How to build muscle as fast as humanly possible; that’s what we all want to know. Most of us don’t have the genetics of an NFL running back or professional bodybuilder, so that kind of rapid muscle growth is not going to happen overnight. No matter what you do or take you will never look like those guys if you don’t have a genetically superior set of parents (sorry). You gotta accept that and be willing to put in the time and effort for growth. Here are my top 5 strength exercises to do that.
Strength Exercise #1: Barbell Clean & Press
The first is the barbell hang clean and push press. Perform this exercise by bending over with a barbell in your hands and a shoulder width grip. Start with the barbell just above your knees and be sure to maintain perfect posture with your head in line with your spine, chest up and back arched.
Initiate this barbell exercise by driving your hips forward and shrugging your shoulders. Pull the barbell to your upper chest and catch it there by dipping at the knees slightly.
Stand up all the way by powerfully exploding up out of the slight squat position that you caught the barbell in and simultaneously press the barbell straight up overhead to lockout using the momentum generated by your legs.
This barbell exercise can be done with an Olympic bar (make sure you have a good one or your elbows will be screaming), angled or neutral grip bar, or a strongman log (my personal favorite).
Another variation of this exercise can be done with dumbbells. This allows for a more natural motion since your arms aren’t locked into a fixed range with the barbell. You can do these with two dumbbells at once or do them one arm at a time.
This barbell exercise will not only build big delts, but also pack size on the traps and upper back while simultaneously developing explosive power.
Strength Exercise #2: Incline Bench Press
My personal preference and a much better option for building the chest is the low incline bench press with the bench set at no higher than 30 degrees. This reduces the injury risk and hits the pecs far more effectively; especially the upper pecs, which most people are lacking. I would recommend using a 15-30 degree angle over flat bench presses in most cases. Former six time Mr. Olympia, Dorian Yates used this as his staple chest building exercise and it would be hard to argue with his results.
Again, use a somewhat narrower grip (around shoulder width or a hair wider). If you have access to a neutral grip or angled grip bar I’d recommend using it as that can make the exercise even less stressful on the shoulders.
To keep the tension on the pecs and off of the joints and connective tissue you can stop the bar 2-3 inches off your chest.
Obviously this advice wouldn’t apply to someone who was looking to measure their strength in some sort of contest. Full range only in that case.
Any type of barbell pressing should be done for 5-8 reps when the main goal is to build muscle.
Strength Exercise #3: Barbell Back Squat
If you want to build lower body strength, you have to squat. For the first few years of your training you should squat, squat, and squat some more. A good goal is to squat double bodyweight. I’m talking about real, full squats, at least to parallel.
The back squat is a great exercise, yet a lot of people can’t perform it correctly. Even if the athlete in question has a perfect back squat a smarter choice for some would be a safety bar squat or a front squat with a harness
I do have to tell that the one thing I recommend to 99% of people out there is a good pair of high quality squat shoes. These will make a TREMENDOUS difference in your form and keep you safer. Guys usually benefit more from these than females do but anyone with a minor tuck can usually eliminate it instantly with a pair of these.
Strength Exercise #4: Neutral Grip Chin Up
The straight bar chin up with your palms facing your body places too much stress on the wrists, elbows, and shoulders and should be eliminated from your program. Even if you haven’t experienced it yet, chances are good that a steady diet of supinated (palms facing you) straight bar chin ups may come back to bite you in the ass… or elbow, eventually.
Pull ups (palms facing away from you) on a straight bar are a bit safer, but could also be eliminated if you want to be ultra conservative or you have any shoulder problems. The simple solution is to stick with neutral grip chin/pull ups with your palms facing each other. You can mix up the grip width and have numerous options to play with.
Strength Exercise #5: Deadlift
If you’re new to deadlifts or have questionable form, I’d start with high handle trap bar deads. Stick with these for at least six months and never go above five reps.
A lot of people will never have the mobility/flexibility to move any lower than this. If that’s you don’t worry about it. You’ll be fine and will still get the benefits of deadlifting, minus the risk. Eventually you can move to the low handle trap bar deads and then the straight bar if you so desire.
Athletes that want to deadlift should stick with high handle trap bar deads, keep their reps low and drop the bar rapidly.