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It's no secret that for most men, the ideal physique consists of toned, defined muscles. Whether you want the look of a puffy bodybuilder or a lean, chiseled physique (think Brad Pitt from Fight Club), you need to build muscle. That being said, I'd like to share some of the advice I've learned in my long career training male clients in body transformation. The seven most important exercises for men to build muscle form the core foundation of any serious exercise program. In addition, they hit most of the important muscles in your body.
Prepare for dumbbell exercises, barbell exercises and calisthenics. You can divide the moves into upper and lower body exercises, or combine them into one or more total body exercises. For best results, add weight when 12 or more reps become too easy. If you can't do 8 reps, reduce the weight.
Plan to do three to four sets of eight to 12 sessions once or twice a week for at least eight weeks.
The first move men do to build muscle is the squat. Squats are called the King (or queen) of exercise for a reason. Simply put, they hit all the major muscle groups in your lower body. Additionally, when you do barbell squats and other weight-bearing squat variations, you train your core and upper body to stabilize for a true full-body workout. If you are physically able, I recommend doing backbar squats.
To do a barbell squat, place the bar on a rack at about shoulder height. Step under the rail and wedge it into the trap, pulling down with each hand for stability. Open the rail and step back with your feet shoulder-width apart. Sit back and lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep your torso as upright as possible while maintaining control of the bar.
The deadlift is one of the most powerful lifts you can do. They work the quads, gluteus maximus, hamstrings and back muscles. You can lift very heavy weights with the deadlift, giving the entire lower body major muscle-building stimulation.
To perform a barbell deadlift, start by placing a barbell on the floor with the appropriate weight on each side. Step up to the bar until it's not far from your shin. Hinge at waist, grip bar with overhand or alternate grip. Keeping your spine straight, cross the floor and lift the bar until your knees and hips separate.
3 Dumbbell bench press
The bench press is one of the most popular exercises, and for good reason. It allows you to lift major weights with your chest muscles, shoulders and arms, providing a major mass building for these areas. I personally prefer dumbbell bench presses because they have a smoother, more natural movement. That being said, you can also do it with a barbell.
To practice the dumbbell bench press, sit at the bottom of a weight bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Lie on your back on a bench with dumbbells at your chest sides and arms bent. Press upward until your arms are straight. You can put the dumbbells together at the top of the movement for maximum muscle squeeze.
4 Top press
Push-ups are mainly for the shoulders. I'm also a fan of dumbbells and barbell overhead pushes, but the dumbbell variation is more forgiving for newbies who haven't perfected the barbell technique yet.
Practice dumbbell push-ups by starting with a dumbbell in each hand and holding it at shoulder height. Raise the dumbbells above your head until your arms lock. Put them together and squeeze as much as you can. Return to the starting position. Repeat to target repeat number.
Pull-ups are a great way to develop your upper body muscles, especially in the lats, upper back, and biceps. I suggest variations including prone, neutral and supine grip.
To do a pull-up, first suspend from the pull-up bar with the grip of your choice. Pull your body up as far as you can, preferably with your chest against the bar. Lower to the starting position. Repeat to target repeat number.
6 Rows of dumbbells
Dumbbell rowing training Horizontal rowing exercises that work the back of the shoulders, upper back and biceps.
To practice a dumbbell row, start with a dumbbell in one hand and the other hand on the bench, leaning your torso forward. Pull the dumbbells upward until your upper arms are in line with your torso. Return to the starting position. Repeat to target repeat number.
Push-ups are weight-bearing exercises that work your triceps, shoulders, and chest. You can do push-ups on a bench, but I prefer parallel bars or rings, which hold the weight of the whole body.
To do a push-up, start on the parallel bars and hold the bars with your arms straight down. Bend your elbows, centering your shoulder joints, and lower your chest toward the floor. Lower your arms until your upper arms are parallel to your torso. Return to starting position by driving with both hands. Repeat to target repeat number.
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