Your lifting routine should ideally consist of a few basic exercises that will give you the biggest bang for your buck. If you want to bulk up, gain weight and just gain loads of muscle, then your training needs to be focused.
If you are a beginner or an intermediate lifter, forget about isolation exercises for now (you can add them once you are on the upper intermediate or advanced level) and just focus on a few key exercises. These should be heavy compound multi-joint exercises that recruit muscles from various parts of your body and work the entire muscle chain.
However you should also remember that if you have been leading a sitting lifestyle all your life, then you are most likely imbalanced and need to work out to try to lessen those imbalances. Even if you have been playing sports for most of your life or just led a less stationary lifestyle, some of these imbalances can still be present in your body, whether that’s due to the nature of the sport you played, injuries or a myriad of other reasons. Also heavy lifting can be very taxing on your body and can cause injury.
So in order to try to straighten out those imbalances and also to lessen the chance of injury, your routine should also have a good set of stretching and rehabilitation exercises. Injuries can kill your growth and the best way to avoid them is to try to prevent them by having a routine which tries to strengthen and stretch vulnerable parts of your body.
Here are the essential exercises that need to be a part of your routine:
The lifts –
Lifting free weights is one of the easiest ways to really create huge muscles. That said, you need to keep a few principles in mind while doing them. Proper form is very important, as doing things wrongly can ultimately lead to injury. Also the principle of progressive overload is the basis of getting bigger. If you want to get bigger, you need to keep on lifting heavier and heavier weights.
The deadlift is the king of compound exercises. It is one of the key parts of my current routine. The deadlift works all parts of your posterior chain, including the back muscles, the glutes and the hamstrings and is essential for any routine which has as its aim the growth of muscles. Deadlifting also stimulates the creation of things like testosterone and the human growth hormone. There are several variations of the deadlift, including the normal deadlift or a stiff-legged deadlift. With the deadlift, you need to watch your form, as it is very easy to get injured, if you make a mistake.
The squat is also a must-do exercise. Unfortunately most gyms today don’t have a squat rack, making it hard to perform it. It works primarily the quadriceps, but also recruits other muscles as well.
3) bendover rows
You seriously need to pay proper attention to your back muscles and the bendover rows are a good way to do that. Whether you do them with dumbbells or a barbell, bendover rows need to be in your routine.
4) dumbbell bench presses
Bench presses are probably in your routine already, so no need to explain more. 🙂 However I prefer doing bench presses with dumbbells, as you need to lift each dumbbell separately with your individual hands, which prevents you from cheating.
5) cable rows
Cable rows are really great for your back, as they keep the tension on. This is a good exercise for people with bad postures.
The bodyweight exercises –
Another staple of my routine. You need to do pullups. End of story.
7) muscle ups
Muscle ups are good, but the only exercise of the ones listed that I don’t have in my routine. The reason is that if I were to do them in my gym on the pullup bars, I would hit my head on the ceiling. 🙂
Planks are really good for your core.
The stretches –
9) foam rolling
Foam rolling is a must in today’s society. You probably have various little pains and tight muscles everywhere and this can help you loosen them up. You need to do foam rolling for myofascial release. You can foam roll on different parts of your body where you feel pain and tightness, for example the back, your hamstring, your quadriceps…etc.
If you have a bad posture, then the supermans are a very good exercise to shape your back muscles in order to straighten out your posture.
11) hip stretch
If you spend most of the day sitting on your ass, then you most likely have tight hip flexors. This can cause a lot of pain and limit your mobility. These tight hip flexors can often be manifested in pelvic tilt and a bad posture. There are some good stretches that you can do to stretch those tight hip flexors.
12) shoulder stick rotations
Rotator cuff injuries and other shoulder problems can prevent you from being able to do most pushing exercises such as the bench press or shoulder press and can also be quite painful. You should try to prevent injuries to your rotator cuffs and shoulders by doing shoulder rotations with a stick. Trust me, if you feel slight shoulder pain and start doing these shoulder rotations with a stick exercises on a regular basis, your shoulder pain will disappear within a few weeks.
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You are imbalanced, so do something about it