Training to get big and strong is relatively simple. There are no secrets or special exercises. The movements required are all “big bang for the buck” exercises which cover all the bases. You wont find any isolation exercises in this list. They are not required neither will they build any appreciable size or overall body strength.
The following exercises when applied to a simple progressive resistance training program will get you strong, and give you as much meat as your coathangers can handle. The 5 essential weight training exercises are as follows:
Essential weight training exercises
Pull ups/Chin ups
Bench press(flat or incline)
Known as the king of exercises and for good reason, the benefits of squatting are well documented. Not only is this the most effective leg exercise, it will, like the Deadlift, precipitate mass and optimal strength gains throughout the entire body. There are few other exercises that produce or require an equivalent level of neuro-muscular activity. Additionally few exercises match the Squat in its effect of increasing skeletal loading, bone density, balance, coordination, muscular stimulation and overall systemic adaptation. It’s also (especially with high repetitions) virtually unmatched in its psychological demand for building mental toughness. When done correctly to a proper depth, it’s tough, consequently it is avoided by many trainees in favour of the leg press which is vastly inferior. We’ve all seen the guys loading the “hip sled” up in the gym with huge amounts of weight to impress onlookers, and then unlocking their knees and straightening them again. The leg press performed thus is completely useless and needs to be performed through a full range of motion to be effective, but even then is still inferior to the Squat. Aside from a few individuals with injuries or structural anomalies, anyone who lifts weights should learn to squat correctly. Back squats, front squats and safety bar squats are all effective, just do some type of squatting.
The Deadlift and its derivatives are some of the best builders of strength in existance. Deadlifts essentially develop the posterior chain, the seat of power, building explosive power and strength in the hamstrings, glutes, calves, and back. Like squats, deadlifts develop strength in the hips which is the major source of power for the majority of athletic activities. The Deadlift tends to be avoided by many trainees who often cite the unfounded rubbish that it damages the back. This is another myth (like squats being bad for the knees) that has been circulating for as long as I’ve been training. It is unlikely that any other exercise is more effective at building superior back strength. It exposes weaknesses, it’s tough, and can’t be cheated which is probably the real reason you rarely see anyone doing it in commercial gyms. Loaded appropriately, this brutally hard exercise utilises virtually every muscle in the body, producing systemic adaptation, and should be an integral part of your training program.
This movement is most effective when performed standing as it then involves the entire body. The Press utilises all the mid-section musculature, hips and legs to stabilise the body whilst the bar is pressed overhead by the upper chest, deltoids and triceps. It is therefore also an excellent exercise for developing core strength. The Press develops strength in the entire midsection – the abs, obliques, intercostals and back in addition to the shoulders and arms. It uses more muscles and produces more central nervous system (CNS) activity than any other upper body exercise. It builds big shoulders and helps keep them healthy. Too much emphasis on bench pressing causes over development of the anterior deltoid at the expense of the posterior which becomes relatively weak. To keep the shoulders healthy you need to do both. The Press can be done with a regular bar, a fat bar, a log, dumbbells or kettlebells.The standing version is arguably the best overall pressing movement but can be done seated and either dumbells or a barbell used. Muscle activation tests have indicated that the standing press with dumbells recruits the maximal amount of muscle fibres when compared to other pressing movements.
This movement can be performed with a barbell or dumbbells. The bench press needs no introduction and is the most popular exercise seen being performed in the gym. It is arguably one of the most effective exercises for developing optimal strength in the upper body. It is not without controversy however and is associated with shoulder problems especially by trainees utilising poor form. Incline presses are probably safer and may transfer more effectively to functional sporting activity. long limbed individuals sometimes have problems with this exercise and can benefit from utilising the weighted dip as an alternative.
A difficult exercise for the heavier trainee, this is considered by many to be the upper body squat. Chins and pull – ups are some of the most effective upper body mass builders. They are multi – joint, involve the movement of the entire body and work multiple muscle groups. For building optimal strength and size they are therefore far superior to pulldowns, where only the arms move. Chins and pull -ups develop high levels of functional strength and they are most effective for building back width. If done with the palms facing you they are also an excellent bicep exercise, and superior to any form of curl in this author’s opinion. The core of your upper back work should revolve around the chin or pull-up. Performed weighted they are even more effective.
your workout should ideally revolve around these essential core exercises or their derivatives. Otherwise you will not be optimising your gains in size, strength and power.