memory, thinking ability, and overall cognitive function while reducing the risk of stroke.

The release of endorphins that come with cardiovascular exercises also helps in improving mood and energy. Sleep is also improved as studies have found that cardio workouts help with REM sleep.

Muscle, Joint, and Skin Benefits

Healthier and clearer skin is a benefit of staying active as this improves blood circulation. As for the joints, cardiovascular training helps fight against the development of osteoporosis and hip fracture while maintaining joint range of motion. Muscles are also trained to adapt and acclimatize to increased workloads, thus allowing easier performance of activities.

Pancreas and Blood Benefits

The pancreas is an organ that functions to secrete insulin in order to address blood sugar levels. Because cardiovascular exercises improve blood sugar control, the pancreas is spared from the stress that comes with high sugar in the body, thus decreasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Blood circulation is also improved by cardiovascular workouts which benefits all organs in the body. Apart from this, cardio exercises are able to increase good cholesterol while lowering bad cholesterol that may lead to atherosclerotic diseases.

Final Thoughts

The jump rope is a great full body workout that improves cardiovascular health, coordination, and bone strength. The alternative exercises to the jump rope are capable of providing similar benefits while providing variety to workout routines. While there are a range of exercises to choose from, the choice of workout greatly depends on individual preference and equipment availability.

References

The kettlebell swing is a ballistic exercise that trains the posterior chain muscles by swinging the bell from between the legs to eye level or above the head. This exercise enhances power and muscle endurance as well as helps with the stability of the core, balance, and aerobic capacity. While there are many benefits to the kettlebell swing, these gains may also be achieved through alternative exercises.

The alternative exercises to the kettlebell swing range from workouts that use body weight alone to the need for equipment. These exercises include broad jumps, cable pull throughs, barbell hip thrusts, and sumo deadlifts. Each exercise noted provides similar benefits as that of the kettlebell swing.

Learning about the muscles activated and benefits of the basic kettlebell swing helps in the proper execution of the exercise as well as its alternatives. Avoiding common mistakes in these exercises is also important in both injury prevention and workout optimization.

What is a Kettlebell Swing?

The kettlebell swing is a compound exercise that enhances total body strength, power, and balance while building stamina and cardiovascular endurance. This activity engages a number of muscle groups simultaneously. Although it may seem as if it is largely an upper extremity exercise, the kettlebell swing is a low impact exercise that targets and strengthens the gluteal muscles.

Kettlebell swings should be performed with appropriate form and control to avoid risking injury. The movement is reliant on the hinging of the hips to drive the weight upward rather than the use of the arms to lift the weight. The upper limbs only serve to control the swinging motion, but have no part in lifting or lowering the weight. 

kettlebell swing

Performing a kettlebell swing starts with having the individual grab the kettlebell by hinging at the hips and slightly bending the knees. The weight is positioned between the legs and is pulled backward to create a momentum. To lift the weight, the hips drive forward to push the weight while the individual maintains a neutral back. The kettlebell is allowed to propel upward until it reaches shoulder height. As the gravity pulls the weight downward, the weight returns back between the legs, and the activity is repeated until a set is completed.

Kettlebell swings primarily target the gluteal muscles. However, this exercise also enhances the core, grip, shoulder, quadriceps femoris, adductors, hamstrings, and calf muscles. The primary mover for this exercise is the gluteus maximus assisted by the hamstrings since it involves strong hip extension. 

Kettlebell Swing Alternatives

Alternative exercises to kettlebell swings include various activities that primarily engage and strengthen the gluteal muscles. Some of these exercises may be performed without the use of equipment, such as in broad jumps, while others require cable machines and weights.

Broad Jumps

Broad jumps are a great alternative to kettlebell swings to target the same muscle groups without the use of any equipment. The broad jump is a basic exercise which offers a variety of vertically oriented jumps that develop explosive hip and leg extension.

Broad jumps are performed by hinging on the hips and bending the knees with the arms extended backward. The arms are then swung forward as the feet are driven into the ground to propel the body forward. The individual lands back to assume the starting position, and the activity is repeated until the set is completed.

Cable Pull Throughs

The cable pull through, like the kettlebell swing, is a compound exercise that trains the posterior chain muscles. These muscles include the glutes, hamstrings, and the muscles in the lumbar area. It helps in exercises that require hinging of the hip and promotes gluteal muscle hypertrophy through overloading.

Cable pull throughs involve the use of a cable machine and a rope handle. To start the activity, the desired weight is set on the machine with the pulley set to the lowest height setting. The individual is facing away from the machine and grabs the rope handle by reaching for the rope between the legs. The individual then moves forward until the weight is off the stack. 

To begin the movement, the individual stands tall with the feet placed slightly wider than hip width apart and the knees slightly bent. The hips are hinged backward until a stretch is felt at the hamstrings area and the torso is almost parallel to the floor. The upward movement is initiated by extending the hip while keeping the spine in neutral extension. As the hips travel forward, the gluteal muscles are squeezed until the individual is standing erect to complete one repetition.

Barbell Hip Thrust

A barbell hip thrust is a gluteal muscle targeted exercise wherein a barbell is placed on the anterior hip to create resistance against the muscles that push the hips forward. It is performed with the use of both a barbell and a bench.

To perform a barbell hip thrust, the individual sits on the floor with the knees bent, the back against a bench, and a barbell situated at the hips. The barbell must be placed comfortably on the crease of the hip before lifting the hip by pushing the feet into the ground, and driving the back towards the bench.

hip thrust

The torso must be parallel to the ground at the top of the movement with the knees flexed at around a 90-degree angle. The shoulder blades must be stable on the bench as the lifter maintains a straight line from the hips to the torso. This position is held for a second before bringing the weight back down to complete one cycle.

Sumo Deadlift

The sumo deadlift is a variation of the traditional deadlift that involves assuming a very wide stance with the toes slightly pointed out when doing the activity. This puts the individual in a deeper initial squatting position which puts more focus on the gluteus maximus and adductor magnus muscles. Due to the wide stance and deeper initial squat of the lift, the hips start closer to the barbell with the trunk more upright. This puts less stress on the back extensors and relies heavily on the hip musculature as compared to a traditional deadlift.

To start, the individual assumes a very wide stance--wide enough to be able to extend the arms downwards in between the knees to grab the bar. The toes slightly point outwards with the lower leg perpendicular to the floor. The spine must be in neutral extension and the shoulders directly above the bar.

sumo deadlift

After getting into position, the core muscles tighten and the back, leg, and hip extensor muscles are engaged to create tension and allow the individual to pull the slack out of the bar. The weight is lifted by driving through the legs while keeping the barbell close to the body as the lifter stands up. 

As the weight ascends, the chest must not be allowed to fall forward as in rounding the shoulders. When the lifter is upright at the top of the movement, the gluteal muscles are squeezed to drive the hips forward and lock-out. This position is held for a second before slowly lowering down the barbell to complete one repetition.

What to Avoid When Doing Kettlebell Swings 

There are a few common mistakes that must be avoided in performing kettlebell swings and its alternatives as these may lead to injury and suboptimal outcomes. These mistakes include rounding of the back, lack of hip hinge, and using the arms to lift.

Rounding of the Back

Rounding of the back should be avoided in performing kettlebell swings and any of the alternatives discussed as this may injure the lower back. In order to correct this posture, the chest should be kept up and out, as if showing it off, while the back should be maintained in a straight line. Keeping these cues in mind will help in maintaining a neutral spine.

Lack of Hip Hinge

The kettlebell swing, broad jump, and cable pull through all require hinging of the hips. However, some individuals mistake the hip hinge for a squat which pushes the buttocks downward instead of backward. A proper hip hinge involves pushing the hips back while maintaining a neutral spine. In order to keep this in check, the individual should imagine a rope tied around the hips as if being pulled from the back.

Using the Arms to Lift

While the hands are used to grip the kettlebell, barbell, or cable handle, the arms are not the prime mover for the exercises discussed. The arms should not lift the weight in a kettlebell swing or any of its alternatives as it is the strength and power from the hips that drives the weight up. Using the arms will only lead to suboptimal gains for the lower body area while also possibly causing harm to the upper body.

Final Thoughts

The kettlebell swing is a great workout for enhancing lower body strength and power with primary attention to the gluteal muscles. The alternative exercises available are able to provide these same benefits while providing variety to workout routines. In order to execute these exercises safely and optimally, the common mistakes discussed must be avoided.

References

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