Not all exercises will have the same effect on your muscle building process. Some will push it to its outer limits and some won’t aid as much, but all of them will contribute to it. Today we are interested in the former ones, the exercises that promote hypertrophy by employing a larger number of muscle fibers, more than one joint and are colloquially known as compound exercises.
These exercises have a larger output and are based on your strength, as opposed to isolation exercises which are often based on a single joint movement that employs a low number of muscle fibers. If you want to build muscles that will be awesome and admired for years to come, here’s a list of 10 exercises you will need to perform that will get you to your goal!
Of course deadlifts are the first on this list. No other exercise even comes close to inflicting as much stress on your body as this one. Deadlifts make your back thicker, your lower body stronger and your gains immense, but they also strengthen your core and make you more suited for other heavy lift exercises like squats. If you want to get the best effect from deadlifts, keep the set moving after every rep – no need to drop the bar down after each lift. This will keep your intensity higher throughout your set, and when you get to the top of the movement, lock out your back muscles to engage them completely. No other exercise compares to the way deadlifts build your posterior chain.
2. Bent Over Rows
These are a compound exercise, of course, but they are far more isolated than deadlifts since they are mostly active on your rhomboids, lats and lower traps. You need a specific type of posture to do bent over rows, which means they will also activate your spinal erectors and your core muscles. Make sure you keep your elbows tightly packet next to the sides of your torso and drive them back. This will provide a more direct stimulus to your lower lats, but when you pull at this angle, you will also use more power, which will let you lift more. Keep away from excessive body motion when you’re performing bent over rows – your range of motion can be cut short, which will make the exercise less effective.
3. T-bar Rows
These are similar to bent over rows, and while the posture is identical, the difference is in the grip. T-bar rows demand a semi-supinated grip with your palms pointed towards each other, which will let you lift more weight, which in turn, will help you pack on even more lean muscle on your frame. To improve the effects of T-bar rows, pause when you get to the top of the movement and your lats and rhomboids will be under greater intensity while contracted.
Deadlifts build up you posterior chain like nothing else, but squats do the same for your legs. When you put a lot of weight on your back and squat until your legs are parallel to the ground, you cause your legs a lot of trauma and stress, but the same applies to your entire central nervous system, which is the explanation for that feeling of instability that you get after a hard set of squats. Squats demand a lot of muscle fibers to be activated in order to complete the rep, so hypertrophy is more likely to occur. When you inflict suck trauma on your body with squats, it will rebuild and grow in order to adapt. You just need to keep the weight away from your knees and on your glutes, quads and hamstrings, so make sure to push through your heels when you do squats.
5. Leg Press
Leg press work efficiently with both low and high rep ranges, and while they are more isolated than squatting since there is less intensity placed on your core, they are still a compound exercise. Leg press let you target every single quad muscle with just a few simple changes in the technique. Foot placement will change muscle focus – consider switching between narrow and wide foot placements, as well as anywhere between the middle and the top of the plate. All of these positions and all their variations provide a different level of intensity for different muscle fibers on your legs.
6. Shoulder Press
When you do seated shoulder press with really heavy dumbbells, you need a lot of strength and that’s why they are the perfect exercise to put on muscle mass in your anterior and medial heads of your delts. This is a compound pressing movement and it works on both your strength and your triceps size. Before you do this exercise, know how your triceps are supposed to work in regards to it because it will make the difference between a decent and an awesome shoulder press.
To keep your triceps away from fatigue and keep the pressure on the deltoids, shorten your range of motion a bit. When you get three to four inches before the lockout part of the movement, stop the concentric contraction and retreat into the eccentric part of it. When you lock out, your triceps will be engaged and you can make your shoulder presses dominate them, which will lower your deltoid stimulation and deltoid muscle building.
7. Decline Bench Press
If you want to build your chest, listen to Dorian Yates and do some decline bench press. This exercise hits the pec major, the middle and the upper part of your pecs as well in the concentric phase, meaning it practically activates your entire pectoral muscle group. Decline bench press let you lift more weight than any other angle because of the biomechanical advantages provided. If you want to put on more mass this is really important, and it’s also the least stressful on your shoulders, which is vital to this joint when you consider how vulnerable it is when you’re lifting weight that heavy.
8. Flat Bench Press
This exercise is more often than not, seen as the one that will measure your lifting strength. I don’t know a single person that isn’t focused on this exercise, and even if you’re not going for that scoreboard win, you should definitely include it in your muscle building workout schedule. The flat bench press is stressful on the shoulders, which means you should take some weight off and take a wider grip too, which will let you stretch your pectorals thoroughly as you press through the entire range of motion. Don’t lock out when you get to the top of the movement – your triceps will get tired really quickly.
9. Barbell Curls
Barbell curls stimulate every single fiber in both of your bicep heads. Get a straight bar, rotate your wrist externally and your biceps will tense much harder, especially their outer head. If your elbows or forearm start hurting, switch to an EZ bar which will let your wrist hold a safer, more natural position. Once you’ve reached muscle failure, you can do some controlled cheat curls, which will cheat through the concentric phase with some momentum to get the bar up, and then slowly but surely resist through the eccentric part of the movement. This ramps up your intensity like nothing else!
10. Weighted Dips
Weighted dips help you build a lot of mass for your triceps, but they also put some intensity on your pectorals as well, without even trying. If you want to keep the intensity on your triceps, take a narrower grip on the dipping station and keep your body vertical if possible. Weighted dips will let you overload your triceps with a heavy set until failure, but you will also be able to take the weight off and do a quick drop set to get your blood flowing more quickly. If you pump more blood into your triceps, it will help you stretch your fascia which will boost nutrient transportation and grow your muscles even more!
If you want to pack on as much muscle mass as you humanly can on your frame and become stronger, these ten exercises are what you need. They should be the basis of your muscle building plan, with their slight variations acting as added exercises to hit every single muscle you need activated. Don’t forget to keep your form proper!