It’s not uncommon for bodybuilders to spend 5-7 days a week in the gym, spending up to two hours each session sculpting and polishing their physiques. But you don’t have to go that extreme to add mass and strength to your muscles.
The key to muscle growth is compound movements that recruit multiple muscles groups. Those are the moves that pack on lean muscle fast.
1. Clean and Press
The clean and press is a full-body movement that combines two core strength exercises – the power clean (pulling a barbell from the ground to the front rack position in three pulls or phases) and the overhead press (taking the loaded bar into an overhead position). This exercise can be performed for low reps for pure strength gains or higher reps to build muscular endurance.
It targets all major muscle groups in the upper body (deltoids, biceps, lats, and traps), triceps, core (abs, rhomboids, and the lower back), and the legs (quads, hamstrings). It was once an Olympic lift but has since become a staple for any power training program because it improves grip, stability, balance, and coordination.
Clean and presses can also help with weight loss because they require a high amount of energy to perform. This leads to a spike in the metabolism that will burn more calories throughout the day and assist with fat loss.
The clean and press is a challenging exercise to master, but with practice it can be a great addition to your routines. Start off with lighter weight to get the feel and timing of the movement before moving onto heavier loads. Remember to keep your weight on the heels and your core tight throughout the whole movement. If you are struggling to maintain proper form, then it’s best to enlist the assistance of a coach.
2. Drop-Set Dips
Dips are a great exercise to add to any workout that targets the chest and triceps muscles. Adding a drop set will further intensify the burn and force you to fatigue your muscles even more. This type of training is extremely beneficial for increasing muscle size, as it elongates the time your muscles are under tension and can be used to target both fast and slow-twitch muscle fibers.
The concept behind a drop set is to perform several sets with progressively decreasing weights until you reach muscle failure. The more reps you are able to complete until failure, the more muscle growth you will stimulate.
This method of training can be used on any bodyweight exercise, but it is typically reserved for the last couple of sets at the end of a workout. This is done so that the lifter can finish off a tough session with an epic pump that will flood the muscles with oxygenated blood and aid in recovery.
While you can perform drop sets on virtually any exercise, it is important to note that some movements are more prone to injury when performed in drop-set fashion. For example, it is a good idea to avoid exercises such as good mornings or deadlifts in drop-set form due to the risk of back injuries. Additionally, performing drop-sets can take longer than standard sets as you are adjusting the amount of weight between each set.
Squats are an essential lower-body exercise for anyone trying to build muscle. They help you develop your quads, glutes, and hamstrings, while engaging your core. They also boost your overall strength and balance. Plus, regular squatting can help to prevent knee and ankle injuries.
In addition to building muscle, squats can help you burn fat. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that performing squats on a regular basis can increase your resting metabolic rate by as much as 50 calories per day. This means that as you add muscle, your body will burn more calories, even when you’re at rest.
As a bonus, the squat is an excellent leg-building exercise that will also improve your flexibility. It increases the range of motion in your hips, legs, and ankles, which can reduce your risk for injury as you get older. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, regular squatting can decrease your risk of developing age-related conditions like osteoporosis and sarcopenia, while improving your posture, focus, and balance.
To perform a standard squat, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing slightly out (this will improve the activation of your quads). Bend at your hips and knees to slowly lower yourself until you reach a point where your thighs are parallel or slightly below the ground — it should feel as though you are sitting back into a chair.
Deadlifts are one of the most powerful exercises you can do to build muscle. They’re a full-body movement that engages all the major muscles, including your lower body, back (lower and upper back – latissimus dorsi and trapezius), glutes, and abdominals. Plus, they’re a great way to increase your grip strength and improve your posture.
You can perform deadlifts with a barbell or dumbbells. The most important thing is to lift the weight in a clean and controlled movement, making sure that your knees don’t pass your hips. This helps you build strength and avoid injury. In addition, it’s recommended to do the movement with a wider stance than when standing up, as this increases your stability and balance. Additionally, include protein powders in your daily diet to efficiently build your muscles.
Another benefit of deadlifts is that they help you burn more calories at rest (7). This is because they stimulate the largest muscles in your body – the quadriceps and glutes – which are responsible for moving your legs up and down when you walk, run, or jump.
In addition, deadlifts can also help you develop a strong, wide, and thick back. This is especially important for athletes that want to compete in sports such as wrestling and martial arts. Having a strong and wide back can also make your physique look more muscular, especially if you’re a bodybuilder or powerlifter. Typically, bodybuilders do deadlifts at the end of their back training workouts, as it allows them to train with maximal loads that will give them the best results.
Push-ups are a classic exercise that can be done almost anywhere, without any equipment. Though commonly thought of as a chest exercise, they also work the triceps and shoulders, and, when performed correctly, they will strengthen your core muscles too.
As a result, they are a great exercise to perform regularly as part of your upper-body strength training routine, but you should also consider progressing beyond basic body-weight push ups as you become stronger. For example, by adding the ‘negative push up’ technique (starting at the top in a plank position and slowly lowering yourself down to count to three before pushing yourself back up) you will challenge your muscles and help them grow.
Another good push-up variation is putting your hands out wider than shoulder width, which Codio says helps strengthen the whole of the upper half of your body, as well as the shoulders and triceps. She also recommends trying the hand-under-head push up, which works the pectoral muscles in particular and can also improve your flexibility.
It’s also worth considering incorporating triceps dips into your routine, to further strengthen the back of your arms. This is because focusing too much on push-ups can lead to over-trained chest muscles, while neglecting other muscle groups like your triceps can leave them weak and under-trained. By combining pushing exercises like push-ups with pulling exercises, you will be working your muscles to their maximum potential.
6. Leg Curls
Though the hamstrings are recruited to some degree by many other exercises, few are capable of isolating them in the same manner as the leg curl machine. This makes it a favorite among bodybuilders and athletes seeking to induce a significant training stimulus in a relatively short amount of time.
In addition, the leg curl machine is an exercise that can be performed by individuals of almost any fitness level. Beginner lifters are able to control the movement pattern and range of motion while more advanced lifters can challenge themselves by adding more weight and/or slower reps.
When using the leg curl, be sure to properly position your feet. Pointing your toes will help you to better engage the hamstrings, while keeping your hips stable by thrusting them forward slightly into the thigh lock-in pad. It’s also important to use a slow and controlled movement during the reps of the exercise, as moving too quickly will increase your risk of injury.
Adding the seated leg curl to your routine will help you to further isolate your hamstrings, while also boosting lower-body strength and power. For best results, perform the seated leg curl for three sets of 10 to 12 reps with a heavy weight that feels challenging yet manageable.