How To Do The Iron Cross Exercise Properly

The iron cross exercise is a full body workout whose movements are tailored to strengthen every area of the body.

It involves the use of weights to train several muscles at once.


  • Stand up with your feet shoulder-width apart. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Lift your arms to the sides so that your torso and arms form a T-like shape. Ensure that your arms are parallel to the floor throughout and perpendicular to the sides of your torso. This is the starting position.
  • Squat down by bending at the knees. Continue with this motion until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Bring your arms down in front of you until the palms are facing each other as you squat down. Only your shoulder joint should move when you perform this motion.
  • Start pressing with the ball of your foot so that you can get back to the starting position. At the same time, move your arms out from your sides so that they form a “T” shape.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.



The shoulder is made up of three muscles namely the anterior, posterior and lateral heads. The iron cross exercise however engages just two heads – the lateral and posterior heads.

The lateral head is engaged when you move the weights away from the body. As such, it enables you to successfully stretch your arms with enough stability to complete a rep.

The posterior head on the other hand works with the back when moving the arm away from the body and back centrally to complete reps.


The quadriceps work closely with the glutes to make lower body movements. Whilst the glutes facilitate propulsion and balance, the quadriceps facilitates knee extension and stability.

This is made so by the location of the quads which are located at the front of the leg.

Therefore, every time during a rep when you lower and raise yourself up and down, you engage the quadriceps.

In turn, this strengthens this area as the quadriceps are forced to adapt and get stronger.


The glutes are a group of muscles that form the area known as the buttocks and part of the hips.

The iron cross exercise however mostly targets the gluteus maximus. The gluteus maximus is particularly vital to a number of movements necessary to do the iron cross exercise.

This is because it facilitates the external rotation of the thigh which allows you to squat. It is also used as a means of propulsion and providing balance, often against the pull of gravity when pulling yourself up from squatting.



A lot of times making movements away from the body causes destabilization. This is because naturally your movements are conducted within the central body line.

Therefore, movements away from the central body cause an unstable environment.

However, training your core and body to consistently deal with this instability makes it easier as all the engaged areas adapt accordingly.

This translates in day-to-day life in various ways i.e., it increases your ability to hang mid-air while jumping, it can also improve your swinging and throwing power.


The back, specifically the lats, are heavily engaged while doing movements that do not lie within the central body line.

As such, the side movements build the back muscles which consequently provide protection to the spine.

This is because an insulated spine is less likely to experience injuries as compared to a weaker, less insulated spine.



The deadlift is a classic workout typically associated with bodybuilders.

However, this is a common misconception as it provides a variety of day to day benefits due to the wholesome engagement of muscles that comes with the workout.

As such, it is a great direct swap for the iron cross exercise. To do the exercise:

  • Place two dumbbells on either side of your body. The dumbbells should be slightly in front of your feet
  • Spread your feet slightly wider than your shoulders and ensure you point your toes forward
  • Gradually squat all the while ensure you’re doing this with a flat, neutral back
  • Keep your core strong and stand up
  • Hinge at the knees to lower the dumbbells back down


Squats are a low-impact variation alternative to the iron cross exercise. To do the exercise:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider. Put your hands out in front of you for stability.
  • Bend at your knees and hips. Ensure you keep your chest lifted and your spine neutral.
  • Lower your hips so your knees are over your ankles. Make sure to keep your weight back into your heels to avoid too much pressure on the knees.
  • Use your glutes to bring yourself back to the starting position. This is your first rep.


  • Sit on the ground with a bench behind you
  • Bending your knees so that your feet are planted on the ground while the barbell rests below your hips
  • Lean back so your shoulders are on the bench and position the bar above your hips. Drive your hips up lifting the bar.
  • Pause at the top of the lift and squeeze your glutes, then lower your hips slowly.



Throughout the exercise it’s important that you position your body in the right way to do the iron cross exercise effectively.

By placing your arms in a position parallel to the floor, you ensure that strain is evenly distributed throughout your upper body.

This therefore ensures you get a balanced workout.


Ensure that your movements while doing the iron cross exercise are controlled. It is natural to counter the strain with quick movements.

However, this ends up watering down the effect of the exercise which reduces efficiency


The iron cross exercise requires a certain level of fitness however it can be tailored in a way that allows anyone to do it.

Ensure that the weights you opt for are manageable and you’ll soon be reaping the day to day benefits of doing the iron cross exercise.