6 Combo Exercises That Don’t Suck
- DAN NORTH
- Exercise Technique
A combo exercise is a 2-in-1 movement
Most of the combo exercises you see (particularly on social media) are a complete waste of time.
Lunging with curls or mixing burpees with deadlifts might look cute for Instagram, but they fail to offer any real training value.
Why do most combo exercises suck?
- They try to look cool for the sake of looking cool. Your muscles don’t care how “cool” an exercise looks. What they care about is force. The best way (perhaps the only way) to get stronger and build muscle is to generate tension and apply force throughout each rep.
- They lack of resistance on at least one of the two movement patterns. You’re always going to be able to handle more weight lunging than curling. So why pair them together?
What makes a good combo exercise?
Both movement patterns within the exercise should offer enough resistance to stimulate a training effect on your targeted muscles and nervous system.
To use the lunge/curl combo as an example, the weight you curl to create an adaptive response in your biceps is far below the weight you would use to stimulate hypertrophy (muscle growth) in your legs during lunges.
So, when constructing your combo patterns, be strategic in your exercise selection to ensure you’re getting a relatively even distribution of resistance. No workout, exercise, or program is ever going to be completely “balanced”. But you should always strive towards as much balance as possible, particularly with combo exercises.
Why should you do combo exercises?
- Time and space efficiency. If you’re working out at home or in a hotel gym with limited equipment and little time to spare, combo exercises will be your friend. Kill two birds with one stone incorporating multi-movement patterns.
- Metabolic stimulus. Increasing lean mass and getting stronger has direct implications on your metabolic rate (your body’s energy levels) and ability to drive sustained fat loss. By pairing exercises together into a single movement, you’re effectively working more muscle groups. This doesn’t mean hopping on the preacher curl machine then strutting over to the leg press while you text your girlfriend. You need to work your ass off and have optimal positioning with selective exercises to reap the metabolic rewards.
- Coordination and core work. When’s the last time you tried multitasking? Doing two things at once (in this case, through combo exercises) effectively trains your coordination. This benefit applies to everyone. If you’re an athlete, you need to be coordinated to perform. If you’re a retired desk jockey, you need to be coordinated to move. Combo exercises stimulate the nervous system through multimovement patterns while increasing core engagement.
Here are six combo exercises you should try that don’t suck.
1. STAGGERED RDL TO ECCENTRIC OVERHEAD PRESS
- Contralateral loading (hold dumbbell in right hand with left leg slightly in front and vice versa).
- Hinge forward with legs slightly bent.
- Pull hips up to the ceiling and your chest down to the floor.
- Reach dumbbell to the inside of your ankle.
- Extend your hips forward and bring dumbbell overhead in one smooth motion (pull your elbow up before locking out your arm and imagine there’s a wall directly in front of you, not allowing your arm to swing out).
- Slowly bring the dumbbell down to your shoulder for a 4-5 sec eccentric count.
2. ISOMETRIC INVERTED ROW HOLD WITH BANDED HIP FLEXION
- Have your feet elevated on a bench or riser with a theraband looped around both.
- Pull yourself up until your arms are at 90 degrees.
- Squeeze your mid back and arms as hard as you can and maintain full body tension.
- Drive one knee towards your chest in a smooth, controlled motion and alternate legs.
3. SINGLE LEG RDL TO REVERSE LUNGE
- Contralateral loading (dumbbell in right hand with left leg balancing and vice versa).
- Initiate the hinge forward by trying to touch the wall behind you with your back foot.
- Maintain a neutral spine and reach for the inside of your front ankle.
- Come back to standing position and perform a reverse lunge on the same side.
4. STAGGERED RDL TO ISOMETRIC BENT OVER ROW
- Contralateral loading (dumbbell in right hand with left leg slightly forward and vice versa).
- Hinge forward by pulling your hips up to the ceiling and your chest down to the floor on an angle.
- Row the dumbbell toward your hip by “pulling with your elbow” and hold for a 2-3 sec isometric contraction.
- Slowly lower the dumbbell until your arm is fully extended and return up to starting position.
5. ISOMETRIC LANDMINE THRUSTER
- Push your hips back and sit down into your squat, maintaining core engagement and full body tension.
- Pause for a 2-3 sec count at the bottom of your squat.
- Drive through the floor, squat up, and press the bar until your arms are fully extended.
6. LOW BACK EXTENSION HOLD WITH BATWINGS
- Hold two small weights (2.5lbs to 5lbs is plenty if you’re doing it right) in a low back extension position with your torso parallel with the floor.
- Squeeze your glutes and keep your ribs down while maintaining full body tension.
- Bend your arms to your sides and squeeze your upper back as hard as you can for a 2-3 sec count.
- Straighten your arms out to the side to a “T” formation and drive your hands up towards the ceiling (squeezing your upper back as hard as you can).
- Repeat this motion for 8-10 reps each position.
Combo exercises are a great way to be efficient with your time and space while working out.
Try out some of the above exercises and let me know what you think!
Have any questions? Shoot me a message in the comments!