This Small Exercise Tweak Will Build Muscle

STACK Expert Justin Ochoa presents 'Reverse Training' as a motivational tool to help you overcome boredom and bust through training plateaus.


When it comes to following a long-term training program, many people have short attention spans. Workouts need to be challenging and have enough variety to keep people engaged for the long haul.

Most programs I follow or create feature four or five workouts on the same days, performing the same lifts, for three-week cycles. Even with a three-week cycle, I admit, there are times where I just flat out lose interest in a certain workout or exercise. I need to mix it up. The solution: Reverse Training.

RELATED: Five Ways to Keep Progressing and Avoid Training Plateaus

I'm not trying to make Reverse Training "a thing" or act like I invented the wheel here, but this style of training is my go-to for changing gears for a day if a program becomes dull. It's just a great way to get an effective training session in without deviating too far from the original plan.

What is Reverse Training? It's actually really simple. You simply perform backwards-themed versions of the exercises you would normally do. For example, if you need a day off from the Bench Press, change it to a Reverse Grip Bench Press. It's the same movement, but in a different position, which means you use different muscles, lift different amounts of load and have a new challenge to conquer.

RELATED: Bench Press Grip Guide: How Hand Placement Changes the Exercise

If you want to take this even further, you can reverse your thought process on programming schemes. For example, you may typically Deadlift for sets of 8, 6, 4 and 2—increasing the load with each set. There's no harm in reversing that, warming up properly for a set of 2, followed by 4, 6 and 8—reducing the load with each set.

As Joe DeFranco says, "The best program is the program you're not currently doing," meaning variety is a vital factor in developing strength, hypertrophy and power. Next time you're "just not feeling it," don't skip your workout entirely. Instead, try some Reverse Training to keep yourself engaged with new challenges, more gains and continued progress toward your end goals.

Below is a Reverse Training workout. Try it out and let us know what you think! A few not-so-obvious variations are shown in a quick demo video—just in case you're not quite sure about what each move looks like.

RELATED: 10 Highly Effective Deadlift Variations

1A. Behind-the-Back Deadlift

  • 3 sets of 3 reps
  • 2 sets of 5 reps
  • 1 set of 8 reps
  • 60-90 seconds rest between sets. Warm-up for 2 sets prior to workout sets.

2A. Reverse Grip Bench Press

  • 4 sets of 8 reps

2B. Reverse Dumbbell Prone Flys

  • 4 sets of 20 reps
  • As little rest as possible between exercises, 30-60 seconds rest between sets

3A. Reverse Deficit Lunge

3B. Reverse Plank

Reverse Plank

3C. Bottoms Up Kettlebell Press

Kettlebell Press

  • 5 rounds of 1 minute each
  • 60-90 seconds rest between rounds. Use DBs/KBs heavy enough to challenge you to get 15 reps.

4. Reverse Sled Pull

Reverse Sled Pull

  • 2 heavy sets for max weight
  • 2 heavy sets for max time (remove 50-70% of the weight from max weight sets)
  • Each sled drag should be approximately 15-20 yards. Rest 90 seconds between sets.

Here is an even longer list of exercises that can be flipped backwards for a new experience, including the ones above.

  • Bench Press –> Reverse Grip Bench Press
  • Deadlift –> Behind the Back Deadlift
  • Lunge –> Reverse Lunge
  • Plank –> Reverse Plank
  • Sled Drag/Push –> Backwards Sled Drag/Push
  • Sprint –> Backpedal Sprint
  • Bear Crawl –> Backwards Bear Crawl
  • Dumbbell Pressing Movements –> Reverse or Underhand Grip Presses
  • Bent-Over Row –> Inverted Row
  • Treadmill Incline Walking –> Backwards Treadmill Walking
  • Farmer's Walk –> Reverse Farmer's Walk
  • Ergonomic Rowing Machine –> Underhand Grip Rowing
  • Barbell Curls –> Barbell Reverse Curls
  • Tricep Push-Down –> Single Arm Reverse Cable Pull-Down
  • Ergonomic Rowing Machine –> Slider Pike-Ups

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock