T Nation

Crazy Variations


I got the idea for this thread from my search for more variety in my training.

Reverse grip Front squat

I would like to think I invented these, but that's probably not the case.
I always wanted to front squat but just couldn't hold the barbell properly with neither the bodybuilding nor the Olympic lifting style. My shoulders always gave up or the barbell would kill my throat - or my wrists would get annihilated.

So I stopped trying.

I only back squatted and deadlifted for my legs. Then I discovered Zercher squats, which I think are excellent. But I still wanted more variation, at least 3 good exercises for each important movement pattern. So I tried Sissy squats, but my ass got in the way. I finally got back to trying front squats again. I retried the bodybuilding and Olympic lifting styles - and failed again. Then it hit me. I experimented with doing the same thing I had done with bench presses for variety, used a reverse grip.

The reverse grip allowed me to easily keep my arms in place so that my torso position wouldn't be altered. I do this by taking a reverse grip so that my hands touch each other, so it's a very narrow grip. Then I just raise my arms to parallel level, although even this is not completely necessary.

I hope this will help those who have, like me, had problems with their front squats because of either shoulder fatigue, wrist problems or having a hard time not getting choked by the barbell. I also think reverse grip is gentler for body because there isn't as much pressure on shoulders or bones because your hands are between the barbell and your body.

Even this style can still be hard for your wrists but for me it is not a problem. Before this modification I hated front squats and they were awkward for me. Now I absolutely love them as they are one of my favorite lifts. In addition, I'm very strong in these compared to my back squat.

Barbell between the legs deadlift (I can't remember the real name)
You do these by keeping the barbell in the same position as you would normally do but step over it with one of your legs. I think this lift is a valid variation of a deadlift because the movement pattern is close enough to the original movement and you can use heavy weight but still get variation to your training.

One arm barbell lifting

I got the idea for these from Jamie Lewis, a bad motherfucker who has an awesome blog: chaosandpain.blogspot.com. He likes to do one arm deadlifts and one arm overhead presses just like the old time strong men.

I like to do clean and jerks with one arm. I do these on a separate "fun training day".

These require a lot of balance and develop forearms greatly because you have to crush the barbell hard to prevent it from swinging. It's a total body lift and also helps to develop enormous intermuscular coordination. My PR is 50 kg (110 pounds) with each arm but I will often fail with lighter weight because this lift takes so much skill to master. I can only military press 60 kg (135 pounds) so I was pretty impressed when I got these up. The world record is 122 kg (270 pounds).

One arm snatches and overhead squats are also funny and I do these if I'm bored (or mostly during the "fun training day").

One arm barbell curls are a lot of fun to do for a change of pace. I'm pretty weak so I can only do two reps with each hand with a 20 kg (44-pound-barbell). I keep my elbow on my stomach so it is a bit like mimicking Scott curls. I tried 66 pounds and got it up by cheating. I still curled the end of the range of motion so the tension on my bicep was high.

Mixed grip barbell curls are also fun to do. I don't really think curls are going to make my biceps big, but I think they are fun. I do weighted chin-ups for biceps mass and strength.

Not only are one arm barbell lifts pretty effective for strength and mass, they will also make you look like a lunatic (especially if you're laughing even when you fail with one arm jerks and almost get crushed by the barbell - like once happened to me). Personally, I like that people think I'm crazy. It's refreshing. If you don't want to look like a madman in the gym and you care about other people's opinions, then maybe you shouldn't do these.

I hope you guys find these helpful or at least entertaining. For you should enjoy yourself in the gym. If you lose motivation, do something crazy to regain interest. I would also like to hear if some of you would have some other crazy, yet effective, lifts to share with the rest of us.


violent variations....article series from this site

good stuff


Yeah, I know there has been some articles here about variation in movements. But, I feel those variations are not drastic enough. Those seem to be just mild modifications, which I personally think are meaningless. I could be wrong, though.

I want that the lift becomes significantly different but still have the same basic movement pattern.


Push-up variations

I like to add some push-ups and other bodyweight stuff to my light days for some extra training.

I'm not strong enough yet to do one arm push-ups so I found a variation which helps me to get there. Get in a regular push-up position, but don't lower yourself straight down, but put your torso over one of your arms. This will put a lot more pressure on the arm that you lower your torso on, compared to the other arm.

Another variation is to keep your legs in the air while doing push-ups. Most people can't do this because it takes too much flexibility. So, I do this on my bed. First I'm on all fours, then I rush on my chest on the bed putting my bodyweight as close to my head as I can, then immediately press upwards so that my whole body, including legs, will be risen up into mid-air. This definitely looks crazy and awkward, so you might not want to do these in public.

Most people know what hand-stand push-ups are but I will cover them very briefly. Do a hand-stand leaning to a wall, lower yourself so that your head touches the floor, then push yourself back up.

Weighted push-up

I sometimes do this as an accessory exercise after my bench press variation. I put a plate (or plates) on my upper back, then do push-ups. It is handy to have a partner put the plates on your back. And yeah, you will look pretty crazy when you lie on the floor with a bunch of plates on you. A word of caution, I have found this to be pretty taxing on my CNS, since it is such a compound movement.



One that I really liked was a shoulder press with dv's that had a lateral move instead of straight up. It was like making a "Y" with your arms as you press.

Overhead Barbell Shurgs kill the delts too. Military press a barbell straight up and raise your shoulders as in a shrug.

Wide angle lat pullouts...use a cable machine and a d handle on the high point...set up an incline bench a few feet away and back from the pulley system..

One I made...a leaning forward lateral..one hand on db rack..other hand holding db...I think the loads are heavier for these but its weird trying to learn not to do a rear delt move....

I have more I'll give you tomorrow or the next day....baby is crying now


The same basic motor pattern wouldn't make the movement significantly different. And I feel as if your Reverse Grip Front Squats would be better replaced with front squats with an arms crossed grip, unless that's what your alluding to.

But I'll play somewhat.

Some of my buddies do a version of a get up where you hold a DB out parallel to the ground squat down roll onto back and then in one motion roll forward and squat up.

I also like mixed grip chins and Roman's monkey chins.


Ct. Rockula,

Oh, I should have added that I like to get the variation mostly in compound movements. I only pump out isolation exercises after I have got stronger on the compounds first and do an extra mass phase - or I do them just for fun and some extra after workouts.

I've tried Y shoulder presses but they didn't like my shoulders and the weight I can use is too small. Overhead shrugs seem like fun, but not that effective. I prefer high pulls, and in general bigger movements. Wide angle lat pullouts sound like a good pumping exercise. I may try them when I'll look for some quick extra mass. The same can be said about those lateral raises.


"I want that the lift becomes significantly different but still have the same basic movement pattern." I admit this sounds controversial, but couldn't come up with a better way to say what I meant.

Bodybuilding style front squats are done with an arms crossed grip, and I couldn't hold my arms up with those. Get up. Isn't that bad for the lower back because it's basically a deep squat holding a dumbbell arms straight with a sit up thrown in, right? I actually did a somewhat similar movement with just my bodyweight where I started lying on my back, sat up legs straight, then immediately squatted up with one leg. But, I can't keep my lower back neutral in the deepest position and that is not good for my back.

Mixed grip chins. I think I have tried these before sometime, but thanks for reminding! I must try these out again. Monkey chins. Are these done with a second pull up bar above the first one and jumping using your arms to get to the upper one? If so, I would love to try these but don't have any place to do them.


Throw up a vid of these "reverse grip front squats". Sounds pretty much like a SLIGHT grip modification of the BB style grip to me, unless I'm picturing them wrong.

And I've got to wonder, with all these suggestions on variations and such, are you sporting a physique/strength levels that are impressive?

Not saying your ideas are necessarily BAD, but when you toss out this much info in a couple posts, it begs the question of what you look/perform like...


I don't have the means right now to upload videos. By reverse grip I mean to do it Olympic style but with your palms facing down and the barbell is held like you would when doing curls, just raise your elbows. Additionally, I keep my hands together. For me, to do front squats this way makes a big difference.

I don't think my physique is very impressive at 6', 190 pounds and (I would imagine) 12-15 % bodyfat. I'm not too strong either, 5 years of bodybuilding training didn't really help my strength levels. Now I'm doing a modification of Westside Barbell and my strength levels have just started to increase. My PR in front squats is 95 kg (210 pounds). This is after my first cycle of two weeks using them. I cycle front squats, back squats and Zercher squats in periods of two weeks. If I did front squats the regular way, I could only manage 80 kg (180 pounds) because my shoulders would give up, so my strength would be limited only because of my choice of style.

I'm also definitely not seeing myself as any kind of authority. I just want to share things that I have found to benefit my training. I don't think I have to be strong to recommend that people try to do front squats with a reverse grip if they have experienced difficulty with the regular versions of it. I don't know how common this is, but I would imagine at least some people have the same problem.

About the amount of info. I try to be thorough.


Please explain this logic.


Just personal experience and experience from people I regard highly (basically big and strong guys I have read about on the Internet). Also I think it's common knowledge that big compounds give you the most bang for your buck and targeting movements just help put final touches to the body if you need to balance out your body or just add a little extra mass on.


Name a compound movement that directly stimulates the biceps. (no, stabilization on the bench press does not count)

Do you post on SL forums? They seem to think isolation movements are the devil over there. Who are these big guys who say not to do bicep curls?


I don't care if chins or reverse grip cleans only stimulate biceps indirectly. The fact that you can use more weight and increase the weight faster will eventually lead to more overall muscle mass including biceps mass.

Actually, I don't see a point in saying that something 'directly' stimulates a muscle. What the hell does that even mean? On the other hand 'targeting' a muscle would be a much better thing to say, even curls stimulate front delts too.

I don't think targeting ("isolation") movements are bad, just supplementary. And if the supplements are taking time and effort away from bigger, more time-efficient movements, then why include them all the time?

Many T-Nation authors only do, for example, curls only from time to time. These include Christian Thibaudeau, Chad Waterbury and Charles Poliquin. Add to the list the guy I already mentioned in my previous post, Jamie Lewis. Old time strongmen also focused on compounds, as do Olympic lifters.

The POINT is targeting makes your muscles big, but only to a point. Compounds make them bigger. It is easier to develop in compounds and the strength will transfer to targeting exercises, not so well the other way around.

All in all, THIS IS GOING OFF-TOPIC. Please don't shift the focus away from the topic anymore.


I admit I couldn't find a fitting category for this thread because I would like the focus to be on compound movements. People seem to think that bodybuilding should be about targeting movements and variations of those.

I, for one, am too small and weak to use a considerable amount of time doing targeting movements. I used to, to no great avail. The only muscle group for me that actually grew from doing targeting is my chest (from doing flies). Most people would be better off using their extra time on doing more compounds, just think about it.