Everyone agrees you need to include classic exercises in your workout to build muscle – but are you doing them effectively? By looking at HOW you perform squats, rows, bench presses and crunches – and seeing if you can do them better – you might just get a bit more muscle for your money.
There’s no doubt the squat is one of the best muscle builders because of the muscles the exercise engages – but it’s easy to do it wrong. Make your squat down far enough and place the emphasis on your glutes by anchoring with their heels – if you don’t the glutes are never fully engaged.
Try standing in front of a weight bench. Squat down until your butt touches the bench, then immediately press through your heels back to the starting position. Using the bench forces you to squat all the way down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, so the exercise will yield better results.
As you prepare to lift, contract the muscles you’re working and keep them that way throughout the entire move. You probably won’t be able to lift quite as much weight, but your muscles will be doing more work overall so they will grow. So on the bench press, imagine you’re trying to bring your hands toward each other but don’t move them at all, so your pecs are squeezed together.
For significant abdominal muscle building try and do a full sit up – not just a 30 degree range of motion. This way your abs spend more time working dynamically under tension, so they’ll grow bigger and stronger. Full sit ups also strengthen the hip flexors, which can get pretty weak if all you do is crunches.
Make sure you do sit ups right by lying on your back with your feet flat on the floor, knees bent about 90 degrees, hands clasped lightly behind your head, and elbows out to the sides. Tuck in your chin, contract your abdominals, and roll all the way up until your chest nearly touches your knees. Then slowly roll back down.
Work while you are standing
The idea is that if you are working while standing, you will involve more muscles and burn more calories. Standing engages your core, so your total strength increases.
For example, many people do the bent-over dumbbell row while leaning over and bracing themselves on a bench, performing the exercise with one arm. Instead, assume a wide, stable stance and bend from the hips, keeping your back flat—and don’t use a bench. Perform your rows from that position. You’ll work your core for stability and do a bit more mid-section work. You won’t be able to lift quite as much weight, but your entire body will benefit.
Alternate lower and upper body moves
Instead of sitting around between sets, exercise another body part. For best results, alternate lower and upper body moves, such as a leg press followed by a lat pull down. That way, each muscle group has time to recover between sets. Alternating upper and lower body exercises also keeps your heart rate revved up and stimulates your circulatory system, so you deliver more oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to your working muscles and in turn burn more calories.
Remember to eat well post training as your recovery starts with the last rep of your session. Get Whey protein into your system quickly to kick off your recovery.