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

The barbell hip thrust is mainly a lower body exercise targeting the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, quadriceps, and hamstrings while also involving the core muscles in the movement. This exercise has long been used to particularly increase the size of and give definition to the gluteus muscles. However, there are various alternative exercises capable of producing the same gains.

Exercises such as cable pull throughs, hip extensions, single leg hip thrusts, trap bar deadlifts, and kettlebell swings are all alternatives to the barbell hip thrust. Although most of these exercises recruit several muscles in order to strengthen the lower body, they require a greater activation of the hamstrings and gluteal muscles, thus increasing muscle bulk and strength in the area of the buttocks.

Proper execution of the barbell hip thrust and its alternatives is important in achieving an individual’s desired lower body strength and muscle definition. Additionally, understanding the muscles activated and common mistakes in glute exercises help in attaining proper form and performance of these workouts.

What is a Barbell Hip Thrust?

barbell hip thrust

A barbell hip thrust is an activity wherein the individual puts a barbell on the anterior hip to create resistance against the muscles recruited to push the hips forward. It is basically a glute bridge with weights applied.

A barbell hip thrust is performed with the use of a barbell and a bench. To begin, 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.

At the top of the movement, the torso must be parallel to the ground with the knees flexed at around a 90-degree angle. The scapula (shoulder blades) should be stable on the bench as the lifter leans back to assume a straight line from the hips to the torso. The position is held for a second before slowly lowering the hips to complete one repetition.

Muscles Worked

Hip thrusts primarily target the gluteal muscles. However, this exercise also enhances the core, quadriceps femoris, adductors, hamstrings, and calf muscles. The gluteus maximus is the primary mover for this activity since it involves strong hip extension. The gluteus medius works to stabilize the pelvis and assists in extending the hip. In addition, the hamstrings also assist in extending the hip. Since the knee movement involved in doing hip thrust is knee extension, the quadriceps femoris muscles fire to lift the barbell.

The calves work to stabilize the lower leg as the weight is lifted. Upon transitioning, the weight shifts from the heel to be evenly distributed throughout the foot which involves an isometric

contraction of the calves. Furthermore, maintaining the position at the top of the movement engages the core muscles which stabilizes the spine and controls the trunk movement.

Benefits

Because the barbell hip thrust makes use of additional weight, this exercise allows for greater activation of both the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius as compared to the traditional glute bridge. Greater activation of muscles leads to increase in strength, muscle bulk, and definition.

Barbell hip thrusts also have the benefit of working the entirety of an individual’s lower body as it activates the whole lower body posterior chain. This includes the hamstrings, quadriceps, adductors, and even the erector spinae muscles.

Another benefit of the barbell hip thrust is the improvement in the hip flexor muscles. The hip flexors help in natural leg movements such as running and walking. Strengthening of these muscles also prepares the individual for more advanced exercises that require hinging of the hips.

Barbell Hip Thrust Alternatives

Cable Pull Throughs

The cable pull through, also known as the glute pull through, is a compound exercise that trains the posterior chain muscles. These muscles include the glutes, hamstrings, and the muscles in the lumbar area. It promotes gluteal muscle hypertrophy and may help in activities that require hinging of the hip.

Cable pull throughs involve the use of a cable machine and a rope handle. Before starting, the desired weight is set on the machine. The machine’s pulley is set to the lowest height setting as the individual is positioned facing away from the machine. The hands reach in between the legs to grab the rope handle, and the individual moves forward until the weight lifts off the stack; far enough that the weight doesn’t come in contact with the stack at the bottom of the movement.

Standing tall, the feet are situated slightly wider than hip-width apart with the knees slightly bent. The movement begins by hinging at the hips while maintaining a neutral spine. The hips are pushed back until a stretch is felt at the hamstrings and the torso is almost parallel to the floor. While keeping the spine in neutral, the upward movement is initiated by extending the hip. The gluteal muscles are squeezed as the hip travels forward until the individual is standing erect.

Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is an exercise that enhances overall strength, power, balance, stamina, and cardiovascular endurance. Like the barbell hip thrust, it is a low impact exercise that strengthens the gluteal muscles and induces hypertrophy.

Kettlebell swings primarily activate the gluteal and hamstring muscles. Hip extension drives the weight upward and forward, and the upper extremity only controls the height of the bell.

Performing kettlebell swings must start with having the individual grab the kettlebell by hinging at the hips and slightly bending the knees. Upon grasping the bell and positioning it between the legs, a momentum is created by pulling the weight backwards. The hips move forward while the individual maintains a neutral back and sends the kettlebell up to shoulder height. As the gravity pulls the weight downwards, the kettlebell returns back between the legs and the activity is repeated until the set is completed.

Resistance Band Hip Extensions

Hip extension exercises engage the gluteus maximus and the hamstring muscles. Using a resistance band to challenge the hip extensors is an effective way to increase strength and focus control. Resistance bands recruit stabilizing muscles and due to its lightweight characteristic, it is a great alternative to large equipment and machines.

Using a looped resistance band, hip extensions are performed by placing the band around the ankles in standing position. The hands are placed on the hips and the core is activated to increase stability. While keeping the knees straight, one leg is pushed backwards, hinging on the hip, until it reaches about 45 degrees. The position is held for a second before slowly bringing the leg back to the starting position. The movement is repeated until a set is completed before switching to the other leg.

Trap Bar Deadlift

The trap bar deadlift is a variation of the traditional deadlift, but it is performed using a specialty bar that allows for a more neutral grip. This modification reduces the forces acting against the back extensors and primarily engages the gluteus maximus muscle. The gluteus medius, hamstrings, and the quadriceps muscles assist to stabilize and complete the movement.

To do a trap bar deadlift, the individual stands in the middle of the trap bar and assumes a shoulder-width stance. The handles are grasped by squatting down to reach the handles. The back must be maintained in neutral extension all throughout the movement. To lift the weight, the hips and knees are straightened until the individual stands erect. The gluteal muscles are squeezed at the top of the movement before slowly setting the weight back down.

Common Glute Workout Mistakes

Although glute workouts, such as those discussed above, are very common and widely used, there are still a lot of mistakes that individuals make when executing them. Some of these mistakes are not maintaining the spine in a neutral position, lack of core engagement, allowing the knees to go too far past the toes, and lack of variation.

Not Maintaining the Spine in Neutral Position

In performing any glute workout, the spine should be kept in a neutral position which avoids both caving and curving of the lumbar and thoracic spine. This is done to avoid putting pressure and injury to the back. When the spine is not in a neutral position, the glutes also do not work maximally. Thus, a caved or curved spine reduces the potential gains of glute exercises.

Lack of Core Engagement

Because glute exercises are often seen as lower body workouts, many individuals do not pay attention to core engagement in performing the movement. However, glute exercises that involve single-leg movements as well as those that involve added resistance are often hard on balance, especially when the core is not properly engaged. Engagement of the core maintains the spine in a neutral position to help with an individual’s balance and form.

Allowing the Knees to Go Too Far Past the Toes

Knee movement way past the toes is one of the biggest and most common mistakes in glute workouts. Allowing the knee to move this way places more work on the quads and more pressure on the knee while decreasing the work of the glutes. A slight lean forward to stretch the glutes and redistribute the weight helps in correcting this mistake.

Lack of Variation

Lack of variation includes the type of exercises and the added weight or resistance. It is important to do different types of glute exercises in order to work the gluteal muscles to their fullest potential. The variations in exercises may target one muscle more than the other which helps in the reshaping of the buttocks.

Progressing through weights is also beneficial in working out the glutes as added resistance places more work on the muscles. Sticking to a single weight may waste the muscle’s potential to increase in both strength and size.

Final Thoughts

Barbell hip thrusts and its alternatives are useful in growing the gluteal muscles. While one may not be better than the other, a combination of these workouts may actually prove beneficial in working out the glutes as they maximize fundamental lower body movement patterns. No matter the choice of exercise, however, it is important to avoid common mistakes to achieve optimal results and avoid injury.

References

Bicep length has been a widely discussed topic in the bodybuilding community because of the popularity of upper arm exercises and their contribution to better physique. The type of bicep an individual has, whether short or long, carries with it certain pros and cons. However, this is a factor that cannot be altered as bicep length is inherently hereditary.

The main genetic factor that contributes to a short or long bicep is the muscle-to-tendon ratio which is also known as muscle insertion. In general, this concept shows that a genetically long tendon and short muscle belly translates to a short bicep while a short tendon and a long muscle belly translates to a long bicep. Although other hereditary factors, such as limb length, may seem to contribute to the physical appearance of biceps, they do not influence actual bicep length.

Working out and building the biceps brachii muscle require an understanding of the specific type of bicep length an individual possesses as this helps in optimizing workout routines. Learning about the main genetic determinant of bicep length and the pros and cons of a short and long bicep also allows the individual to manage their expectations in terms of physical appearance and other attributes.

The Biceps Brachii Muscle

The biceps brachii muscle is a muscle of the upper limb that has two heads, a short and a long head that originates from the coracoid process of the scapula and the supraglenoid tubercle, respectively. Its name is derived from its two heads which merge into one distal body and inserts into the radial tuberosity and forearm fascia via the bicipital aponeurosis.

biceps brachii muscle

The biceps brachii is a two-jointed muscle that acts both on the shoulder and the elbow. The primary action of the biceps brachii is elbow flexion and forearm supination, but it also assists in shoulder flexion.

In building the biceps brachii, the focus is usually on attaining a bicep peak which is known as the mountain-like appearance of the muscle. Of the two heads of the biceps brachii, it is the long head that contributes to the bicep peak as it is the part that "bunches up" when the elbow is flexed.

Understanding the Genetics of Bicep Length

Having a long or short bicep largely depends on genetics. This means that an individual is naturally born with a specific bicep length, thus the physical appearance or aesthetic that one would want to achieve might not be feasible no matter the exercise they apply. Nutrition can be applied genetically however it does not affect musculature.

The main genetic factor that determines whether an individual has a short or long bicep is the muscle-to-tendon ratio or the point of muscle insertion. While limb length may seem to contribute to how short or long biceps appear, it does not influence actual bicep length.

Muscle-to-Tendon Ratio or Muscle Insertion

The bicep, like all other muscles, is composed of muscle bellies and tendons. The muscle belly is the main part of the muscle which is what increases in size during bodybuilding. The tendon, on the other hand, is the part that connects or attaches the muscle to the bone, thus allowing movement.

The muscle-to-tendon ratio basically shows that a long bicep is commonly determined by a long muscle belly and a short tendon while a short bicep is said to have a short muscle belly and long tendon. This concept is also referred to as "muscle insertion" which is often confused as the insertion of the tendon to the bone. In the context of bodybuilding and muscle length, the point of muscle insertion is basically the point where the tendon and muscle fibers meet. A low point of muscle insertion means a long bicep while a high muscle insertion refers to a short bicep.

There are different ways to determine an individual's bicep length. One method is to use the fingers to measure the length of the tendon while the elbow is flexed at a 90-degree angle. If more than two fingers fit in the space between the end of the contracted bicep muscle belly and the forearm, then that is considered a short bicep. A long bicep is one where two fingers or less fit in the space described.

Limb Length

Limb length, like bicep length, is genetically determined but these two concepts do not have a clear cut relationship. Although people with short limbs may appear to have short biceps while those with long limbs may appear to have long biceps, this is not the case.

Individuals, whether possessing short or long limbs, may have varying bicep length. Furthermore, bicep length does not determine the length of all other muscles in the body. This means that having a long bicep does not necessarily point to having long calves as well.

Comparison Between Long and Short Bicep

Having a short or long biceps brachii has its advantages and disadvantages. If the end goal for working out is to have big, full-looking arms even at rest, having long biceps is ideal. On the other hand, a higher bicep peak may be more attainable if an individual has short biceps. The drawback with short biceps is that although the muscle is more pronounced when flexed, it may seem smaller and the arm may look less full when it is relaxed. 

In terms of strength and power production, there seems to be no difference in force generation between the two. The capacity to produce force is dependent on the cross-sectional area of a muscle rather than its length. In order to increase strength, the muscle must have more protein filaments and cross-bridges, which are present in a muscle with a larger cross-sectional area. Because a large muscle width is attainable by both short and long biceps, both types are capable of producing the same strength and power.

Final Thoughts

Bicep length is an inherently hereditary factor influenced by the genetic muscle-to-tendon ratio, and thus cannot be changed no matter what exercise an individual applies. While this means that the bicep is bound to look a certain way depending on whether it is short or long, bicep length is not a hindrance to growing defined and muscular arms. Furthermore, each type of bicep length has its own advantages and disadvantages and cannot be claimed as superior to the other.

References

Inspire US serves as an informational hub for people looking to start their fitness journey.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information being shared is for educational purposes only. You must consult with a medical professional before acting on any content on this website.
Copyright © Inspire US 2021