Top 8 exercises to build muscle
New twists on old favorites using a band aid and a workout that could see you in the ER?
Unlocking the boundaries surrounding hypertrophy has become a life-long quest and even a compulsive behavior for some.
There aren’t too many people out there who can say they are happy with their size and there is no need for anymore muscle anywhere on their bodies. Sure, some body parts may grow more rapidly than others and you back off a little bit on them to allow for lagging body parts to catch up, but most of us (this writer included) are still searching for more size. Big is beautiful and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you are looking to pack on ungodly amounts of gnarly muscle, then make the following power packed movements staples in your program and unlock the beast from within.
Chest in Charge
Big, round and full pecs have been the standard by which you can compare your manliness too for decades. There’s a reason you can’t get on a bench press during universal chest day (Monday) and that’s because it has been engrained in our psyche that if you want to establish dominance, you better have a big chest and a big bench to go with it. One of the most widely used movements to develop the chest is the flat bench press and I’m sticking with this one as my top exercise for chest development. For most of us, a lot of our chest development came from our early years of lifting, which if you were anything like me, involved a lot of benching. My friends and I would actually have bench press competitions on a daily basis when first starting out. And you know what, it worked!
Our chests grew and we got very strong and ever since it has been a strong point for all of us.
Back to Basics
The single best exercise for developing the entire back complex is the dead lift. You aren’t going to have a thick, dense back if you don’t dead lift; plain and simple.
Dead lifting is hard, a little dangerous and a huge rush when you start pulling serious weight off the floor. I like bodybuilding style dead lifts with a narrow foot stance, I like sumo dead lifts, I like rack pulls and I even like stiff legged dead lifts. Do yourself a favor and try dead-stop dead lifts. These are killer. Rather than tapping the floor with the plates let the bar rest for a count, then go again. I guarantee you’ll be winded and it may be a good idea to have the puke pail close by.
The Wheel King
You want big legs, then shut up and squat! That’s right, ass to the grass, gut wrenching squats.
Nothing in the world of leg training is going to develop your entire upper leg region better than squatting. Don’t be afraid to make use of the training equipment our power lifting brethren use either. I’m talking belts, knee wraps and if you have one around, throw on a squat suit. I’m not kidding! I prided myself on my squat for years, and I trained legs almost exclusively with a power lifting style freak show. We used all the gear and guess what? Our legs leg blew up despite everyone around us saying we were cheating so that we could simply use more weight.
In the same manner as many people approach their chest training, the biceps also gets a ton of attention.
Think about it; when some says, “Make a muscle” do you think they are asking you to stomp out a quad shot?
Hell no, they want to see your biceps. So my choice for building bulging biceps is an oldie but a goodie; the straight barbell curl. You will be able to handle some serious weight with this exercise which will tear your biceps up and prime them for growth. Don’t be afraid to mess around with your hand positioning on this exercise and if your gym has it, make use of a thick handled bar as well. The extra squeeze you’ll need to hold onto the bar will stimulate more muscle tissue for a better workout.
Two thirds of your upper arm size comes from your triceps and if you want huge arms, you’re going to need big triceps.
To really get into the belly of the triceps muscle group you need an exercise that will allow for a great stretch and squeeze such as the skull crusher. I like to perform this exercise with a slight change to it in that I really like bringing the bar down and past my head for an extreme stretch. From this position, I can feel the muscle working almost from the inside out as I transition through the positive portion of the repetition. Quick story: back in high school I asked a friend of mine if he wanted to workout with me that day. He said he would and skull crushers were on the menu for this particular workout. I showed him how to do them cautioning him to go slow on the negative. Well, he didn’t and the cambered bar came crashing down on his forehead causing him to do an immediate back flip off the bench and on to the floor. I don’t think he has worked out since.
As much as I enjoy performing hamstring curls either lying face down on a bench, in the seated position or standing one leg curls, my pick for ultimate hamstring development is the stiff legged dead lift. You can use a lot of weight on this exercise, you can get that all important stretch at the bottom of the rep and it really helps with the hamstring/glute tie in.
Make sure on the way down you stick your ass back as far as you can to exaggerate the stretch then power through and squeeze your glutes hard at the top.
Cannon ball Delts
Do you know what makes a bodybuilder stand out from everyone else when fully clothed? Shoulders do. Big, capped off delts is a true marker of a bodybuilder. I actually don’t really believe you can have shoulders too big and it is my mission in life to make them so big that I have to walk through a door sideways to get in. For this reason, my choice exercise for building massive shoulders is the standing military press. And I’m talking from the floor, executing a clean and then pressing the barbell overhead. There are so many stabilizer muscles involved in this exercise that your shoulders have no choice but to grow and get stronger, otherwise you’ll get hurt.
The clean is actually a bonus movement in this case as the side and rear delts as well as the traps play a huge role in getting the barbell into position for the overhead press.
Calves or Cows
You might be able to get away with less than stellar quads and hamstrings by wearing your board shorts, but there is no hiding your calves unless you plan on wearing pants all year long.
I understand that great calf development has historically been by way of genetics, but there’s no reason you can’t make what you do have better. Standing calf raises would be my go to exercise for turning your calves into cows. Load up the machine with as much weight as you can possibly handle, really focus on the stretch (the calves are used to contracting all day long as you walk) and grind these out. The pain will be worth it in the long run.
Did you say a band aid?
Ok, I might have been a little misleading in the intro with this one because the band aid I’m talking about isn’t meant to stop bleeding.
I’m talking about resistance bands and the variable resistance effect they can offer your training.
Some of my favorite classic exercises I like to apply band work with are the leg press, the bench press and shrugs.
For the leg press all you do is wrap one end of the band around the carriage or bar, then the other end around the back rest of the seat. As you release the carriage there will be an added resistance coming down on you from the band. At the bottom of the rep all you have is the resistance from the weights. Then as you push the weight up the band picks up the slack and all of a sudden more resistance is added to the press and it gets harder and harder the closer you get to the top.
For the bench press, I like to do reverse banded bench presses where the resistance band acts as a suspension device making the bottom of the repetition easier. Then as you transition through the rep, the easier part of the bench press (the lock out) becomes the hardest part. So using the band in this manner actually reverses the feel of the movement and adds to the contraction of the pec muscle at the top which so many people miss out on.
Finally, I call these suspender shrugs. Take two resistance bands, loop them over each shoulder then step on the other end. Right away you are already providing resistance for your traps with the bands. Then from there it’s simple; do either barbell or dumbbell shrugs. The higher you shrug or the more band you step on, the more it pulls and the harder the movement becomes.
Ok, so this workout is guaranteed to swell whatever muscle group you use it with to give you immediate size.
My long time close friend (who was Mr. Canada in 2010 and current IFBB Pro) and I came up with this workout back in high school when we were bored with what we had been doing. Over the years I dubbed it “The Paralyzer”. You can do it for any muscle group and we did it for biceps. You pick a weight and perform 100 reps with it. Then you pass it off to your partner for them to complete their 100 reps. Once they are done, they pass it back to you for another 90 reps and you pass it back to them again for their 90. This continues dropping by 10 reps each set until you hit 10 reps. Once there, your sets consist of 9 reps, then 8 all the way down to 1 rep. After the last rep, you take a quick 10 second rest then attempt to pump out as many reps in a row as you can without stopping. We finished this workout and no word of a lie, walked around with a 90 degree bend to our arms for an entire week! Now, I have never attempted this workout again myself but have had many people give it a try. Some never even come close to completing it and others have managed to see it to its end. I have even had two individuals make a visit to the Emergency Room that night because they honestly thought they had done major damage to their arms!
(side note: they were fine and the pain subsided in a few days)
So there you have it. My eight picks for Muscle Madness and if you are crazy enough to try “The Paralyzer”, let me know what you think.
Author: Dana Bushell
AST Sports Science sponsored athlete/writer, Endevr Brand Ambassador, Max Out or Get Out sponsored writer, Sponsored by Schiek, Inside Fitness Magazine Staff writer
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