In iron terms, The Big Three are Squat
, and Bench Press
. These are the three most basic and fundamental exercise
s for gaining muscle mass
. They are the first exercise
s you should implement if you are planning a weight training routine
. Other exercises (curls
, shoulder press
es, tricep extension
s) can be added to supplement
, but in the beginning
the big 3 is all you need.
1. The Squat- Works the legs, particularly the hamstrings, quads and glutes, and lower back. It also puts great demand on the heart and lungs and while it may not be considered an aerobic exercise, you may fail aerobically in your set before your muscles fail, if you are indeed intending to go to failure. Another great benefit of the squat is that it causes your body to produce testosterone by signaling an emergency response. The trick to this is you have to squat first thing in the morning, before breakfast. Other exercises can wait until later but for the 'Test Effect' to occur the squats have to be done on an empty stomach. The routine that is time tested since the old days of weightlifting is a single, twenty rep set, two or three times a week, and EACH workout you add five pounds, that's 2.5 on each side. This means you'll have to keep track of your progress. So each time you work out, you just do (twenty) squats, of (the amount you lifted last time) plus (five pounds).
2. The Deadlift- An exercise often persecuted for being dangerous, as long as you use proper form and don't go crazy it's fine. The benefits for the deadlift are mainly in the back, upper and lower, the traps, shoulders, and the forearmsand fingers. Because some people don't advocate doing a heavy deadlift on the same day as your squat, I do a partial deadlift off a rack with the bar at about knee level, and this takes the load off your legs but hits your back essentially just as good as a full range lift would. (This doesn't mean you shouldn't still lift by 'pushing your legs through the floor'. You should use all the tricks and tips for proper DL form, and lift just as you would a regular DL.) This way I can keep my workouts consistent, doing all three exercises three times a week. For the deadlift, do a couple light warmup sets of around 12-10 reps and work up to a working set of about 4-6 reps.
3. Bench Press- Most people, myself included, are inclined to skip straight to this macho looking and sounding exercise and not worry so much about those weirdo exercises, but you will experience a synergistic effect with all three working together, because the test produced by your squats, and the stability muscles in your back strengthened by the deadlift will help your bench. That aside, if you are working out alone and a spotter is not available, you should either use a power rack or dumbbells. There's a lot of controversy about whether to lower the bar to your chest or to stop when your elbows are parallel to the floor, and whether to go fast or slow. The truth is, both are good, for different reasons. A fuller range of motion (bringing the bar to your chest) is harder so you can't lift as much but it stimulates the muscle from further back. Ideally, you would do one weight lifting from chest level on a power rack, then more weight from a few inches up, then more weight from a little higher, and so on, until you're doing a lockout starting with your arms almost fully extended. The same principle is applied with chain training, used by Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell. You attach lengths of chain to the ends of the bar. At each end, a chain hangs from the bar at bottom-of-lift-height and at the point where it touches the ground is attached, say, two feet worth of thirty pounds of chain. This way, you start at chest level, and as your leverage(ability to lift more weight) increases, the load increases as the chain is lifted off the floor. This method can also be applied to squatting. As for fast vs. slow, there are good points and counterpoints in the node Any exercise can be made harder by going slower. Slow training does cause slower, but stronger muscles, but fast training builds intensity. Slow training might be utilized by a wrestler who needs to sustain strength in a single position. (isometrics is also good for this). Fast training makes you more explosive, meaning the ability to exert one hundred percent of your power in one explosive motion, and this is good too. The way I like to think of it is, if you can lift it slowly on purpose, you're not lifting enough. You should be challenged by the weight, and be trying to lift it a little faster than you currently can. Basically you should not have to mentally restrain your speed. If you're consciously holding back, you need more weight.