Do you want to know a secret?
The truth about building muscle isn’t nearly as sexy as you think it is. If you believe what you’re fed by the glossy magazines you’ve probably spent years chasing a fancy move, or supplement, or work-to-rest protocol, hoping that this one is the “true” secret.
You want to know why the magazines don’t print the most effective muscle-building blueprints? It’s because they’re basically pretty boring. They don’t look good when they’re laid out next to a glossy photo of the ripped, one-oh-five kilo beast you’re trying to be. The training is extremely tough, but almost always surprisingly simple.
So stop worrying about those little variations. Stop worrying about whether your program has flys in it or not. Stop worrying that your traps aren’t big enough yet because you didn’t do enough shrugs. The shrugs, the flys, the lat raises, they all have a place, but if you’re looking to just pack on slabs of muscle, your program needs to feature these five things.
Alright… Before you get all wound up about your shoulder press, or your chin ups, or your dumbbell rows, let me be clear… I’m not saying you shouldn’t do any of those things. In fact, I think they’re all great.
Get them in your program only after you’ve smashed out sufficient sets of these muscle building behemoths (with the exception of the last entry – more on that when it crops up). And don’t compromise any of the below exercises in order to focus on others. If any of these feel like they’re not doing what they used to, change up your rest time, and set and rep range. It’s not because the exercise is no longer any good and you need to start doing calf raises instead, it’s just that your body has adapted to that particular stimulus in that particular range.
Why do squats matter? I included these first for a reason, bro… If you’re not doing squats because you think your legs look good as they are, or because “who needs big legs anyway?” then you’re robbing yourself. Yes, firstly you’re robbing yourself of the joy of having a set of respectably muscled legs (and let me tell you, on the odd occasion I see someone with a well developed torso and spindly little legs, they look ridiculous, like two matchsticks glued to a Dorito). Secondly, though, do you want noticeable results elsewhere on your body? Yeah? Then train your f***ing legs. They’re the biggest muscle group in the body, they’re going to up your body’s testosterone like crazy following a good session, and that’s going to pay dividends in your flys and your bicep curls, which means results from those exercises that you likely otherwise wouldn’t ever have even seen.
If there’s any exercise that was going to be fighting squats for the top spot in this list, then it’s deadlifts. Deadlifts hit your entire posterior chain. If you’re doing them right, you’re going to be building muscle not just in your legs and your glutes, but all through your back as well. And since I’m very much in the mood to be sharing secrets with you I’ll tell you another one; a big back is going to do more to make your torso look solid than a big chest will. I’m not saying you don’t need both, but a big strong back opens out a big strong chest and makes it look like the body part you’ve been working for. So what does that mean for you? Well, it means not only do you get muscle activation that could potentially rival squats, but you build much-needed strength in your back as well that will make you look infinitely more beastly and assist with every other muscle-building move you try.
“But didn’t you just say…”
Yes, yes I did. But if you read what I said again, you’ll notice I also extolled the many virtues of a big, strong chest. There are a couple of moves you’re going to need in your arsenal if you’re going to build a big chest, and this classic is one of them. However, I’m not going to spend too much time banging on about it because I don’t think anyone, anywhere, ever, decided they wanted to get big and then neglected bench
In fact, I think the opposite is true. They neglected the other moves in this list in favour of bench. Including this one. If you want to build up a head-turning chest, you want to be benching and dipping as well. Not those little, upright tricep jobs. Get on the dip bars, widen your grip, feet back and head forward to get your pecs engaged, and smash ‘em out.
Very little in life will build size in your chest like taking your dips seriously, so leave room for them in your program.
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
But, but, but, that’s cardio, isn’t it?
Of course, in the strictest sense of the word, yes, it’s cardio. But to just write HIIT off as cardio is to fail to credit it with some of its most awesome qualities. To begin with, if you ever really want anyone to see all this wonderful muscle you’re working so hard to build, instead of just writing you off as a fat dude, you want to get yourself ripped. HIIT is going to help you burn fat whilst preserving muscle mass by drastically upping your oxygen consumption post-workout, leaving you in an increased state of fat burning for an extended period. Secondly, and you’re going to love this, HIIT promotes the release of human growth hormone. Yeah, that’s right, it’s going to boost the anabolic effects of all the other training you do. Pretty good, huh?
Use it to close your training session, before you stretch and hit the shower.
Finally, on to some of the absolute best of those supplementary moves
Chin-ups – Want to add size to your arms and lats? This is a pretty solid all rounder for bigger biceps and a wider back.
Shoulder Press – The king of shoulder building exercises, but here’s the kicker… It’s also going to give your bench a healthy boost, so expect both bigger shoulders and a shortcut to a better bench.
Kroc Rows – A great way to build size and strength in the upper back, as well as improve your grip and your deadlift performance.
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