After you’ve been training clients for a while, some of them inevitably grow bored and might request that you give them something new, different, and “exciting.” Rather than coming up with an entirely new program every time, a simple way to put a fresh spin on their workouts is to include combination exercises. Combination exercises are--surprise--a combination of two or more different exercises within a single rep.
Combo exercises are different from circuits and complexes where your clients complete all the reps in one exercise before moving on to the next exercise. Observe:
As the video above demonstrates, you instruct your client to do one rep of the first exercise, one rep of the second, and continue alternating back and forth between the two movements until your set is finished. The idea of combination exercises gives clients a little bit of what they want, but you can incorporate things they need as well.
Why combination exercises? You can easily do combination exercises in a busy gym and don’t require the skill of complexes (which is great for less experienced clients). Plus, they're perfect for busy clients who are always short on time. But like circuit training and complexes, your clients will love the fact that combination exercises help them burn fat and improve conditioning.
Checklist: 5 considerations when programming combination exercises
1. Choose the right combinations
Look for movement combinations that allow for a fluid transition from one to the next. Avoid combining movements that have very different loading needs. For example, trying to combine a deadlift with a reverse curl is a waste your time. Instead, find movements that can apply a challenging weight for both movements.
2. Pick the right resistance
When choosing resistance, select client’s weakest movement. For example, if your client can overhead press 100 pounds and front squat 150, use 100 pounds as the starting weight for a front squat to press combination exercise.
3. Set appropriate rep ranges
Keep rep ranges low, around 6-12 reps, when first starting these with clients.
4. Choose the right tool for the job
Dumbbells and resistance bands are extremely versatile because you can go bilateral, unilateral, or ipsilateral if you please. If your clients have strength imbalances, balance issues or need extra core work, these are right tools for the job.
Others like the kettlebell and barbell have a higher learning curve. If your client hasn’t mastered the hip hinge pattern, for example, he or she shouldn’t be anywhere near a kettlebell. Likewise, save some of the barbell combo movements for your more advanced clients.
5. Pick the right time to have your client do the exercise
Ideally, you should program these movements after your client’s warm-up or core exercises when your clients are fresh.
KETTLEBELL COMBO MOVEMENTS
Clean to press
Split squat to overhead press
Single-leg deadlift with row
Push-up to Renegade row
RESISTANCE BAND COMBO MOVEMENTS
Unilateral squat to press
Squat to row
Forward lunge to press
Reverse lunge to row
Row to triceps extension
DUMBBELL COMBO MOVEMENTS
Squat to press
Reverse lunge to press
Romanian deadlift with bent-over row
Walking Renegade row
BARBELL COMBO MOVEMENTS
Front squat to press
Front squat to L-sit chin-up
Deadlift with push-up
Lunge to press