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Five exercises to pump (clap) you up

By David Norrie
Published July 13, 2007


Workout facilities have evolved tremendously over the past two decades. By today's standards, gyms I knew in the 1980s would be considered prehistoric.

But ask any old-timer in your gym what he thinks of the shiny new machinery that the gym just purchased, and chances are he'll scoff at the idea that it's better than what he grew up with.

When it comes to gaining mass and obtaining that type of physique that made Arnold Schwarzenegger famous, classic exercises are the way to go. You can try to reinvent the wheel, but there's no substitute for pumping iron.

So I'd like to give all of the young men who didn't have a chance to grow up training in that primitive, iron gym era - and maybe even some of you older guys who did - my top five "old school" exercises for building a more muscular physique.

Just about every male client I've trained has wanted a bigger, more robust chest. In my experience, nothing provides more depth and shape to the pectorals than heavy incline dumbbells.

That's because the major part of the chest is dominated by the upper pectorals, or "shelf." It's the ridge of muscle just under the collarbone that, when well-developed, gives the illusion of more mass and a greater separation between the neck and trapezius muscles.

Incline dumbbell press

While many novice lifters become consumed by the traditional flat bench press, I prefer incline dumbbell presses because they isolate the pecs. Plus, the barbell bench press incorporates more back, shoulders and even leg strength. The range of motion allows one to go much deeper into the stretch at the bottom of the movement and much tighter into the contraction at the top.

Upright row

Staying at the top of the upper body, the next "must-have" for manly mass is the upright row. Performing in the standing position, place an overhand grip on the barbell and pull the hands upwards, toward the chin. Some lifters prefer that the hands be placed about shoulder length apart on the bar. But I find the best results by placing both thumbs facing one another at the middle of the bar and pulling upward so my elbows are in a V shape at the top of the motion.

The greatest benefit of the upright row is that the more muscle you add to your mid and rear deltoids, the broader your shoulders will appear and thus the smaller your waist. This exercise will fill out the top of the shoulders or deltoids and build the trapezius muscles that make up the neck and upper back.

One-arm dumbbell row

Many clients ask why the toughest exercises produce the best results. That's simply the way it is, which brings me to the one-arm dumbbell row. I've chosen this exercise for the latissimus, or back muscles, in lieu of what might seem the obvious choice, pull ups, because anybody can do a one-arm dumbbell row while even a single pull up may be difficult for some.

Your lats are among the largest muscles in your body and must be trained accordingly. Many bodybuilders compare the movement of a one-armed dumbbell row to sawing through a piece of wood or starting a lawn mower.

Begin with a heavy dumbbell (40 to 60 pounds) in your right hand. The left hand and left knee should be equally supported on a bench while your right leg remains cocked out slightly wider than your right shoulder for maximum support. Raise the dumbbell upward and back, pulling it toward your right hip while maintaining a flat back. It's important to pull the weight back somewhat because if you simply pull it straight up, you'll use your biceps too much.

That's not all bad, though. The one-arm dumbbell row and the upright row will help build your biceps, as they are the secondary muscles used in each movement.

After performing 10 to 15 repetitions with the right arm, do the same with the left.

Another benefit of the one-arm row is that it will accelerate your heart rate to burn calories. Don't be shocked if you feel you've run a sprint after each set.

French curls

As I said, this routine does not include a specific exercise for the biceps. But it does tackle the best movement for the triceps, or back of the arm. French curls.

Better known as "skull crushers," French curls are a tried and true method of building massive arms. Using a bent or E-Z curl bar, one lies flat on a bench with the weight elevated above the head. Bending only at the elbows, slowly lower the weight toward your forehead with your elbows still pointing toward the ceiling. Just before touching the head, power the bar back up to the point where the arms are fully erect again.

A small tip. When gripping the bar, some lifters curl their thumbs around the same side as their fingers to alleviate pressure on the wrists and elbows. It's a little more advanced and requires some caution.

Leg press

Finally, don't forget the legs.

The basic squat is the granddaddy of all mass exercises and a must among most "old school" lifters. But as someone who suffers from two herniated discs in his back caused by a car accident, I prefer to avoid the squat. It's among the most difficult movements and most common to obtain an injury, unless your form is immaculate. You can also go with the equally effective leg press for a muscular lower body.

The leg press allows an almost identical movement to the squat but is done in a seated and inclined position with padded back support, therefore providing a much higher level of safety to the lower back and spine.

By having back support and pushing the weight upward and away, the leg press also allows one to handle heavier loads than a traditional squat. It attacks the quadriceps (front leg), the hamstrings (back leg) and gluteus muscles (butt) all in one motion. The added bonus is that heavy lifting, such as leg presses, assists the body in gaining mass by helping to release growth hormone.

Of course, when performing any of the above exercises, you should always consult a personal trainer or someone educated on the movements. Give them a couple of months, and I'm sure you'll see the gains you're seeking.

[Last modified July 12, 2007, 07:52:29]

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