Exercise selection is an important factor when you want to optimise the best possible results for size and strength. A common mistake I see in the gym with some trainees is the constant use of isolation type exercises, which recruit less muscle groups than that of compound exercises. Isolation exercises have their place in training sessions but if your gym session comprises of just barbell shrugs, bicep cable curls, tricep rope extensions and cable cross overs you may be missing out on huge growth potential.
So what exercises would I recommend to be the main focus of your sessions for the best results? I would encourage exercises that recruit large amounts of muscle fibres for optimal growth potential. Tie this in with some progressive overload (getting stronger with good technique) week on week, I promise that you’ll see far better changes in your physique.
Some recommended exercises for example:
- Chest press movements.
- Rowing movements.
- Over-head presses.
- Deadlifts / rack-pulls.
- Weighted dips / pull-ups.
- Squats / Leg presses.
Now you’re equipped with some anabolic exercises – what other variables can we consider to optimise your results? What about – intensity, tempo, technique and nutritional approaches?
If we created a resistance training intensity scale – on a scale of 1-10 you want to be aiming for the 7-10 mark to ensure optimal stress to encourage great adaptations in your physique.
1 being – I could do this in my sleep, 10 being 100% super hero strength max effort. We all know that guy who sits on the leg press performing limp reps whilst texting his beloved wife what he wants for dinner, right? Can’t be lifting with too much intensity = not the best opportunity for growth – you get the picture.
Tempo is one of my favourite variables and one I like to over emphasise with my PT clients. Weight lifting for hypertrophy is about progressive poundage’s yes – but more importantly about ‘how’ you lift it. For greater physique gains you don’t want to be bouncing barbells off your chest at 100mph asking for tendon sprains – think about placing your target muscle under tension for the optimal amount of time to promote stress for subsequent recovery and growth. The eccentric phase of a bench press (lowering the bar – lengthening the muscle) is when most of the muscle damage is done – so keep this part of the movement to 3-4 seconds. The press can be powerful and prompt to encourage a strong contraction (1 second). Then hold at the top for 1 – reset – before then lowering the bar again (keep a slight bend in the elbow at the top of the move to keep tension on the pectorals).
We have all witnessed those hilarious Facebook gym technique videos of people on machines backwards and performing leg presses on the shoulder press machine – but I trust you guys have your technique nailed in the main. All I will say is if there is a doubt about foot placement, posture, rep speed or grip etc – please do your research on some good coaching videos online or even better, grab someone you trust with the knowledge just to run through it with you. Small tweaks in technique can make all the difference and can even springboard your physique to new heights.
Finally, nutritional approaches – I have covered muscle gain and fat loss in previous blogs but the most important time for supplementation for performance is peri-workout (around the perimeter of your workouts). Everyone’s goals are different but I won’t leave home without my intra workout mix of Vitargo® and PeptoPro®. The more effective the nutritional approach the greater the results will be inside and outside of the gym.