Are you still struggling to gain muscle mass? Stuck in a rut with your bodybuilding progress? While most muscle building problems can be traced to a poor diet, sometimes your training just isn’t right. No matter what your specific situation, a trip back to the basics is probably in order! Here are the four best muscle building exercises. Focus your training regimen on improving at these movements, and you are sure to see some great gains.
You’ve probably heard that the squat is the “king” of all muscle building exercises. Well don’t roll your eyes after hearing it once more – it’s true! The squat really is the best overall mass building movement out there. Not only will squats build massive legs and a strong lower back, they will stimulate your entire body into new muscle growth!
However, the VAST majority of lifters do not squat properly, if they squat at all. Take a look around any weight room on a busy day, and if you actually catch someone squatting, they are probably doing a quarter, maybe half-squat at best. That’s a shame, because you can only reap the benefits of this great movement by sinking your squats down into the “hole,” that deep part of the range of motion that’s the hardest to get out of.
Your form on the squat should start with the proper setup. With your ankles directly under the bar and your hands at a comfortable width, get under the bar and SQUEEZE your shoulder blades together, creating a “shelf” for the bar on your upper back. This should be uncomfortable! Arching your back (not rounding!), take the bar out of the rack and take two solid steps back into a medium-width stance. Now you’re ready to squat!
Begin the squat by pushing your hips BACK, not by sitting straight down. Your hips and hamstrings are where the power really comes from in the squat, and you will only fully engage them by doing this sit-back motion. Once you’ve begun to sit back, your knees will naturally bend, and you will descend. Once you reach the parallel position, where the crease of your hip lines up with top of your knee, DRIVE the weight back to the top as hard as you can. Repeat for the desired reps. Make sure you are increasing the numbers from workout to workout!
Everyone’s favorite, the bench press can be one of the best upper-body mass builders if you do it right! As with most basic movements, though, you shouldn’t look to your fellow gym goers for good examples of proper form. Follow these basic tips to lift more weight, build more muscle, and keep your joints safer with the bench press.
First, try not to think of the bench press as a “chest” exercise, at least not until you’re advanced enough to have weak points in your muscle development. For now, you want to think about moving lots of weight by effectively recruiting your pecs, delts, triceps, and even lats. This is how you build the most overall mass with the bench press.
To set up, place your feet in a solid position on the floor – no wobbling, and definitely no elevated feet! While grabbing the bar, pinch your shoulder blades back as tight as you can, the same way you did with the squat. Keeping this tight position, take the bar out of the rack, and lower the bar with your elbows at a 45-degree angle. This will help recruit your pecs, delts, and triceps equally, as well as save your shoulders from the stress of the “elbows-flared” bench press. Once the weight touches your chest, drive it to the top as hard as you can!
Second only to the squat in its muscle-building capability, the deadlift is an extremely effective exercise which not enough bodybuilders use. It’s also the movement where most people can use the most weight – who would want to miss out on that?!
The deadlift is also the least technical of the basic lifts, so there’s not a whole lot of coaching to be done on form. The most important thing to remember is that you need to keep your lower back arched. Your UPPER back can hunch over a bit during a heavy deadlift, but you are looking for serious lower back troubles if you allow your lumbar spine to round. Know how a cat’s back looks when it stretches? Do the opposite of that with your lower back, and you’ll be good to go.
One thing to watch out for on deadlifts is that it can be a hard movement to recover from. You can squat heavy every single leg day, and as long as your nutrition is right, you’ll recover fine. However, deadlifts are a bit of a different animal. You should still do the movement frequently, but cycle your weights so that sometimes you’re going heavy, and other times you’re going a little lighter for higher reps. Overall, just make sure the numbers are always on the up and up. You can’t get bigger if you’re not getting stronger!
Another movement that not enough lifters do, the old-fashioned, standing, strict military press is an awesome exercise for building big shoulders. It’s also one of the most frustrating, since the weights are lower than on other movements, and it takes some serious time and patience to improve it. Maybe that’s why almost nobody does it?
To do the military press, just set up a bar in a rack at about the same height you use for squats. Using a medium-width grip, take the bar out, get a solid stance, and drive the weight overhead as hard as you can, WITHOUT using your legs or hips to help it move. Don’t be surprised if you have to start out with baby weights! This is a damn hard exercise. Keep plugging away at it, though, and it will reap enormous dividends.
In addition to just building bigger shoulders, getting stronger at the military press can seriously boost your bench press. Though most people think of the bench as a chest movement, strong shoulders are crucial to moving big weights. So, if you hate having to use low weights on the military press, just think of it as a great way to boost your bench – that should add some motivation to this workout!
Article by Top Fitness Model and Sixpackfactory.com’s. muscle building expert Justin Woltering. Find out more about Justin at: www.justinwoltering.com