Want to get bigger and stronger? Well you can’t go wrong with these basic old school exercises. Add these to your workout to change things up and hit new muscle fibers.
1. WIDE-GRIP CHINS
The wide grip chin up is a fantastic exercise that hits the entire back but more specifically, the upper and outer back. This exercise builds width. Wide-grip chin ups are a tough exercise to perform because your pulling up your own body weight. If you are new to chin ups, start with a couple of repetitions and work your way up.
“You don’t see too many people doing wide grip chins anymore. Everyone does lat pulldowns, but they seem to have forgotten about chins in recent years. Back in the day all of us—Franco, Ken Waller, Reg Park—we all used to do them religiously.”
2. T-BAR ROWS
Like barbell bent over rows, the T bar row is a pure mass builder. This variation of the bent over row adds new angles and dimensions to this traditional movement making it an exciting and challenging exercise. Most modern gyms will have T bar rowing stations. However, if you don’t have one, try sticking one end of your bar into a corner and use a close grip chin up bar under the actual bar.
“The T-bar rows done this way are great for giving you a big stretch in your lats—more so than doing straight barbell rows.”
3. ONE-ARM DUMBBELL ROW
The one arm dumbbell row is a great exercise for the mid back. It’s also a great substitute for the bent over barbell row – For those of you who can’t perform this exercise. The important point to remember about this exercise is to keep your back straight – Don’t hunch your back. Slightly bend your knees and pull into a straight line.
“This is an exercise you can really feel if you do it right. You get that deep stretch at the bottom and the nice contraction in the lat at the top. But if your focus is on going super-heavy you’re not going get the full effectiveness out of this movement.”
The push-up is a compound movement for the chest. It is a mass builder and pure strength builder that can produce tremendous results in a short period of time. The push-up is a great chest builder for beginners but also, a tremendous shoulders and triceps builder as secondary muscles. As you grow stronger a great thing to do is superset pushups with bench press, this will result in a mind blowing pump.
“This is a killer—really pumps up the pecs. Four sets of 8-12 reps done this way burns your chest out pretty well.”
5. CROSS BENCH PULLOVER
The pullover is one of those exercises that demands perfect form. That is, in order for this exercise to be effective, your form and technique must be spot on. The key to this exercise is breathing. Breath in as you are lowering the weight and breath out as you bring the weight up.
“Everyone did these back in the day. It’s where you lie across a bench with your middle back to shoulders supported by it and pull a dumbbell from the floor over your head in a big sweeping, arcing movement. We did these to expand our ribcages but they work the pecs, lats and even the triceps.”
The concentration curl is all about mental effort as it is muscle effort. To really get the most from this exercise, you really have to contract your biceps throughout the entire range of motion. The amount of weight used is not as important as concentrating on moving the weight from the starting position to the ending position.
“One common mistake people make with these is they curl the weight to their chest. Instead you should curl it out in the direction of your pinky. Makes all the difference.”
The overhead rope extension is a great exercise that hits the entire triceps area. The movement itself allows for a complete range of motion for the triceps, making this a very effective exercise for developing the triceps. Use a lat machine for this exercise and use either a bar or rope to complete this exercise.
8. LYING TRICEPS EXTENSIONS
The lying triceps is a compound movement that is considered a triceps mass builder. Often called “skull crushers”, this exercise uses the triceps as the primary muscle group. Secondary muscle groups include the front shoulders, and chest. To get the most from this exercise, make sure your elbows are back a bit, and stationary. Your elbows shouldn’t move throughout the entire movement. Keep your feet planted firmly on the ground and keep your head and butt on the bench.
“You lie down and do eight reps of extensions bringing the bar behind your head. Then without stopping you do another 8 reps bringing the bar to your forehead. Then you immediately go to 8 pushouts—basically close-grip bench presses with the elbows held close to the body. It will totally fatigue your triceps.”
9. SISSY SQUATS
This exercise is a very specialised movement that is designed to work the lower thigh area. Because of the unusual angle at which this exercise is performed, this movement is done with no weight or only moderate poundage.
“You hold onto either a machine or a column or some other vertical bar that can take your weight. Then holding on with one hand you squat down, leaning your torso back so as to put all the stress on your quads. Remember to keep your hips forward at all times. If you’re doing them correctly you don’t even need weight, but you can hold a plate to your chest with your free arm.”
10. FOREARM ROLLER
“What we used to do was find a nice thick broom handle or a metal pipe and drill a hole through its center. Then we’d tie a rope through it and tie a weight to the other end and raise the weight by rolling the bar with our arms extended. It gives you an unbelievable burn in your forearms after just a few sets.”