Iron Cross Exercises

The iron cross is a strength-training exercise used in the weight room and on the gymnastics floor. It has several different variations that you can do depending on your fitness level and goals. Some of the variations include other muscles groups, such as the legs, but the focus of the exercise is the back and shoulders.

Dumbbell Upper Body

Use dumbbells for the iron cross exercise to target your shoulder and back muscles. You stand during this exercise, but you do not move your legs; the only movement occurs at the shoulder joint. Hold the dumbbells in front of your thighs with your palms facing you. Keep your arms straight, and lift the dumbbells up and out to the sides until your arms are parallel to the floor with your palms facing forward. Your body is in the shape of a cross, or "T", at this point.

Dumbbell Full Body

The full body version of the iron cross adds a leg movement to the exercise. You start in a squat position with your thighs parallel to the floor and your arms extended in front of your body, palms facing each other. Press through your heels. Extend your knees and hips to a standing position while simultaneously pulling your arms out to your sides with your palms facing forward. You finish in the same position as you do for the upper body version.

Gymnastics Rings

The iron cross in gymnastics is a stationary hold on the ring apparatus. This advanced move requires significant shoulder strength. You start with your body perpendicular to the floor, arms fully extended, your torso above the rings. Keep your arms straight, and slowly push the rings out to the sides. Lower your body until your arms are parallel to the floor and your body is perpendicular to the floor in a "T" position. Hold this iron cross position for as long as you can.

Exercise Machine

The iron cross machine allows you to do a variation of the upper body, iron cross exercise. Hold the handles out to your sides with your palms facing the floor. Pull down against the weight until your arms are at your sides, perpendicular to the floor. Keep your arms fully extended throughout the exercise; do not bend your elbows. This version of the iron cross targets your back muscles more than your shoulder muscles.

About the Author

Based in Austin, Texas, Jolie Johnson has been in the fitness industry for over 12 years and has been writing fitness-related articles since 2008 for various websites. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English and philosophy from the University of Illinois.