Exercise Combining, The Power Rack And Exercises You Should Be Doing

Exercise Combining, the Power Rack and Exercises You Should be Doing. Lately, due to time constraints, I’ve had to get creative. How I perform a workout might have to change. Case in point. What if I have 15 minutes to do a workout (sometimes I only have ten)? 

Let’s say it’s back day, for example. I will employ intensity techniques as well as using basic exercises.  I use heavy weights and reduce rest time between sets. One other thing I will do is called “exercise combining”. 

Exercise Combining With Deadlifts

For example, On deads I will do deads, then go right into shrugs. Then –  I go right into bent rows. This is all one exercise, all one set. Now, as the weight gets heavier I have to drop the shrugs and rows. But, in the course of 5-6 sets, I’ve done 3 exercises.

Another thing I do is use two bars on pulldowns. I have an angled standard bar attached as well as a V handle attached. When I fail with the angled bar I go right into the V bar and I can get another 3-4 reps. The simple action of changing to a bar that puts your hands in a completely new position. This allows more reps and more stimulation.

Exercise Combining With EZ Curls

Another example is biceps. There’s so much you can do with biceps! Lately, I’ve combined the EZ curl with the drag curl ( a Vince Gironda favorite). I do one rep of each and count those two as one rep, so I shoot for 6-8 “combined reps”. 

Add in heavy weight and what an exercise! Also on biceps, I will start sometimes with seated incline curls. As I fail I’ll go right into seated dumbbell curls. Once I fail on these I’ll go right into standing alternate dumbbell curls. It’s all one set! 

Exercise Combining With Triceps

One of my all time favorite exercises of this type has to be the lying EZ triceps extension/pullover/press. This is a great triceps movement and one I first started doing back in the 80’s. Here’s how you do it. First, lay on a bench with your head just off the end. Next, perform “skull crushers” to failure. Then go right into pullovers, keeping the bar close to your head and your elbows in tight. Finally, go right into close grip bench presses. You should shoot for 6-8 reps per movement and it’s all one set. 

Exercise Combining = More Time!

I don’t do this type of exercise combining with every muscle group. Still, adding unique twists can make an exercise more effective and more fun as well as save you a lot of time! Of course, adding in intensity techniques allows you to train hard in a short amount of time. These include drop sets, super sets, rest pause, static holds, burns, to name a few. 

A short workout is better than no workout at all as long as you work hard. Short does not have to mean easy! Now that we’ve looked at exercise combining, let’s move on.

The Power Rack

I train at home in a gym I designed. The power rack is the cornerstone piece of equipment in my gym. BTW, it’s a great tool to use exercise combining. 

I do probably 70% of my movements in the power rack. Using a rack provides several advantages. The first is safety. You don’t have to worry about dropping the bar on your neck during a bench press. Why?  If you fail, you have the pins there to catch the bar. You can use as much weight as you can handle in a rack. Again you have the pins there to hold the bar. 

Partials In The Power Rack

You can set the bar wherever you want for any exercise you want. This is because you can put the pins anywhere you want. So, I squat, bench, overhead press, do bent rows, deads and cleans in the power rack. Remember, you can use exercise combining in the power rack. 

You can also use a rack for two other important reasons. First,  work the weak link in your range of motion on exercises like the ones I just mentioned. Second, working a partial range rep with weights beyond what you can usually handle. 

There’s nothing quite the feeling of doing very heavy partial squats in the rack. You walk out and think you’re about to snap in half from the monster weight on your back. Yet you pull it off and knock 4-5 short reps! 

While I advocate full reps, a partial rep like this allows you to work beyond your comfort level. You get the feel of another 100-200 pounds on your back and expose your quads to a greater amount of overload than usual.

The Power Rack Works Your Range Of Motion

You can also use the power rack to overcome weak points along the range of motion in an exercise. For example, working the bench press in your weakest point. Simply set the pins at the level you want to work and perform your partial rep. 

In the bench press, for example, the push off your chest is usually the weak link so that first 1-2 inches is what you’d want to work. That’s the beauty of a rack. You can work in short increments. Or, you can work the full range and you never have to worry about safety.

So you have the benefits of attempting to strengthen the weak links in your movement. Work the strongest range only and to focus on a full, quality contraction over several sets. You can perform full reps, and use exercise combining. The rack should be the centerpiece of every home gym and the centerpiece of your commercial gym workouts! 

Can’t find one in your gym? Then change gyms!

Exercises You Should be Doing

There’s a lot of exercises that we tend to neglect for various reasons. Yet they provide the biggest bang for your buck. Exercises such as dips – a great chest, shoulder and triceps exercise. Or dead-lifts – how many people really do this exercise? Squats – by these I mean deep, full squats. Power cleans (and the power clean and press) and chins to name a few. If you recall, many of these can be used for exercise combining. 

These are all exercises you should be doing!

How many of us change these over to something easier without realizing that in the process we lose the effectiveness? Never change off a compound, free weight movement for a machine or an isolation movement. You lose too much when you do this. 


The compound movements involve several muscles all at once. The primary, secondary and stabilizer muscles. Squats, for example, involve some 200 muscles and work the entire body. It’s been said squats alone can account for a 10% increase in upper body size. I would put dead-lifts and power cleans in the same category. Not to mention, some of these work great for exercise combining. 

Exercises You Should Be Doing & Hormones

One of the reasons these types of exercises affect the whole body is the large amount of natural hormone production they generate. This is something I have written extensively about in recent articles. What bodybuilder doesn’t want an increase in testosterone and GH? 

As well, bench presses involve more than only the chest. They also involve the deltoids, triceps, and lats. Plus your legs act as stabilizers. Plus you’re pushing off with the legs. You should grip the bar hard so now we’re working forearms. Dips involve most of your upper body in varying degrees – you get the idea. Add in something like deads, and use exercise combining.

The Problem With Machines

Most machines and many free weight moves are more isolation exercises. Leg extensions, concentration curls, flyes, and so on. Machines take out many of the secondary and supporting muscles as do the free weight isolation moves. This presents some problems. You’re working less total muscle with less weight plus you lose any hormonal benefit. 

The basics are the exercises you should be doing. Many of the isolation moves, historically, were considered “pre contest definition” moves. Back in the days of Arnold, they would use, for example, the concentration curl to bring out the biceps “peak”. 

Now, that’s mostly genetic and if it’s not there, it’s not there. Leg extensions, as well, were used to “define” the quads, never to build mass. Fast forward to today and these types of exercises are the more common ones you see being used in many gyms, excepting the hardcore places. 

Now, these moves can have their place in certain intensity techniques and the basics with progressively heavier weight!

For the fastest results, try exercise combining! Don’t forget the Power Rack! Finally, center your workouts on the exercises you should be doing. Worry about isolation when you have enough muscle to isolate!

By: Jim Brewster


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