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I write a lot of bodypart training articles based on what the world's best pro bodybuilders do in the gym every day. Now I have to confess these articles aren't always the best sources for a beginner to be reading and getting ideas from. For
example, Joe Pro might do four or five exercises for chest, for 4 or more sets each. He probably still uses some free weights, but now he also incorporates plenty of machines and cables. But Joe Pro isn't necessarily trying to get any bigger.
The routine he follows now is geared more toward trying to improve muscle shape, add greater detail, and carve deeper separations. At the level of the Olympia or Arnold Classic raw mass alone doesn't warrant a second look from the judges.
Joe Pro did not build most of his muscle with this style of "re-finement" training. In the early days when he was just a novice bodybuilder like many fitFLEX readers, he focused on the free-weight basics. His routines were not overly long or fancy, just hard and heavy on a few classic exercises. If you're still in the beginner or even intermediate phase of your bodybuilding career, where your singular priority is gaining muscular bodyweight, you need to forget about most of the complicated training routines the pros follow now. They have already devoted many years to working out and have nearly all the size they could ever want at this point. Unless your primary concern is detailing and refining your existing muscle mass, you need to apply your limited time and energy to the free-weight basics that will slap some meat on your bones. Here are some of the very best exercises for beefing up your quads, back, shoulders and biceps. SQUATS
Although many gyms these days have a half-dozen or more different types of leg-press and hack-squat machines to choose from, your best bet is always going to be the humble (and humbling!) barbell squat. A lot of pro bodybuilders no longer squat, but don't think they never did. Almost to a man most of them built their leg mass over years of brutally hard work on squats. In fact, many of the top pros - like Ronnie Coleman and Lee Priest - still make squats the foundation of their quad-training. It's the most natural movement for the legs. When a toddler picks up a piece of candy from the floor, he or she inevitably squats down to do so.
For safety reasons you should always squat inside a rack or power cage so that if you happen to get stuck, you can replace the bar on pins. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Place the bar across your upper traps and step out from the rack. With your torso upright and an arch maintained in the lower back, descend until the femur bones of your thighs are parallel to the floor. Then stand up again, keeping the entire body tight. Avoid leaning forward excessively as the weight begins to feel heavy, and don't be tempted to do half-reps in order to use more weight.
Although not nearly as valuable in the role of accruing quadriceps mass as the squat, the leg extension does have an important place in your training. You can use it as a warmup before squatting, especially if you have had knee pain or injuries in the past. For trainers who get too much stimulation in the lower back and glutes from squats, doing leg extensions first can be a smart way to ensure you are working the quads to their full capacity on the compound movement (squats). Extensions are the only exercise that totally isolates all four heads of the quads independently from the surrounding muscle groups. They can definitely be a perfect adjunct to squats.
As with squats, you should keep the torso as upright as possible, though a forward lean at the start of each rep is impossible to avoid. Use either a mixed grip of one palm up, one palm down, or have both palms down and use wrist straps to reinforce your grip. Be sure your lower back never rounds.
Equally crucial in building back thickness is a horizontal rowing movement, meaning your hands pull in toward your torso. One-arm dumbell rows have been a favorite of weight trainers for decades because they generally promote better form than barbell rows. Using a flat bench for stability, put one knee up on the bench and have the other foot grounded on the floor. Grasp a dumbell on the same side as the grounded leg, and with your torso parallel to the floor, pull up and back until the dumbell is next to your hip bone. Roll your shoulder blade back as far as possible and squeeze your lat before lowering for a stretch. The reps should be slow and controlled with no bouncing or jerking. Even the great Lee Haney used only 70 or 80 pounds for this exercise, so don't think you need to use a 100- or 150-pounder if you're only half his size! Sloppy, jerking reps will do nothing to make your back grow.
Chinups are tough. That's why most 200-pound men who can do several sets of pulldowns with 200 pounds can almost never repeat the same sets and reps with bodyweight chinups. You need to do both overhand chins with a grip spaced outside shoulder width and underhand chins with hands inside shoulder width. Once you get to the point where you are able to hang extra weight on for several sets in good form, your back will be much wider and more muscular. You will also be one of the strongest guys at your gym.
SEATED DUMBELL PRESSES
Pressing weight overhead is without question the best means of building overall size and strength in all three heads of the deltoids. Barbells are good, but pressing with a barbell has some inherent drawbacks. The behind-neck press is a great exercise, except that it puts the shoulders in a position of external rotation. Over time at least half the bodybuilders who practice this exercise will develop rotator-cuff problems to varying degrees as a result. Pressing to the front of your head with a barbell is far safer, but the flaw here is that most of the work now goes to the front delts only, leaving the medial and rear heads virtually untouched.
The solution is to press with dumbells, which allow you to keep your hands traveling right in line with your ears, and your forearms angled neither backward nor forward. This perfectly vertical line of motion is ideal for both safety purposes and to provide evenly distributed work to the entire shoulder. Dumbells also let you know right away if one side is drastically weaker or stronger than the other, as there is no way for a stronger side to compensate. If you want impressive shoulders you have to press, and dumbells are the preferred method.
Biceps-training is probably the most uncomplicated of any major muscle group. Since their primary function is arm flexion, or bringing the hand up to the shoulder, the barbell curl is the exercise of choice. All the top bodybuilders over the past few decades have used it at some stage in their careers, usually at the outset. The barbell allows you to use the greatest amount of weight and really blast the bis. You want to make sure your biceps do the work. Do not cheat by thrusting your hips to start a rep with a weight that is too heavy for you. Besides risking injury, you will be involving more front delts and lower back in this loose style than you will biceps. Take a shoulder-width grip on the bar, and start each rep from a dead stop. Curl up until the biceps are fully contracted and squeeze them. Note that this full contraction will happen before the bar gets high enough to rest at the top. Aim for continuous tension on the biceps from start of the set to finish.