#1: The Deadlift
The Dead-lift is by far the best exercise for full-body strength and muscular development. This is due to its ability to recruit all of the major muscle groups in the body. Although it may seem like just a leg exercise to the untrained eye, this couldn’t be further from the truth. From the upper back all the way down to the calves, every muscle has to be firing to perform this lift correctly. Because of its total body recruitment, this is also going to be your strongest lift.
- Start with your feet under the hips, about 9 to 12 inches apart, and slightly rotated out.
- Grasp the bar wide enough so that your knees brush up against the inside of your forearm
- Set your body so that your shins are vertical and the bar is in contact with them.
- Before lifting, engage your lats to stabilize your scapula. Squeeze the core to set your spine
- With everything in place, stand. The bar should be in contact with your shins and quads until your standing tall
- Finish the lift by reversing the order of how you lifted it and place it on the ground
- Keep the spine, from to head to the sacrum, flat throughout the lift
- Taking a breath at the beginning of the lift helps to stabilize the spine
- Don’t be a pussy; you got this
#2: The Squat
Don’t skip leg day bro. There is a reason the #1 and #2 exercises are “leg” centric. The squat and deadlift should be the cornerstone lifts of everyone’s mass building programs. The squat, much like the deadlift, is very much a full-body exercise. When wanting more muscle, there is no substitute for exercises that promote maximal muscular recruitment. These 2 are also the hardest and most daunting lifts and why most people bitch out of doing them. It’s also the reason why most dude-bros who work out look like shit. There is no substitute for hard work and consistency.
The squat has many variations. Today we will discuss the Barbell Back Squat. If you want to fill out those skinny jeans and have a blow out ass, do this.
- Start by grasping the bar 6 to 9 inches outside your shoulders and place the bar on your back and have it rest across the thickest part of your trapezius muscle.
- Place your feet about shoulder-width apart and toes pointed out around 20 to 30 degrees.
- As you start into the descent, think about pointing the chest to the ground. Bend at the hips and drive the knees out to match the angle of the foot
- At the bottom of your squat, actively squeeze the glutes and drive up through the hips until standing tall
- Everyone’s squat depth is different. Stop descending once your technique is compromised.
- DO NOT add weight to the bar and compromise depth. If you cannot do a full ROM squat with the bar’s weight, then it is too heavy stupid. Leave your ego at the door.
- Being Strong through the full ROM available to you is the best way to add muscle size and strength.
- Getting under a loaded bar for a heavy set of 5 and not knowing if you can do it fucking hard. Get your mind right.
#3: The Pull-Up
The Pull-up is going to be your best mass building “back” exercise that also involves the biceps, forearms, and core muscles. Surprise surprise, yet another exercise that does not involve chest and biceps. Just because you may be too weak right now to do pullups is no excuse not to include some assisted variation. 2 easy ways are heavy bands to help reduce your body weight, and cable pulldowns are an acceptable substitution. If you want a thick, strong back that is undeniable, make sure to include this one in your routine.
- Grasp the bar 4 to 6 inches wider than the shoulders
- Start with the arms fully extended and pull upward until, at a minimum, the chin touches the bar.
- Slow down the lowering phase to about 2 seconds and make sure to come to full extension of the arms before pulling again
- Engage the core before you pull
- Don’t be a bitch and reduce the ROM; come to a full extension at the bottom position before pulling
- The goal is to get the chin over the bar or, if you’re strong enough, chest to the bar. Shoot for the sky, don’t short sell yourself
#4: The Bench Press
Monday is universal Chest day, am I right?!?!?! Unless you do the bench press, you ain’t liftin’ bro. The bench is easily one of the most recognizable exercises in the gym. Most lifters have experience with it but is it being done right??? The Barbell Bench Press is your go-to exercise for a well-developed chest that includes the front delts and triceps. Unfortunately, the king of ego lifts and a common way to injure the shoulders when done incorrectly. It is a must-have in any good training program.
- Grasp the bar 4 to 6 inches wider than the shoulders
- Pull the shoulder blades “down and together” to form a firm surface to push from
- Unrack the bar and stabilize over the sternum
- Slowly lower the bar over 2 seconds; touch the lower sternum and drive “up and back” until fully extended
- Engage the core, glutes and drive the feet into the ground before you lift
- Grip width is determined by how wide you allow your elbows to drift; The wider the elbows, the less emphasis is placed on the triceps; the more narrow they are, the more work is put onto the triceps. If you go too wide, the shoulder is put at a higher risk of injury; too narrow, and the chest does not get enough work. Try to find a middle ground.
- Much like the squat and pull-up, sacrificing ROM here to put on more weight is a great way to get injured and stay functionally weak. Don’t cheat to add weight to the bar.
#5: The Shoulder Press
The proportion between the shoulders and waist is what really ties together a muscular looking build. There is no better way to build boulder shoulders than the Shoulder Press. Big shoulders can take a physique from zero to hero. A seated shoulder press will be stronger and should be utilized for hypertrophy. A standing press is better for overall functional strength as it incorporates core and balance.
- Grasp the bar just outside the shoulders
- Start with the bar just under the chin, touching the clavicles if you have the ROM available.
- Engage the core before you press and keep the elbows tucked close to lessen chances of injury
- Drive the bar straight overhead then lower the bar with over 2 seconds; back to the original position
- Keep the wrist mostly straight; 15 degrees of extension is acceptable
- Keep the grip narrower than the Bench Press to reduce the risk of injury
- Train in the 4-6 rep range for strength
- Train in the 12-15 rep range for muscle growth
- The concentric phase should be fast and the eccentric phase slow
- Shoot for 9 hard sets per body part twice a week for maximizing muscle growth
- Get .7 to 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight
- Don’t stagnate; always work harder than the last session