Top 10 easy to follow rules and strategies for building strength and muscle.
The squat, dead-lift, bench press, and shoulder press are the best strength-building exercises, period. The chin up and row are great moves too, but don’t make them the focus of your workout — they can be assistance lifts to complement the bench and shoulder press, keeping your pulling muscles in balance with the pressing ones.
2. Use barbells first.
Forget all the fad equipment. The barbell is king, the dumbbell is queen, and everything else is a court jester — it may have its place, but it’s not essential. Start your workouts with barbell exercises, such as the “big four,” as described above. Barbells let you load a lot of weight, and lifting heavy is the first step toward getting stronger. Once your heaviest strength exercises are out of the way, you can move on to dumbbell and body-weight training.
3. Keep it simple.
Some trainers make their clients lift with a certain rep speed, like three seconds up, one second down. But know this: There’s no need to count anything but reps during a set. Simply focus on raising and lowering your weights in a controlled manner, pausing for a one-second count at the top of the lift. Using an arbitrary tempo can lessen tension on your muscles or force you to use varying amounts of weight, slowing your progress. The only way to be sure you’re getting stronger is if your loads consistently increase.
4. Don’t overdo it.
Try to stick to three or four lifts per workout. Keeping your workouts short helps you take advantage of hormonal surges. When you do too many exercises in a session, at least some of them get done half-assed. All you need is one main lift per workout (one of the big four), one or two assistance lifts (for keeping the body in balance and further strengthening the muscles that perform the main lift), and then core or specialty work at the end (ab exercises or some forearm or calf moves, depending on your goals). Doing any more lessens your results.