You’re surfing the web, looking for the top workout routine that will turn you into this generation’s Frank Zane. But then you lose interest when you see they consist of weird stuff like weighted side bends, while abductor machines and balance balls are touted as revolutionary pieces of equipment.
The fitness industry has to come up with new stuff, just like the entertainment industry to keep the participants on their toes. However, those of us who’ve been in the industry long enough, know that the exercises used by old school bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Serge Nubret are still the best.
The exercises I’m about to share with you will have you sweating for a good reason. They’ll have your muscles break down properly, so that you can load yourself up with top notch protein and make some gains!
Would you rather be referred to as someone who ‘skips leg days’ or has ‘chicken legs’. Isn’t it much better when someone says ‘Sick wheels bro!’? I think you’ll agree that when someone compliments your leg development, you definitely know you’re on the right track. Biceps are easy to build, but legs usually take a ton of effort.
The basic way to build leg muscle and strength is by doing SQUATS! There’s no going around the badassery of placing 300 pounds on your back and squatting, only to launch yourself up like a true champion. Squats engage all the leg muscles: quads, glutes, hamstrings and even calves.
The fact is that squats activate the rest of the body as well. The thing is that when you have a ton of weight on your back, the whole musculo-skeletal system has to perform as a single, harmonized unit in order to deal with the situation. This is why squats also build a powerful midsection, shoulders, arms and chest through indirect engagement of the upper body.
The deadlift is another staple exercise that should be part of everyone’s workout routine. Deadlifts are the prime example of brute strength. They’re basically a test of how much heavy shit you can pick up from the floor.
Just like squats, deadlifts engage the whole body in the process of lifting the barbell. However, the parts that do most of the work are leg and back muscles. Deadlifts are a bit more complicated than squats, and you should really nail down the form before attempting to lift heavy weights.
There is also a huge variety of deads that work really well. Sumo deadlifts are great for building the outer quad. The deficit deadlift where you stand on a platform is also a great way to get more lower body engagement.
However, mastering the standard deadlift, form and strength wise is the most important step. I encourage you to do deadlifts at least 2 times a week. Implement them in your leg and back workouts, and I guarantee you’ll see improvements. Plus, it’s fun to rack the barbell with a ton of weight and grunt like a Viking, causing discomfort in the gym. Or maybe that’s just me.
Dumbbell Bench Press
Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking. WHY DUMBBELLS? Why not just say BENCH PRESS. Well I have a very good reason for specifically advocating dumbbells. The problem that many gym rats have is muscular imbalances. One side of the body is weaker than the other. This is most often the case when it comes to shoulders and chest. Why? It’s because of unhealthy posture, sitting for too long on the computer and having one hand on the dreaded mouse, while the other hand is doing… well.. something.
Due to this postural setting, the upper body tends to shift more to the left or right side. If you have this problem, when you do barbell bench presses, you will be training the side that is pushed up-front more than the other side. This will cause further muscular imbalances. This is not something that a bodybuilder from 40 years ago would have to deal with. But nowadays, many young men have to take this into account.
So, the best way to get the powerful chest activation from bench presses is to do them with dumbells. This way your all of chest and shoulder muscles will get the same treatment, as the range of motion is far superior. I don’t think it’s necessary to sing praise to the bench press itself too much. We all know that it’s the best exercise for building a bullet-proof chest. That’s why all the benches are occupied on Mondays. The gym rats are aware!
Vince Gironda Frog Sit-Ups
Here’s a weird exercise to spice it up a little. Vince Gironda, the God of weird exercises, is also one of the greatest bodybuilding coaches that has ever walked on this planet. Although I don’t agree with his asessment that back squats create a huge, unaesthetic butt, and should therefore be discarded by bodybuilders, he is spot on when it comes to regular sit ups.
Doing regular crunches is the worst thing you can do for your hamstrings and lower back. They cause a ton of tension in that area and will lower your flexibility as a result. It’s basically like multiplying the effect of sitting on the computer by compressing yourself even further.
The Frog Sit-Up is performed in an exactly opposite way. Instead of raising your upper body to perform the contraction of the abdominals, you raise your crossed legs towards your head. This way your hamstrings and lower back are not doing any work, and the abs are doing all the work.
So the next time you train abs, try to do the frog sit-ups for 15-30 reps, and compare the overall feel with the regular crunches. I’m sure you’ll become a new fan of Girondas approach.
Dumbbell Side Lateral Raises
Another awesome dumbbell exercise. Side lateral raises are designed to hit the middle deltoid. Many trainees have overdeveloped the front part of the shoulder due to heavy lifting from the front of the body, with exercises like bench press, deadlifts, and even heavy bicep curls. But the middle part is where it’s at. It actually gives the delts their round appearance that makes them stand out.
If you’re looking for a top shoulder exercise that will actually hit the often neglected but very important part of the shoulder, side lateral raises are the gateway to unlocking your shoulder width potential.
There are many awesome exercises to choose from, including some novelty ones that have only emerged recently. But the great saying ‘don’t fix if it ain’t broke’ is also true. These exercises were top notch 50 years ago, and they are still vital for building a great physique.
You can only do so much in a day, so do the best to get the best results.