The 3 Exercises That’ll Transform Your Physique…
“SJ, if you were stuck on a desert island and could only perform 3 exercises for the rest of your life what would they be?” – anonymous emailer
The squat is king.
If you were to perform only 3 exercises, the squat should be one of them.
There’s a plethora of leg exercises out there, the walking lunge, the straight leg deadlift, the hamstring curl, the leg extension… the list goes on and on.
But none of these exercises will build the sheer functional strength, muscle and core development that the squat can.
There’s a reason why the squat has stood the stood the test of time, it’s the ultimate lower body exercise – targeting the glutes, quads, hamstrings, calfs, lower back and abdominals.
When most guys are squatting however, there seems to be a few mistakes I see repeated over and over again, ensure you’re not falling victim to the following while squatting:
Lifting too heavy
When squatting or using the leg press ‘getting out of the hole’ aka. the bottom portion of the movement is without a doubt the hardest. If you’re performing half reps because you’re unable to get the weight out of the hole it’s a clear sign you’re lifting too heavy. Stacking more and more weight on the bar or the machine may make you feel good… but you won’t see that weight translate into size or strength gains. Check your ego at the door and lift weight which you’re able to manage (while still being a challenge in the prescribed rep range) utilizing a full range of motion.
If you’re new to the gym and you’ve spent the last decade working in an office day in day out chances are your mobility isn’t the greatest. Constant practise combined with stretching, foam rolling and a mobility routine will have you getting low on those squats in no time, tight hip flexors (from sitting all day) are notorious for this.
There’s nothing pretty about dropping your ass to the grass with 350lbs on your back, multiple times at 5am in the morning. But the feeling of accomplishment, constant progression, mental fortitude and discipline it builds is worth it.
Squatting heavy with a full range of motion sucks, but if you’re using the right weight and you’ve developed the mobility to work a full range of motion you have no excuse.
The Weighted Pull-Up
Pull-ups are a functional exercise and in my opinion are the best back exercise for upper back mass.
If you can’t perform weighted pull-ups perform bodyweight pull-ups, if you can’t perform body-weight pull-ups perform assisted pull-ups or simply jump up and grab the bar while focusing on the negative portion of each repetition.
The only way to get better at pull-ups is to do them! Don’t skip pull-ups simply because you find them a struggle (I recall repping out sets of weighted dips with a 45lb plate before I could even perform 1 proper form wide grip pull-up, so don’t get discouraged!).
n order to add size and increase back strength we need to be using our back when we’re performing rows and pull-ups.
By default most guys attempt to pull through their arms (especially when lifting heavy) as opposed to their lats… this results in a bicep pump and a half assed back workout.
Using correct form and ensuring you’re activating the right muscles requires conscious effort without a doubt.
At the beginner of each set I ensure I lean back and have a slight arch in my back to ensure I’ll be driving through my lats to row the barbell or pull myself up to the bar.
Sitting completely upright or hunching forward is a sure-fire way to set yourself up to struggle the weight through your arms.
The video below demonstrates Ido Portal, Connor McGregor’s movement coach performing strict form pull-ups, note the leaning back and the engagement of the lats while pulling his chest up to the bar. Incorrect form would show a perfectly straight torso pulling through the arms and barely clearing the chin over the bar.
The Incline Bench Press
The Incline Barbell Bench Press Targets the Upper Chest
When it comes to building an aesthetic chest the upper portion of the chest, targeted by performing incline presses is king.
A large upper chest gives the full, pumped chest look that most guys are after. Meanwhile too much work on the decline bench can lead to a droopy looking chest due too much lower chest development.
The Incline Barbell Bench Press is Safe For Heavy Lifting
Unlike exercises such as the fly and lateral raise which are downright dangerous to perform at heavy weight as keeping correct form is near impossible the incline barbell bench press is not a problem.
Provided you have good form, a spotter or the rails set up correctly in a power rack you’re good to go!
There’s Endless Progression With the Incline Barbell Bench Press
6 years ago I struggled to bench press an olympic barbell without any weight on it.
Today my incline barbell bench press is continuing to progress in weight while my chest continues to grow.
This is not an exercise you need to ‘cycle in and out of your routine’ like fitness magazines and personal trainers tell you – the incline barbell bench press is, in my mind undoubtedly the best bang for your buck chest exercise that you can continue to progress on.