Are you wasting your time doing endless amounts of chest flyes, curls, and extensions with no results? There are five major exercises you should do every week in the gym. These five moves, when properly periodized and performed with good form, will completely alter your physique. These exercises are compound movements that will send a surge of fat-burning, muscle-building hormones through your veins, and will work every major muscle from head to toe.
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The mother of all exercises, squats are one of the best movements you can do for your entire body. Squats work every muscle from top to bottom. If you’re looking to build huge, muscular legs, squats should be your No.1 movement.
There are several squat variations you can do to develop bigger, stronger legs. Front squats will place more emphasis on the thighs, while overhead squats will work more of the core and the lats to some extent. Squats done correctly can be one of the most brutal, gut-wrenching exercises, but they will lead to some serious gains.
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- Bench Press
The bench press is the king of upper-body movements for developing the chest, shoulders, and triceps. The age-old question remains: How much do you bench? Bench-pressing has been the determining factor in strength for years. This go-to move can be performed on an incline (which works the shoulders and upper pecs more) or a decline position (which works the lower part of the pecs).
The bench press and any of its variations can be done using dumbbells or even a Smith machine. One key point when bench-pressing is to remember to retract your shoulder blades down and back. If the shoulder blades are not retracted the bench press can lead to shoulders issues.
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This exercise involves lifting a heavy load from the ground with no momentum. Deadlifts work nearly every muscle in the posterior chain of your body but place more emphasis on the upper and lower back, along with the hamstrings. They will build thickness in your spinal erectors and your middle/upper traps.
Deadlifts are normally done in two stances: a sumo stance, which involves your feet spread out wider than shoulder-width, and your hands in-between your legs, or a conventional stance where your feet are about shoulder-width apart and your hands positioned outside your legs.
There are also two ways you can grip the bar. You can use a double overhand grip (both hands grab the bar, similar to the way you would grab the bar for barbell rows), or a mixed grip (one hand is in the overhand position while the other hand is the opposite way similar to a barbell curl grip).
A variation to the standard deadlift would be the stiff-legged deadlift, which places more emphasis on the hamstrings and glutes. If you’re looking for a thick, muscular back, look no further than the deadlift.
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- Standing Military Press
The standing military press is a movement that is often overlooked. There are so many fancy machines to work the deltoids that it can distract you from the basics. The standing military press is one of the best exercises for developing fully capped delts. The move is performed by placing a barbell on your collar bone (similar to front squats) and pressing the weight directly overhead. Make sure that you finish the exercise with your elbows directly in line with your ears.
The key to doing this movement correctly is to not use momentum or your legs to help you press the weight overhead. If your arms are too far in front of you there will be a lot of undo stress on the rotator cuff. In addition to the shoulders being worked, this exercise also develops the traps, middle back, and the triceps.
An alternative to this exercise would be a standing dumbbell military press. Using dumbbells will allow for each arm and deltoid to work independently. This will help offset any muscular imbalances you may develop. If you have lagging shoulders, give the overhead standing military press a try.
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If you’re looking to develop a body to stand out from the rest, having fully developed lats will help set you apart from the crowd. Fully developed lats will enhance your V-taper, making your waist appear smaller and your upper body looking much bigger.
Pullups done correctly help to stretch and engage the stubborn lower lats. They can be done a variety of ways; they can be done in a chinup position, which will work more of the biceps. Pullups can also be done with weight to help overload the back muscles.
If you cannot perform a pullup you can utilize a lat pulldown. A lat pulldown machine can help you gain strength in the back, so that over time you can perform a strict pullup. The most important thing when performing a pullup is focusing on the squeeze of the back muscle at the top of the movement and slowly lowering yourself (eccentric part of the movement) to the bottom position. Too many people swing wildly from a pullup. Performing pullups this way will only lead to injury. You want to focus on the contraction and the stretch.