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I’m a big advocate of that fact (yes it’s a 100% fact) that for complete muscular development your routine needs the correct combo of both compound and isolation exercises. Both types of movements can work a muscle in a way the other simply cannot.
I’ve said before to think of compound movements as your bombs, and isolation exercises as your snipers.
But some are taking it too far in favour of isolation exercises and skipping what I consider the 5 fundamental compound movements. And when I say fundamental, I literally mean that you cannot build maximum muscle without them.
There are others (like the military press), but I consider these as the 5 fundamentals. Include them all and start growing!
5 ESSENTIAL COMPOUND EXERCISES TO BUILD MUSCLE
Exposing the muscle fibers in your quads, hamstrings, glutes and lower back to heavy loads for repeated bouts = big gains. No serious lifter on this planet is skipping squats.
If you hate them, it’s probably your form. Have a pro watch and critique your form. 9 times out of 10, when a guy or girl tells me they hate squats, it’s not the lift, it’s their terrible form making the exercise painful and unenjoyable.
Not to mention, the heavier loads involved here mean a bigger production of growth hormone and testosterone.
(2) LEG PRESS
Why class this as essential? It has the same biomechanics as a squat, but I like to see people Leg Press in addition to squatting as using a machine takes stabilisation out of the equation.
While that has its drawbacks, it also has the benefit of being able to use heavier loads than you can when you squat. The scientific fact here is that as you increase stability, force output increases…or in English, you can push against heavier loads when the body is completely stabilized at a machine. Do squats first then leg presses as I recommend in free THT training.
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Now and then I get asked for a replacement for deadlifts on my THT plan. Bah! There is none! There is nothing that can replicate the deadlift.
If you want to add some serious mass to your back and traps, you just won’t do it without deadlifts. And as I said with squats in point 1, you get a tremendous release of testosterone and growth hormone with deadlifts that is unparalleled in other lifts. Stop making excuses and start deadlifting.
(4) BENCH PRESS
While not actually the most effective exercise for recruiting the most muscle fibers in the pecs (decline dumbbell bench press is), you can use heavier loads and expose your chest to increased stress levels. The bench press will also help you develop thickness in your shoulders and triceps. That’s why it is and always has been on my big list approved exercises for the best gains.
NOTE: Would you like this full list of the best exercises for ALL body parts? It’s called the THT Exercise Bank. It’s also great if you need to substitute an exercise or just want a change.
The download link will appear immediately after you enter your details below. Enjoy! 🙂
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Dips = The Upper Body Squat. That should tell you everything you need to know right there.
Dips will work the chest, triceps and shoulders with heavy loads and cause a tremendous increase in metabolic stress levels (a marker for growth or “protein synthesis”).
Here’s a video of me taking a set of dips to failure. Get it done!
I’ve been saying lately, “If you want a muscle to grow, you better punish it!” And these 5 movements are damn punishing!
You may also want to check out my VERY punishing “Blast” workouts for the Arms, Chest, and Legs. All 3 involve super-intense new techniques for igniting new gains – typically within 7-10 days. And you can plug these “blasts” into your regular training, so you don’t need to set aside your normal routine to do them.
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Questions, comments, need help? Talk to me below.
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Mark, got them all my friend! Thanks again for the great tips!
I’m surprised there aren’t any “pull” exercises on the list. Are those fundamentally different in terms of the growth hormone response? Are there any that are better than others? I’m thinking of Rows, (Weighted) Pull-ups, or Lat Pulldowns, but I’m open to others as well.
Mark, I would also like to get your opinion on some other heavy punishing exercises such as farmer’s walk? Also, I agree with Peter Williams, why not weighted pull-ups? I use these in my training, talk about destroying your upper body. Also, since you get a better range of motion with dumbbells (especially in the bottom stretch position), would you prefer to use decline dumbbell presses over barbell presses?
@Peter…. Deadlifts are a pull exercise
@Peter. I do list pull-ups and pulldowns in the THT Exercise Bank. I wouldn’t consider them fundamental. I rarely do them actually.
The best way to hit any muscle is to work it according to its function. The function of the lats is to bring the arms both DOWN and BACK behind the body.
A pullover machine works along the path of this function very well indeed. A pullover will recruit and isolate the lats better than anything else.
Bent Over Rows are still are great choice…and I DO do them on a regular basis.
But Deadlifts are the fundamental back exercise – a pull movement.
If you haven’t got it, download the THT Exercise Bank file for the full list.
@Luke. On a chest workout, I do both those chest exercises. With a bench press, you can alternative bar and dumbbell from time to time. I do.
Weighted pull-ups are in the THT exercise bank, but they’re not one of the fundamental exercises. I think a bent over barbell or dumbbell row gives a better contraction on the lats. But the fundamental back exercise is the deadlift.
Farmer’s walk I don’t like. Hard to measure progress, no repeated contractions. No rep range. It’s not on my THT list of exercises.
@Jason. Good point, bud.
Dips are a guaranteed way to elbow and forearm pain/tendon inflammation/injury for me, let alone a weight one. Any recommendations to do it safely?
@Steve. In that case, skip it buddy and do a decline bench press – it’s the same kind of biomechanics involved.
Awhile back you posted a link for a site you recommend to find out the number of carbs, fat, calories etc. in a food/liquid. This particular site was great because it allowed the user to enter the amount of a certain food and it would calculate the content in a pie chart and in a list similar to what one would see on a food label.
If you are familiar with what I’m describing can you post the link? I’m having no luck using google and I forgot the name of the site.
Thanks in advance!
@Sean. It was probably https://www.fitday.com/ buddy. Enjoy 🙂