Don’t waste time in the gym. Smash out these five tried-and-tested mass building exercises if you want to maximise your training sessions. Isolation work can wait…
Not called the “King of Exercises” for nothing, the deadlift will build solid mass throughout the major muscle groups. Although it feels like a posterior chain exercise, in fact the deadlift works everything from the traps downwards. Master the technique for a standard deadlift (and experiment with your grip as you increase the weight) then try variations such as stiff-legged deadlift and sumo deadlift. Keep the weight heavy and the reps low.
You can’t avoid squatting if you want to build muscle, boost your metabolism, and keep body fat in check. And why would you want to? Squats build power, size and density in the quads, hamstrings and glutes, leaving you with a great shape and a strong core to boot. There are loads of ways to squat: try a standard barbell backsquat, a barbell front squat or zercher squat, or try squatting with dumbells. If you want to get really evil, throw in some Bulgarian split squats. Whatever you do, just make sure you’re not one of those guys who “doesn’t train legs”. Proper lifters squat.
Pull ups (with a wide, overhand grip, palms facing away from you) really sort the wheat from the chaff. Can you lift your own bodyweight? If not, don’t worry – but do work up to it progressively. There’s nothing like a pull up to build functional strength and mass all across the back and down into the waist for a great V-taper. Concentrate on contracting the back to initiate and control the movement, thinking about moving your sternum towards the bar. This will keep the work in the back rather than the arms. If you can’t perform a pull up just yet, get a training partner to assist you on the way up (then control the lowering down part of the movement yourself). Or jump up, grab the bar, and lower slowly.
Bent over row
Add width and depth to your back for a great taper and a physique which really fills out your clothes. Rows of all types are great for back development, but perhaps the best of them all is a bent over row using a loaded bar or dumbells. As with any resistance exercise, you’ll need to make sure your technique is spot-on to avoid injury and to maximise your time and effort. Keep your posture tight and strong, pull the bar into the body, and think about the muscles you’re using: contract the back and hold at the top of the movement before lowering the weight with control.
To balance out your physique, you’ll want to build strong, wide shoulders. So you’ll need to press something heavy overhead. Choose from a standing barbell press, seated dumbell press or Arnie press and watch your delts grow…
Would you add anything to this list of must-do weight training exercises? What are your desert-island lifts?