If you’re looking to reduce how much time you spend in the gym and burn more calories while you’re there, combination exercises might be for you. Simply stacking two movements together into one, combination exercises are more metabolically demanding, can provide cardio benefits, and often will make you more athletic. Below are seven examples you can add into your workout today.
A staple among strength and Olympic lifters, the clean and press is one of the best combination exercises you can do. Able to be done with a barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells, or even sandbags, start with the weight at your waist, clean it to your shoulders, then push press it overhead. This will hit the shoulders, traps, upper back, and forearms.
A stricter version of the above, the dumbbell curl and press would see you standing tall with a dumbbell in each hand. Hammer curl the dumbbell in your left hand to your shoulder, then press it overhead, keeping your hand in the neutral position. Lower the dumbbell back to your shoulder, then back down to your waist. Now repeat this process with your right arm, alternating arms every rep.
Dragan Radovic popularized this movement in some fitness circles with what he called his “Dragan Challenge”. Simply put, you’d hold dumbbells in each hand and perform as many reps as you can without stopping. Your initial target is do 100 reps non-stop combined between both sides.
Popularized heavily in recent years by bootcamp and cross training classes, the thruster is combination of front squat into push press. Unrack the bar in the “racked” position across your shoulders, perform a front squat, then as you reach the top of the front squat, keep the bar going until it’s push pressed overhead. There should be no loss in momentum or bar speed.
From there, lower the bar back to your shoulders and repeat. Spend a little time perfecting your technique with this movement, because ideally, the bar should continue to move up and down almost like a piston. The faster you can move, the more power you’ll generate and the more demanding the exercise will be. As such, you don’t want to have to stop and reset due to balance or technique issues any more than you have to.
One of the more old school combination exercises you’ll see, this is a favorite to work the chest and back. Lie on a free bench with an EZ curl bar held over you with arms extended. Lower the bar to your chest, then perform a pullover. When the bar reaches your chest again, press it until your arms are fully extended as in a close grip bench press.
Both forward lunges and reverse lunges are some of the best single leg exercises you can do as they promote excellent muscular activation, give a great stretch, and work virtually every lower body muscle at once. For even better results, combine the two into one movement.
Start standing with a dumbbell in each hand and feet together. Perform a reverse lunge with your left leg, then bring it back to the starting position. At this point, lunge forward with the left leg before returning to the starting position once again. Once you perfect your balance, try to eliminate resetting at the starting position, instead going from the fully reverse lunged position to the fully forward lunged position in one non-stop action. Perform all your reps with one leg before switching sides.
Set yourself up to do split squats by holding a dumbbell in each hand and elevating your left foot. Perform your first split squat rep, but instead of descending again immediately into your next rep, bend forward at the waist to perform a single leg deadlift. Keep your rear leg elevated the entire time. Be sure to keep your torso upright during the split squat and chest arched during the single leg deadlift so as to not round your back. Perform all your reps with the left leg, then switch to your right.
One of the best combination exercises for the upper body, this will not only work your shoulders, chest, and back, but the constant tension will provide for an excellent core workout, too. Start in the top position of a push up, only instead of having your hands on the ground, they’ll be on a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells. Perform a push up.
Once you’re at the top position again, hold your core tight and perform a row with each hand. Keeping your feet spread wider than normal can help with stability. Also make sure not to rotate your torso when doing each row. Instead, you want your shoulders to stay parallel with the ground. After rowing with each arm, you’re ready to start your next rep.
Combination exercises such as these are a great way to save time and burn more calories, but can also add other new elements to your workout. They can work body parts in alternative ways you’re not used to and even indirectly target other muscle groups. Plus if nothing else, they’re often challenging and can provide a fun element to your training.