Building a solid base of strength and power throughout the entire body has myriad benefits for the bodybuilder, athlete and even casual fitness enthusiast.
The ability to handle heavier weights, especially in the compound lifts, will eventually translate into increased muscle mass, enhanced athletic performance, improved stability and even a better overall quality of life.
While isolation movements certainly have their place in certain specific training regimens, they cannot compare to the efficiency of multi-joint exercises simply because these movements require more balance/coordination, allow for the use of greater poundage, more powerfully stimulate the central nervous system, and work the body in a more functional (“real world”) manner.
Below is a list of some of my favorite compound lifts for each major body part, as well as an example of how they may fit into a well-thought-out muscle mass, strength and power oriented workout protocol.
1. Bench Press Workout
Muscles Targeted: Chest (main focus); anterior delts; triceps.
Tip: To focus on using maximum pectoral power to press the weight you must keep the ribcage high, the lower back arched, and the shoulders shrugged down and back (into the bench).
Big bench pressers almost always have massively built chests. Look no further than men like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu, Ronnie Coleman, Lee Haney and Johnnie Jackson.
|1. Bench Press||4/1/X||4||4-6|
|2. Incline Bench Press||4/1/X||3||4-6|
|3. Incline Dumbbell Fly||2/2/1||3||7-9|
|4. Cable Crossover||2/0/1/1||2||10-12|
2. Bent Row Workout
Muscles Targeted: Lats (main focus); Traps; Rhomboids; Lower Back
Tip: Keep the knees slightly bent to help support the lower back, which works hard to stabilize the torso in this movement. Bend the torso to about an 80-degree angle. Pull the bar to the belly button to activate the lats to a greater degree, and closer to the chest to hit more of the mid/upper back musculature.
If you want to build the kind of back that will challenge the width of most standard doorways - you gotta row!
|1. Bent Over Row||3/1/1||4||5-7|
|2. Underhand Barbell Row||3/1/1||4||5-7|
|3. Pull Down||2/0/1/1||2||10-12|
|4. Close Grip Cable Row||2/1/1||2||10-12|
3. Military Press Workout
Muscles Targeted: Anterior Deltoids (main focus); Upper Pectorals; Triceps
Tip: Those who wish to focus on building total body strength/functionality should perform this movement while standing at least every other workout.
Make sure not to lean back too far or this exercise will become more of an “incline” press than a military press, more strongly engaging the clavicular pecs than the front of the shoulders. Lower the bar no lower than just under the chin.
|1. Military Press||5/1/X||4||4-6|
|2. Upright Row||3/1/1||2||7-9|
|3. Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raise||2/0/1/1||2||10-12|
|4. Rear Delt Fly Machine||2/0/1/1||2||10-12|
4. Squats Workout
Muscles Targeted: Quads (main focus); Hamstrings; Glutes; Hips
Tip: Make sure to keep your head up, lower back slightly arched, and the bar set on the upper traps as you squat slowly to a position where the thighs drop just below parallel to the ground.
Few movements can build muscle mass as quickly and efficiently as this classic exercise. Just look at the legendary Tom Platz, who mainly utilized squats to build (ripped) thighs in excess of 34 inches!
|2. Leg Press||3/1/1||4||5-7|
|3. Leg Extension||2/0/1/1||2||13-15|
|4. Barbell Lunge||2/1/1||2||13-15|
5. Stiff Leg Deadlift Workout
Muscles Targeted: Hamstrings (main focus); Lower Back; Traps; Forearms
Tip: Perform this amazing hamstring mass and strength-building exercise with a slight bend in the knees, flat back, and head held even with the neck. Descend slowly, allowing the hamstrings to stretch fully before carefully reversing the movement back to the top.
A smart hamstring-training program will always include the SLD along with various leg curl exercises.
|1. Seated Leg Curl||2/1/1/1||3||10-12|
|2. Stiff Leg Deadlift||3/1/1||4||6-8|
|3. Single Leg Lying Leg Curl||3/0/1||3||10-12|
|4. Adduction Machine||2/0/1/1||2||16-20|
6. Triceps Dips Workout
Muscles Targeted: Triceps (main focus); Chest; Anterior Deltoids
Tip: To force the triceps to do the brunt of the work during dips, it is vital that you keep your torso in an upright position throughout the entire range of motion. Leaning forward will shift the emphasis from the triceps to the chest.
Once you get strong enough to need added resistance while doing dips, there is no doubt you will have already constructed some truly impressive triceps mass.
|1. Weighted Tricep Dip||4/1/1||4||4-6|
|2. Incline Overhead Dumbbell Extension||3/1/1||3||7-9|
|3. V Bar Pushdown||2/0/X/1||2||10-12|
7. Narrow Underhand Grip Pull Up Workout
Muscles Targeted: Biceps (main focus); Lats; Forearms
Tip: By utilizing a close, underhand grip on pull-ups you will force the biceps to become the prime mover, rather than the lats (although they will still be engaged to some degree).
The keys to making this exercise into a true biceps mass and strength builder are to keep constant tension on the arms by only lowering your body about 2/3 of the way down, and making sure to squeeze and flex the bis for 1-2 seconds at the top.
Once you can perform 3-4 sets of 8-10 perfect reps in this movement, you can begin adding resistance.
|1. Narrow Underhand Grip Pull Up||2/0/1/1||4||failure|
|2. Barbell Curl||3/1/1||3||7-9|
|3. Single Arm Dumbbell Preacher Curl||2/1/1/1||2||10-12|
Note: Tempo refers to the speed at which one completes the various contractions within each repetition. It is expressed in seconds, with an “X” meaning “as explosively as possible.”
The first number is seconds for the eccentric (negative) contraction; the second number is seconds at the midpoint/stretch; the third number is seconds for the concentric (positive) contraction; and if there is a fourth number, this refers to the peak contraction or squeeze at the end of a repetition.