Building a solid foundation of strength and power throughout the entire body offers myriad benefits for the bodybuilder, athlete, casual lifter, and anyone with a physically demanding job. The ability to push and pull heavier weights, particularly in multijoint, free-weight lifts, will most certainly manifest into increased muscle mass, improved athletic performance, enhanced work capacity, and perhaps most important, a better quality of life.
While isolation movements certainly have their place in many training regimens, they cannot compare with the basic compound exercises (for building true functional strength or power) simply because these types of movements require more balance and coordination, allow for the use of greater poundage, involve multiple muscle groups (performing in concert), and work the body in a manner more specific to real-world human movement. Here are eight of my favorites.
In my early years of lifting I spent quite a bit of time perfecting my technique on dips and eventually became strong enough to perform sets of 10 perfect reps with three 45-pound plates hanging from my waist. This strength transferred over to just about every other pushing exercise in my regimen and let me eventually crack the 500-pound barrier in the bench press. Additionally, dips helped thicken my chest and tri’s as few other movements could.
MAIN MUSCLES TARGETED
- Anterior Deltoids
To focus more on hitting the chest, keep the torso leaned forward about 45 degrees throughout the set and make sure to get a full stretch at the midpoint of every rep. For greater triceps recruitment, keep the torso straight, and lower to a point where your upper arms are just slightly past parallel to the floor.
2: BARBELL SQUAT
This one is right at the top of the list since it involves one of the most basic movements we perform in life— bending at the knees (to sitting position) and pushing back up to a standing position. Additionally, the barbell squat is an exercise that allows for the use of massive poundage, requires great balance and coordination, and stimulates growth throughout the body.
MAIN MUSCLES TARGETED
- Lower Back
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.
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