Note: Charles is here on a weekly basis to help you cut through the B.S. and get some real perspective regarding health and training. Please post feedback or questions directly to Charles in the comments below this article.

 

Twelve Movements for Getting Bigger and Stronger

If you were to categorize a group of say, twelve exercises for the purposes of getting bigger and stronger, what criteria would you use to assign relative ranking for each exercise? While you ponder that question for a moment, I’ll provide a list of twelve commonly performed exercises below, in no particular order:

 

  • Barbell Military Press
  • Barbell Deadlift
  • Standing Dumbbell Curls
  • Barbell Back Squat
  • Plank
  • Pushdowns
  • Suitcase Row
  • Lateral Raise
  • Pec Dec Machine
  • Side Leg Raise
  • Standing Calf Raise
  • Dumbbell Bench Press

 

Build muscle mass and strength.

Breaking Muscle Shop

 

So looking at this list, how would you order these twelve movements from best to worst? There’s certainly room for individual interpretation, but my list would look something like this:

 

  1. Barbell Back Squat
  2. Barbell Deadlift
  3. Dumbbell Bench Press
  4. Barbell Military Press
  5. Suitcase Row
  6. Pec Dec Machine
  7. Standing Dumbbell Curls
  8. Pushdowns
  9. Lateral Raise
  10. Standing Calf Raise
  11. Side Leg Raise
  12. Plank

 

How I Determined the Best and Worst Exercises

There are a number of questions you could ask yourself. Would you consider:

 

  • The number of muscles targeted?
  • Free weight versus machine?
  • Bilateral versus unilateral?
  • Large range of motion versus small ROM?

 

The answer to all of those questions is “yes,” but here’s the underlying theme behind all of those decision-points:

 

The best exercises are those that disrupt your body’s homeostatic processes - its desire to keep its various systems unchanged.

 

From this perspective, increased strength and muscle growth are simply a response to an external threat, which you provide in the form of resistance training. To get the biggest response to a threat (bigger and stronger muscles), we need to impose the biggest possible threat (while still staying safe of course).

 

So with that in mind, what poses a bigger “threat” to your body?

 

  • Deadlifts or calf raises?
  • Squats or planks?
  • Military presses or side leg raises?

 

That’s how you figure out the best exercises.

 

This Week’s Training

This Week’s Volume: 48,436 Pounds (Last Week: 72,382 Pounds)

 

Significant Lifts:

 

Bench Press: 235x3, 240x2

Deadlift: 455x1

 

I skipped Monday’s session due to some persistent left knee tendonitis (or that’s what I assume it is, anyway). This isn’t anything that’s stopping me in my tracks, but I don’t want it to get out of control either.

 

I installed a few new programming tweaks this week to respect the principle of specificity as the competition looms nearer:

 

  • I shifted to using a different bar for pulls. I had been using a dedicated deadlift bar, which is longer, thinner, and more flexible than a standard barbell. But the bar I’ll need to compete with in November is more akin to what you’d normally use in a gym.
  • I’m now using a full pause at the chest on all bench presses, as required in a competition.
  • You may notice that due to the lower reps and heavier weights I’m using lately, my total exercise menu each day is significantly reduced, especially on squat and deadlift workouts. So for example, on this week’s deadlift session, by the time I hit my last set of pulls, a full hour had passed. This doesn’t leave a lot of time or energy for assistance lifts.

 

I’ll get a few videos filmed next time - for some reason or another I lost track of that this week. See you next week, everyone!


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

 

Bodyweight: 200 Pounds

Volume: 15,840 Pounds

 

Bench Press

  • Set 1: 45 lbs × 10
  • Set 2: 95 lbs × 8
  • Set 3: 135 lbs × 6
  • Set 4: 185 lbs × 4
  • Set 5: 205 lbs × 3
  • Set 6: 225 lbs × 3
  • Set 7: 235 lbs × 3
  • Set 8: 240 lbs × 2
  • Set 9: 245 lbs × 2
  • Set 10: 225 lbs × 3

 

Incline Dumbbell Press

  • Set 1: 80 lbs × 8
  • Set 2: 120 lbs × 8
  • Set 3: 120 lbs × 8

 

Seated Row

  • Set 1: 150 lbs × 8
  • Set 2: 150 lbs × 8
  • Set 3: 150 lbs × 8

 

Pushdowns

  • Set 1: 130 lbs × 8
  • Set 2: 140 lbs × 8
  • Set 3: 140 lbs × 8

 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

 

Bodyweight: 200.2 Pounds

Volume: 16,930 Pounds

 

Deadlift

  • Set 1: 135 lbs × 5
  • Set 2: 135 lbs × 5
  • Set 3: 225 lbs × 5
  • Set 4: 275 lbs × 3
  • Set 5: 315 lbs × 3
  • Set 6: 365 lbs × 2
  • Set 7: 405 lbs × 2
  • Set 8: 435 lbs × 2
  • Set 9: 455 lbs × 1
  • Set 10: 405 lbs × 3
  • Notes: Stiff bar

 

Squat

  • Set 1: 45 lbs × 5
  • Set 2: 95 lbs × 5
  • Set 3: 135 lbs × 5
  • Set 4: 185 lbs × 3
  • Set 5: 225 lbs × 3
  • Notes: Eccentric isometrics

 

45° Back Extension

  • Set 1: 150 lbs × 6
  • Set 2: 150 lbs × 6
  • Set 3: 150 lbs × 6
  • Set 4: 150 lbs × 6

 

Leg Extension

  • Set 1: 100 lbs × 8
  • Set 2: 100 lbs × 8
  • Set 3: 100 lbs × 8
  • Notes: Slow tempo

 

Friday, September 25, 2015

 

Bodyweight: 200.2 Pounds

Volume: 15,666 Pounds

 

Bench Press

  • Set 1: 45 lbs × 10
  • Set 2: 95 lbs × 8
  • Set 3: 135 lbs × 6
  • Set 4: 185 lbs × 4
  • Set 5: 205 lbs × 2
  • Set 6: 225 lbs × 2
  • Set 7: 225 lbs × 2
  • Set 8: 225 lbs × 2

 

Chin Up

  • Set 1: 5 reps
  • Set 2: 5 reps
  • Set 3: +25 lbs × 5
  • Set 4: +25 lbs × 5
  • Set 5: +25 lbs × 5
  • Set 6: +25 lbs × 5

 

Skullcrushers

  • Set 1: 75 lbs × 8
  • Set 2: 85 lbs × 8
  • Set 3: 85 lbs × 8
  • Set 4: 85 lbs × 8

 

Bicep Curl (Dumbbell)

  • Set 1: 50 lbs × 8
  • Set 2: 60 lbs × 8
  • Set 3: 70 lbs × 8
  • Set 4: 70 lbs × 8

 

More on strength training:

 

Photo courtesy of Jorge Huerta Photography.

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