Best Exercises for Building Muscle Mass
Assuming your diet and rest are in order, the most important thing you’ll need to do to gain muscle is lift heavy weights. The best routine is one that focuses on full-body compound lifts instead of single body part isolation exercises. The reason for this is twofold. First, because your body prefers to function as an entire unit. Second, because you’ll be able to lift heavier weight.
Our bodies adapt to stress, so it’s important to constantly be adding weight when trying to gain size. Every time you step in the gym, you should be lifting a little bit more weight than your previous session. This not only guarantees your body is adapting to stimulus, but it will also challenge you to push yourself. The main lifts you should focus on are what’s referred to as “The Big Three.”
If you could only do one exercise to gain muscle size, squats would be it. This movement puts pressure on your entire body and requires you to use more muscles than any other lift. The problem with the squat is that the majority of people don’t know how to perform it properly. There’s also a belief that squats are bad for knees but this is only true if you’re not performing the move correctly.
A squat requires you to drop your hips below parallel in relation to your knees while balancing the bar behind your shoulders. The barbell should also be directly above your feet for the entire movement and be equally balanced. Most people drop their hips only a few inches with too much weight on the bar, thus placing too much pressure on their knees and causing injuries. Do this lift correctly and watch your body grow.
Deadlifts are also a great exercise to gain size. This will most likely be your strongest lift and should only be performed once a week due to their high intensity. Like the squat, deadlifts have a reputation of causing injuries and a lot of gym-goers blame them for their back issues. However, a properly performed deadlift will not only help you gain size, it will make your back stronger.
To perform a proper deadlift, the key is to lift with your legs and not your back. The bar position should also start and end on the ground for each repetition. Don’t overextend your back or bounce the plates to help you lift more weight either. If you want to avoid injury and build muscles, deadlifts will help you get stronger in all the right places if done correctly.
The bench press is easily the most popular exercise and for good reason: it adds an impressive set of muscles for showing off. A big chest and a nice set of arms are what you can expect when you’re benching heavy weights and many people focus on this lift instead of the other compounds. Bench pressing can be extremely dangerous if not done correctly so it’s important to understand form and to always use a spotter.
The most important thing to remember when bench pressing is to keep the bar path vertical. This is best accomplished by keeping your eyes focused on a fixed point in the ceiling and pushing the bar to that spot each time. If you have a tendency to stare at the bar instead of the ceiling, you can almost guarantee the bar is not moving straight and you will damage your shoulders. Stare at the ceiling and nothing else.
By performing these three lifts correctly, you will gain an enormous amount of size as the weights get progressively heavier. A lofty and ambitious goal for many lifters is to reach the “1,000 Pound Club” which is when the sum of all three lifts equals 1,000 pounds. This target is achievable by most people and will keep pushing you in the gym if you choose to go for it.
Remember, lifting weights should be fun but it’s also dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. You should always warm up properly and start with light weights. Also, to assure your safety, it’s always a good idea to have a certified personal trainer explain the lifts to you and evaluate your form.