Michael Grogan is a Personal Trainer/Movement Coach in Melbourne CBD & Clifton Hill.  He uses a combination of Gymnastic Strength, Advanced Mobility and Barbell Strength & Power exercises to achieve increased levels of performance and body composition with his clients. For more information follow him on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/michaelgrogan_movement/ and for enquiries contact [email protected] 

Training is awesome when you have a structured progressive routine that is getting you some serious results and putting you on a one-way ticket to Gains-ville.

You get a program, 6 weeks fly by and your absolutely killing it and then suddenly on the first session of that 7th week….its not happening, your doing the same thing you have been doing for the last 6 weeks but you’re not able to increase the weights, you’re lethargic and you’re motivation to train is comparable to your motivation to visit the dentist to get your teeth scraped…..You have hit the dreaded TRAINING PLATEAU.

So what can you do? Yes there are other exercises you can try but when you have hit the a big plateau you really need to shake your training program up down to its core and try something out of the box for your next training phase. When you do this you will start feeling that sudden rush and excitement to get the gym again similar to what you had when you first started training.

What this article aims to do is provide you with 5 Key Alternative exercise’s you can perform in the gym that substitute more traditional gym exercises to provide you some much needed variety to your training:

1.    Shoulder Press vs. Handstand Push Ups (HSPU)

The Shoulder Press; a classic, traditional gym exercise aimed at building size and strength in the shoulders. This is a great simple move to perform in the gym however after a while of performing the exercises it can get more boring than watching 90mins of a soccer match that ends 0-0.

Non-Traditional Alternative: The Handstand Push up (HSPU)

The HSPU hits multiple muscle groups including the shoulders and is a challenging exercise you can perform to mix up your shoulder work. I know what some of you are thinking: ‘That looks too difficult’ Just remember that handstands are a skill that takes some practice and once you achieve it you will have unlocked a new ability. Try the scaled version to start, if you can get upside down: start with attempting to hold for 30 seconds, then start doing reps of 5 full handstand push ups.

Above: HSPU, Up Phase (top photo), HSPU Down Phase (middle photo), Scaled Version (bottom photo)


2.    Leg Press vs. Sissy Squat

 “I love doing heaps of reps on the Leg Press” – Said no one ever…Ok the leg press is a totally effective exercise for building up quads and glute strength….but I think we can come up with something more interesting than this for our training, lets shake it up….

Non-Traditional Alternative: The Sissy Squat

Get around the Sissy Squat. It is an amazing quad builder and provides a release for the whole front side of our body’s. It also looks like you’re in the matrix when your performing the exercise…enough said.

Once again its not the type of exercise you will be able to master straight away but definitely start with a scaled version of the exercise and then attempt the full version after some time.

Above: Sissy Squat, up phase and down phase


3.    Tricep Dips vs L-Sit Holds

Tricep Dips are a super effective exercise that provides great strength and development for the back of the arms. However they are also repetitive and easy to plateau on when performing them for a long period of time. Also –EVERYONE does them; and no one ever got cool by following the crowd.

Non-Traditional Alternative: L-Sit Holds

You know when you go to the bakery just before closing and they give you all the left over muffins for free because they are closing and will just throw them out anyway?…..Best feeling ever! Why? Because your more bang for your buck than you anticipated! This is just like the L-Sit hold you will find that you are not only building size and strength into your triceps but also intense strength for your core and you will develop your hamstring flexibility also.

Once again try the scaled versions before progressing into the full movement.

N.B I am not condoning the eating of muffins as complementary nutrition for your training

Above: L-Sit, Full Version (top photo), L-Sit, Scaled Version (bottom photo)


4. Chest Press vs. Spiderman Push-Up

Chest Press is great for developing strength and size in the chest…However they are also repetitive and as boring as bat excrement. Time to shake up that protein shake:

Non-Traditional Alternative: Spider-Man Push Ups

This is why Clark Kent never got to the next level: its all about those Spider-Man Push up’s! They hit that chest in new areas (make sure you go chest to ground!) but also work through those obliques tightening up those love handles(potentially from the bakery advice above).

Hit that scaled version first then slide right into those chest to ground spidermans.

 Above: Spiderman Push Up, Up Phase (top photo), Down Phase (bottom photo)

5.    Sit ups vs Ground Levers

Sit ups; work the core….blah blah blah they absolutely suck and noone should be stuck with them for multiple programs in a row.

Non-Traditional Alternative: Ground Levers

The drawcard with ground levers is that they can progress into other exercises and provide a gateway to a lot of gymnastic -based movements that you can try following a progressive program of ground levers. They work intensely through both the abdominals and lower back and you will quickly improve if you stick with them.

Get on that Scaled train before trying the full version!

Above: Ground Lever Up Phase (left photo), Down Phase (middle left photo), Scaled Ground Lever Up Phase (right middle photo), Scaled Ground Lever Down Phase (right photo)

To Conclude:

So that’s it… There’s no reason to be bored, unmotivated or like everyone else with your gym program. Its time to get out there and try new exercises that you can progress and develop yourself with and hit new heights with your training. Don’t do what Clark Kent did…Time to shake it up!

For all those wanting help with their training or setting up a non-traditional program please get in touch with me: [email protected]



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Michael is a Human Performance Coach based in Melbourne, Australia creating high performance human machines since 2009. Michael believes in building physical performance using gymnastic strength, advanced mobility and barbell strength & power. Building mental performance through constant challenge, goal setting and skill based activities. Building lifestyle performance through discipline and mental drive.