In this Iron Game, the desire to get stronger, to get bigger and more muscular, is the primal urge! And if you’re on my free THT workout, I’m sure you’re already experiencing some stellar gains (Advanced THT is coming Monday 5th February – you should have at least 1yrs training experience before getting on it – sneak preview here).
With that in mind, I was wondering recently – if I only had 6 exercises to use – how would I train to maximize my gains? It was a fun thought experiment, and I’m gonna give you my results right now – the exercises I would use and how I would turn that into an actual workout.
A 6-EXERCISE PLAN FOR MASSIVE GAINS
(1) MUSCLE GROUP: CHEST
EXERCISE: DEEP DIPS
Yes, a decline dumbbell bench press is actually the best overall chest builder, not a flat bench press (according to electromyography tests).
BUT, since I’ve only got 6 total moves to use, I’ve chosen to hit my chest with deep dips so that I can also generate some indirect stimulation to the triceps and shoulders (more bang for my buck).
A dip works the chest from the same angle as a decline bench – and going deep is necessary to really hit the chest. There is a big difference between chest and tricep dips – see here for an explanation. I also add weight to my dips – my body weight alone is just not tough enough. See a video of me doing dips here.
(2) MUSCLE GROUP: LEGS
No doubt. No question. Squats are king (some taller people actually do better with Leg Presses – it’s pretty much the same mechanics) I don’t think there’s anyone who doubts this. If you only had 1 leg movement to use, you’d be a fool to use anything other than squats.
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EXERCISE: OVERHEAD SHOULDER PRESS
Hitting the overall deltoids is best done with an overhead press (you can use a barbell or 2 x dumbbells here). And performing them in seated position will stabilize the body and allow you to knock out more reps.
The superiority of the Overhead Shoulder Press has been verified by electromyography tests and Alex Hormozi of the Transformation Center Huntington Beach did a great job in explaining this and other EMG results here.
EXERCISE: CABLE PREACHER CURL
With most barbell and dumbbell bicep movements, the resistance really drops off at the top of the rep – and this is the point where we can generate a maximal contraction. To avoid this, doing a curl on a preacher bench with a low pulley really gets the job done. See me doing a set of these here. If you can’t do these, try Lying Cable Curls instead).
(A close second is the concentration curl. A study in July 2014 tested 8 bicep exercises and concentration curls came top for maximum fiber activation – but cable preacher curls were not tested).
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EXERCISE: DECLINE TRICEP EXTENSIONS
Decline Tricep Extensions top the list for muscle fiber recruitment with pushdowns (with a v-bar) coming a very close second (based on electromyography tests). No surprise here, in my opinion. I’ve been recommending for years that you guys do these in a Decline position because it avoids the pitfall of the resistance falling off the triceps at the top of the rep (how many of you have taken my advice? Don’t make me angry lol).
(6) MUSCLE GROUP: BACK
Just like squats, you’d be a fool to choose any other exercises here because you cannot hit the totality of the back (including traps) at one time with any other exercise. So it simply must be deadlifts. If I could, I would also choose a rowing movement to involve the lats (and traps) more. Seated Cable Rows with this kind of attachment is king in my opinion.
So if I had only 6 movements to use, I would not directly work the calves or abs. A sacrifice has to be made somewhere. If I could have the luxury of an extra exercise, I would do sets of standing calf raises – that’s STANDING calf raises. Having the legs straight allows for more muscle fiber recruitment – FACT.
And getting abs is about getting your body fat % below 10% (below 17% for women). Believe or not, there are many people with six-packs who do NO direct ab work. If you’re one of the thousands of people who have gotten shredded abs on my Total Six Pack Abs Diet, you’ll know this to be true. But while you don’t necessarily *need* to do direct ab work for a six-pack if your body fat is low enough, some direct ab work will make that six-pack all the more impressive-looking.
A 6-EXERCISE WORKOUT
So I would perform this 6-exercise, full-body workout 3 times a week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I would want to separate working my squats and deadlifts since they involve some of the same muscles and induce fatigue. So in order to perform at my best in each of those, 1 movement would go at the beginning, and one near the end of the routine. The same principle applies to the chest, triceps, and shoulders. So my workout would look like so:
- SQUATS: 2-3 sets
- TRICEPS: 2-3 sets
- BICEPS: 2-3 sets
- SHOULDERS: 2-3 sets
- DEADLIFTS: 2-3 sets
- CHEST: 2-3 sets
Putting the triceps immediately before or after deadlifts would not be optimal for either of those muscle groups. So I believe this would be the optimal order in which to perform this workout. If triceps are not a priority, you could switch Chest for the 2nd exercise and hit triceps at the end.
What do you think? What exercises would you use? Let me know below ~ Mark McManus
P.S. I know that putting together a diet for mass gains or getting shredded abs can be a pain in the butt, especially if you are new to this – that’s why I offer a service where I will do all the tough ground work for you.
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