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Iron Cross Exercise

Iron cross exercise benefits

The iron cross, like most classic ring strength skills, is unique in that it works almost your entire upper body at the same time. No single body part is truly isolated during its execution. Due to the support being out to the side and bisecting the torso, both the lats and chest work extremely hard during an iron cross.

The shoulders and traps will be straining while trying to stabilize the shoulder girdle, while the biceps and forearms are completely fried trying to hold the entire body up while in a disadvantaged straight-arm position. Also, note that the pectoralis and latissimus are both "fanlike" muscles which contract across a broad range of angles.

When training these straight-arm movements allows you to hit the muscles in ways which could never be duplicated with bent-arm exercises. The Iron Cross is an impressive movement to watch when done correctly and the training that is needed to perform an iron cross is very thorough indeed.

How to do an iron cross

It is certainly not an easy exercise by any stretch of the imagination, but you can train towards the point where you will have the strength to do it. You should be training the iron cross using alternative equipment, it'll be necessary for you to train the cross in the inverted position.

There are a few choices for example a good way is to train this movement using gravity boots or an inverted sit-up station. Lacking either of these options, you may also train by simply hanging by your knees. This is certainly not comfortable but is an alternative.

Start by setting the bar to a height where, when hanging upside down with your arms extended overhead, you can just reach the dumbbell handles with your fingertips. From this awkward position you can choose two types of methods depending on your own specific strengths and weaknesses.

Of these two methods it is important to note that neither is more correct than the other; simply choose the one that best reflects your individual strengths. If your shoulders are stronger than your lats, perform an iron cross by "rolling" your shoulders forward as you descend into position.

If your lats are dominant, pull your shoulders back and contract the lats strongly while going into the cross. The exception is if you're training to pull from a cross to a higher position (Maltese, planche, etc.) in which case the shoulder forward version will be necessary to allow you the leverage to complete the movement.

Regardless of which position you prefer, when performing an iron cross, it's important that you're able to just see your hands out of the corner of your eyes. Don't turn your head to check position, but rather use your peripheral vision.

If you can't catch a glimpse of your hands, then they're too far back behind your shoulders. If you can see them clearly, they're too far forward of your shoulders.

You will need to focus on keeping the elbows completely extended during the iron cross. Instinctively, most of us will bend the elbow, both to protect the joint and to make the load more manageable. This will result in short term ability to train with a heavier load; however, it'll severely handicap your long term ability to ever perform this and other more advanced strength positions correctly.

There are a few additional postural details for a correct iron cross that include keeping the head neutral, the wrists straight, and allowing no arch in the lower back. Also make the extra effort to keep the dumbbells parallel with the ground; try not to allow them to tilt one way or the other.

This will become quite important if later you try to transfer your newly developed iron cross ability to the still rings themselves. The only way you are going to achieve this is by proceeding slowly and patiently when first beginning to train these straight-arm exercises.

When an athlete feels undue strain in either the elbow or shoulder joint during iron cross training, it's usually the result of either training too often, with too much resistance, or with improper form.

In my book “The Muscle Experiment” I talk about how I was able to put on a solid 39lbs of solid muscle in less than 6 months with bodyweight training, and exactly how YOU can do it as well. In case you haven't downloaded The Muscle Experiment, I suggest you download it immediately and start implementing the little known techniques. This alone should put you on the road to massive size and strength.

To your success,

Mike Thiga

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