T Nation

"Best" Exercises You Rarely See Others Doing in the Gym

On my training log I was talking to @carlbm recently about Zercher Squats and the fact I’d never actually seen them being performed in the gym. It got me thinking about how many times I’ve actually seen others performing exercises outside the more popular ones (E.G Bench, Conventional Deadlift, Back Squat, Bent over Row etc) and how common this was. I’ve trained at home for the last 12 months and will continue to do so but I’ve trained in several what I’d call hardcore gyms with people who are committed to lifting over the last 10 or so years.

I’m of course not knocking mainstream popular exercises as I do think people can overcomplicate things but I think there are a load of functional exercises (no I don’t mean fucking bosu ball curls/squats) which I’ve mainly learnt about from T-Nation.

From my training history from what I can recollect I’ve never seen:
Zercher Squats/Carries
Pallof Press
Deadstop Lunges
SSB Good Mornings

Rarely Seen
Trap Bar Deadlifts
Landmine Press
People using bands (admittedly I only started doing this post lockdown)
Pendlay Row
Swiss Bar Bench
Non machine or bicep unilateral movements

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Single-arm dumbbell overhead presses, done heavy, of any variety (strict, push press, jerk). You really only see these done in strongman (circus DB), but they’re such a money exercise, especially if you start with strict, then go to push press, then jerk, as the prior exercise fails.


Great thread idea. This is a list of exercise I think people need to look at harder. As they are all very good, but so few people use them.

In a normally equiped gym:
Front squats
Trap bar deadlifts / frame carry
Pull ups and dips (the amount of guys that do loads of direct arm work with out ding these two staples is crazy)

In my regular gym (strong man gym)
Viking press
Smith machine (this gets more use in commercial gyms that “hard core” gyms. And it upsets me)
Tires for flipping
Throwing sand bag
Suitcase carry

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Such a great exercise. Any loaded carry will turn you into a monster, but heavy frame carries are a whole different animal.

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Floor Press
Bridge Press
Squats with feet together
Heavy calves
Guillitine Press

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These with full RoM are an absolute rarity


Good shout, I’m using landmine for my unilateral shoulder pressing at the moment but need to switch in to DB’s next cycle

There was a shoulder exercise that I got from the John Parrillo workout in the early 1990’s (if I recall correctly). It was called a strap pull.

It was done on a seated long pull (rowing) machine. Instead of a bar or close grip parallel handles, it used a strap (or rope with ends). We had a strap you could put your hands through and grab the strap. It was done like a seated long pull, but instead of pulling to your waist, you pulled it to your face, using your traps and side/rear delts. It was similar to an upright row, but much easier on your wrist joints.

Over time I diverted from the Parrillo training principles, but never dropped the seated strap pull. My next gym did not have a strap, but had a rope with knotted ends. I used my wrist straps to grip the rope. I liked this shoulder exercise because I could load up the weight. This was my second shoulder mass-builder exercise, following a pressing movement.

Today I see people doing a wussy version of this movement standing. There is no way to use any reasonably heavy weight while standing.


Trying to understand this one better…if I were so inclined to give this a try would the following mimic this movement well-enough:
-seated cable row set -up…but with following modifications:
-use rope attachment
-use wrist straps to better hold rope
-pull to face (like face pull) instead of seated row to sternum
-use heavy weight like seated row rather than light weight like face-pull

Do I have this right or am I off the radar? Thanks btw!

You seem to have a clear understanding of how I did the strap pull to my face.

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I think Hatfield squats are pretty good. Don’t do them anymore since my gym just got a shiny new Rogue Belt Squat Machine.

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Arnold Curls

PJR Pullovers

Band Tricep Pushdowns or Extensions

Single Leg Calf Raises, holding a DB

Power Cleans or Hang Cleans

Chains hanging off the bar for the deadlift

Dumbell pullovers across the bench

Nautilus pullovers used as an ab exercise…not sure how it works that way…but I have seen people try to use it that way

Side leg raises

Donkey calf raises

Overhead DB laterals (I think they are called British laterals)


At my gym, I’ve never seen:

  • KB swing (properly executed, I’ve seen squat to front raise “KB swings” but not explosive hinge)
  • Zercher squat
  • Seal row
  • Floor press
  • Tempo varied squats of any kind (paused, slow negative, 1 1/4 reps, etc.)
  • Close-grip or incline bench press
  • Snatch-grip anything
  • Med ball or plyo explosive work
  • Weighted chinups/pullups
  • BB curls
  • Jumps

Gym I trained at for most of my time never had a single KB the entire time I was a member
That’s a solid list of functional bang for your buck exercises, I find it shocking that you’ve never seen anyone close grip or incline bench let alone do weighted chins/pullups

Turkish Get-Ups with a decent weight. Thats core and conditioning and looks awesome if done with an impressive weight.
There are videos of some guys doing it with their GF on hand. Always wanted to do that, but sadly my gf is 6’0 and her lean weight is more than average male, lol :smiley:


I’m the weird trainer that loves these ahahah. I use these a lot with my clients, and people at the gym then instantly know who is coaching them :joy:

Zercher are really great to teach proper squat mechanics and reach depth. they are the easiest variation for that. Also: crazy core and upper back work!

Carries are just so damn good and versatile. I love to use them as a superset for fat loss, or as a tool to make your core, back and grip iron-clad

I must admit I have never tried these. So, I will!


My gym is only basically equipped (general “commercial” franchise gym) and I rarely or have never seen

DB pullovers
Arnold Presses (efficacy has been debated on these)
Meadows Rows
Paused Reps
Concentration Curls (likely because you have to use really low weight on these)
Decline Bench (my gym has one, but I have never seen anyone on it).
A properly executed cable flye

I did these awhile back and people looked at me like I was totally bonkers.

This caught my eye, as my current program has me doing these 3 times a week. What are the problem with the Arnold press?


Admittedly, I have mostly added these in because I have been working out from home, but they have worked well for me as a supplemental exercise.