Notes on a previous article: I ran an article in July called “The Myth of Steady State Cardio”. You can review it here http://www.alphaedgefitness.com/2015/07/the-myth-of-steady-state-cardio-and-fat.html
I found the results of a recently published study worth mentioning. In “Obesity Society Journal” researchers studied 10,500 men who either regularly lifted or regularly did cardio over a 12 year period.
In the end they found that men who regularly did cardio had nearly twice as much belly fat as the lifters.
WHAT ARE THE BEST EXERCISES FOR;
INCREASING STRENGTH? INCREASING MUSCLE? SHEDDING FAT?
I love this question. Partly because I can get three different posts and only have to write one! The best exercises for increasing strength are also the best exercises for gaining muscle mass (Hypertrophy) and the best for shedding fat.
In short, the best exercises for gaining strength (or gaining mass or losing fat) are compound lifts. Almost all other exercises are called “isolation” or “supporting” movements.
Compound lifts are simply lifts that involve more than one joint and/or muscle group. They work several muscle groups at one time. But using compound lifts goes far beyond just being efficient. Your muscular system is just that-“a system”. It’s not a bunch of individual muscles operating in a vacuum. The whole system is connected by your central nervous system, your endocrine system (hormones) your cardiovascular system (which carries hormones, nutrition, oxygen, water, minerals, and everything else) to all cells of the body. When your endocrine system produces more testosterone or human growth hormone (HGH) or insulin it goes to all cells in your body. The more you involve the large muscle groups or large groups of muscles the stronger your entire body gets. Compound lifts create the largest change in body composition in the shortest time.
Too many people shy away from compound lifts in their program for various reasons.
· “Compound lifts are hard work”. (Have you ever heard me say getting fit was going to be easy?)
· “They look a little scary”. What’s scary about picking stuff up and putting it back down? You do it every day outside the gym.
· “I can’t do what those big guys over there are doing”. Why not? Nobody is saying you have to have a 600 pound dead lift or a 400 pound squat. With compound lifts it’s the quality of the movement not the size of the load.
· “They are too complicated”. Learn the basics with light weight and work up from there. They don’t get technical until you get into some serious loads. There are even machines now that mimic the major compound lifts and remove most of the risk that people (incorrectly) associate with the big compound lifts.
Compound lifts, especially the “big three” should be performed at the beginning of your workout when you are least fatigued.
The Big Three
Dead Lift-Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? It’s not.
The story goes that the dead lift was developed by a Roman general because he was seeing too many injuries to his soldiers while they were removing the dead from the battlefield. I can’t vouch for that story. I’m old but not that old!
But think about it. You’ve been told your entire life “lift with your legs, not your back”! That’s what the dead lift is all about. The legs and hips are the key to the dead lift. Not your back. If dead lifts make your back sore you are doing it wrong!
You do “dead lifts” all the time; lifting groceries, furniture, your kids or grand kids, cleaning out your garage and a thousand other things all involve the dead lift. It’s one of the most functional exercises you can do. It will add more strength, burn more calories, and build more muscle than any other single exercise. The dead lift involves practically every muscle group from your toes to the top of your head.
Not everyone can do a conventional dead lift in the beginning. The main culprit is the lack of hip flexibility usually caused by a sedentary life style and a work environment that has you sitting for most of your life. That can usually be fixed.
There are also a number of variations of the dead lift that allow for the initial lack of hip flexibility; Sumo lift, rack pulls, block pulls, trap bar dead lift, etc.
Squat-The second most effective exercise you can do and the king of all lower body exercises. You are working your quadriceps (the largest single muscle group in your body), your hamstrings (the second largest muscle group) and your glutes (the third largest muscle group in your body) and an array of secondary muscles.
The most common excuse for not doing the squat is “I have bad knees”. Good! That’s why you should be doing squats.
From a previous post regarding my knees:
I’ve had knee surgery 3 times. One was so bad that I’m told it’s in a medical text book somewhere.
I’ve seen my share of knee rehab. In every case at some point the surgeons and therapists had me doing squats. Squats are not bad for your knees. Improper squats are bad for your knees.
As with dead lifts, not everyone can do a conventional “back squat” in the beginning and usually for the same reasons (hip flexibility). Again there are alternatives; front squat, box squat, Zelcher squat, hack squat, goblet squat, sumo squat….
Bench Press- (In all it’s variations) Everyone probably knows the bench press. Tell anyone you lift weights and the first question is usually “How much do you bench?”
The bench press works the chest, shoulders, triceps. The most common limitation when performing the bench press is the shoulder joint. But, as with other lifts, there are alternatives; incline, decline, dumb bell, cable stations, etc.
These are the top three compound lifts you should be doing. But there are also a number of other compound movements you should be doing.(in no particular order)
· Pull up/chin up- Yes, the kind you had to do in grammar school P.E. - Lats, rhomboids, biceps, forearm
· Dips-chest, tricep, back
· Seated rows/bent over rows/upright rows-traps, rhomboid, lats, posterior delts, biceps,
· Farmers walk-calves, abs, rhomboids, spinal erectors, forearms, biceps, traps, lats and grip( and close runner-up to the Big 3)
· Lunges- quads, hamstring, glutes
The compound lifts take a little practice and some are a little more complicated than single joint lifts. But if you want to gain the greatest benefits in strength, mass or fat loss in the shortest amount of time they are well worth the effort.
Compound lifts should be part of every exercise program regardless of the goal.
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