There are plenty of reasons you may want to get in shape. You may be trying to overcome a physical disadvantage, disorder, or condition. Some people get into fitness programs like this right after recovering from certain illnesses or accidents. Sometimes, they do it as a means to counter certain muscular disorders that they have had for a while. You may be a professional bodybuilder preparing for a competition. You may be an average Joe wanting to become an above-average Joe!
Regardless of your reason for getting jacked, you will certainly find bodybuilding an ambitious and extremely rewarding pursuit. It requires focus, time, and most importantly, dedication and commitment. You will only get to produce your desired results if you do the right exercises the right way, the right time, and at the right frequency. And if you watch your diet, of course.
Here are three utterly simple exercises guaranteed to give you that summer- and competition-ready body. Pull-ups, squats, and deadlifts are popular among fitness enthusiasts because of their capability to transform your body quickly. Let us talk about them, why you want to do them, and how to pull them off.
Weighted pull-ups are an advanced exercise that deliver phenomenal results if executed well. They have to be done carefully and at just the right pace because they can cause serious injury otherwise. Your structure, movement, and even your breathing are way more important in weighted pull-ups than regular ones for obvious reasons. When done correctly, weighted pull-ups will give your body tons of benefits you will have a hard time finding in other exercises.
If you are at more or less an intermediate or advanced trainee and are looking to take your physique to the next level, weighted pull-ups will do the trick. They are great at improving strength, muscle size, grip strength, and more. A lot of people even see weighted pull-ups as the staple exercise for maximizing back and bicep strength. They are considered the perfect upper body lift.
Weighted pull-ups work best when done in low-rep sets with heavy weights, according to Dr. Layne Norton, a scientist and a bodybuilder himself. That way, you get to work out all muscle fibers, thereby resulting in maximum strength gain over time.
As we have mentioned a few times, weighted pull-ups are an advanced exercise that should only be attempted if you are already in the middle or advanced stages of your program. That is because weighted pull-ups are strenuous. Some trainers would recommend that you only begin trying this exercise once you have mastered about 20 reps of the body weight pull-up with flawless form.
Take note that we did not end that sentence with the reps. That is because, again, your form and technique become more crucial than before the moment you begin adding weights to your body. You have to stabilize your shoulders and know the right way to contract your core without harming your spine, and a lot more.
You can modify your weighted pull-ups to shake it up a bit and to match your training level. There are several things you can use as weights in this exercise. Each has its benefits and limits. You have to find the one that works best for you.
Weight Belts or Dip Belts: These are weights that hang between your legs from your waist. You have the belt that goes around your core, with straps or chains that hang the weight from your belt. Dip belts are popular because they can hold immense amounts of weight. A lot of people prefer to use these because the weight is aligned with your center of gravity. Moreover, these allow you to switch weights easily and quickly. You will want to get a dip belt made of a single piece of heavy-duty strap. That way, you avoid having more parts that can tear.
Weight Vests: Weight vests look like bulletproof vests, except they are a hundred times heavier. What makes them ideal, though, is the way they evenly distribute the weight through your upper body. That allows you to observe the proper form and technique and pay more attention to your spine more easily while working out. Always get the weight vest with the highest weight capacity. Anyway, you can always change the weight. Get an adjustable type so you can easily change it to match your training level or preferences.
Dumbbells: Dumbbells are a nice substitute if you do not have a proper weight belt or vest yet. You can hold one between your ankles or legs as you pull yourself up. Some people prefer to do it this way because they get to exercise both their upper body and their legs. However, this exposes you to risk of injury.
Backpacks: Get a backpack with straps that go around the hips and the chest. That way, the weight is not concentrated over the shoulders. This is great if you mainly work out at home and do not have the proper equipment yet. If you are just starting out with weighted pull-ups, you can fill your backpack with water bottles or anything similar. If you have a hiking-style backpack, you can fill it with weights.
Kettlebells: Hang the kettlebell from your feet if your pull-up bar will allow it. But then again, this may lead to accidents and injury.
Resistance Bands: There is really no excuse for not doing weighted pull-ups at home. You can wrap the band around your shoulders while the other end is anchored to the ground. As you pull yourself up, the band will stretch and pull you down.
Always start light: Begin doing weighted pull-ups with light weights even if it seems way below your capacity. By light, we are talking 3 to 5 pounds for the average trainee. If you are a little bigger or have been working out for a while, you can go higher than that, but definitely not more than around 10 pounds. This is because you need to see how your body responds first. Starting light is better than going for heavy weights right away because if you injure yourself with the heavy weights, that will be a bigger problem.
Go up slowly: This is one of the most commonly uttered mantras in fitness, really. However, it becomes extremely important when you are doing something as difficult, strenuous, and potentially risky exercise like weighted pull-ups. Take baby steps. Begin with light loads and slowly work your way up.
Warm up: Just like any other exercise, weighted pull-ups require some warm-up. Building up a light sweat is crucial before beginning the main body of your workout because it preps your muscles and joints for hard training. Getting in a few minutes on a treadmill or a top level spin bike is always a good idea before your workout. Also, make sure can perform a few body weight reps of pull ups before adding weight.
Squats are an ideal exercise because they are plain and simple, but they build up several muscle groups at the same time. However, squats are as difficult to learn and master as they are simple. You do not just go to the gym one day, decide that you want to squat, and squat right then and there. Some trainers even recommend that you train specifically for squats! You can do that with the help of leg presses. You can also practice with bars or even a broomstick. The important thing is that you master the right form and technique while you are still working with light weights because many squatting-related injuries are caused by doing them the wrong way.
The first thing you have to mind when doing squats is the form and position of your trunk. Straighten your back and pull your head and shoulders back. This will raise your chest and cause you to have a slight arch in your lower back. Keep this upper trunk position throughout the exercise. Make sure not to bend over, look up, or look down as you do squats.
Squats are ideally done in what is called a power rack. It is a large rack with holes drilled in it. You can adjust the pins using the holes so that you can lower the bar without injuring yourself. They also give you a clue as to how deep you are going and if you are going up or down correctly. The first thing you need to do is to set the pins just below your preferred depth. Then put the hooks holding the bar to the same level as your chest, more or less.
As you exercise, the bar should be at around the same level as your shoulder blade. Try to avoid using padding under the bar because it may lead to some instability (because the weight may slip along). You can use trapezius mass if the bar is really hurting you.
Approach the bar and hold out your hands and arms as if you are doing a bench press. Take a deep breath, and then unrack the bar. Take just enough steps to clear the hooks as you go down. Remember that during the entire exercise, you have to keep your trunk in the upright position it was in before you started doing the squats. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart. Then, take another deep breath and go down. Your abs should be contracted as you descend. Also, you should feel like are about to sit on a chair. It should not be like going down to sit on the floor! Your knees should be aligned with your feet as you do this. They should not bow in.
Go back up slowly and carefully once you are done. Keep the upright torso position in mind as you go up. This is important, as most injuries happen during back up. Once you get to the bottom position, begin pushing yourself up immediately instead of attempting to balance at the bottom first. Injury is more likely to happen if you do that.
But what exactly do squats do? Why is everyone crazy about this exercise? As we mentioned earlier, squats build muscles in several areas at the same time. The first parts, of course, are the legs. When you do squats, you exercise your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. This exercise is also a very effective way to strengthen your core. They are even better than crunches for building ab muscles because they stabilize your torso and your spine at the same time. Squats are really an all-around muscle building exercise.
Other benefits of squats include improved anabolic hormone release, higher metabolic rate, improved balance and flexibility, and better heart and lung capacity. Regardless of how you look at it, squats are one of the best exercises out there. Contrary to the misconception of others, this exercise is not a generic one for non-bodybuilders. Squats are actually one of the most effective and fastest ways you can get ripped.
Belts and Knee Straps: Belts increase the pressure on your abdomen, thereby helping stabilize your spine. Knee straps are good for elevating weight. If you are already a trained lifter or bodybuilder, you will find knee straps helpful.
Goblet Squat: The Goblet squat is more for conditioning. It involves the fundamental movements of the basic squat and is a good step toward more complicated variations. To do the Goblet squat, hold a kettlebell or any other weight to your chest, and then move the weight down to your heels using your hip and back muscles.
Zercher Squat: The Zercher squat involves holding a barbell using the crooks of your elbows instead of your hands. The lower position of the load works your back and shoulder muscles out.
Bulgarian Split Squat: This exercise requires you to kneel with one foot elevated behind you, taking your leg and lower back muscles out of the equation. The Bulgarian split squat allows your hips to bear the weight directly and helps bulk up the glutes, core, and hamstrings.
Practice! Mastering the right (therefore safe and effective) squat form and technique requires practice. You need practice to find the right height, weight, width, and stance that fit you.
Strive to reach parallel: You may find reaching parallel difficult because it requires bending at the hip without losing the upright trunk position. But this is perfectly doable with the right amount of practice. If you do not have a trainer, use a simple mirror or a camera to see how your angles are looking.
The deadlift is the ultimate exercise for bodybuilders, powerlifters, and those who just want to get absolutely jacked in general. There is no better way to put slab over slab of formidable muscles on your body than regularly doing deadlifts. They are a great way to strengthen all major muscle groups, earning them the label “King of Exercises” among fitness enthusiasts.
Basically, deadlifting involves lifting a barbell (which is the only thing you need) off the floor up to hip-level. That sounds very simple, but it comes with a lot of benefits. First of all, deadlifting strengthens and stabilizes your core. At the same time, it trains you to have good posture even as you go about your normal day-to-day tasks, which takes us to our second point...
Deadlifting resembles everyday tasks that involve lifting things and doing activities that require a strong grip. Even if you do not powerlift or have stopped bodybuilding, you will still benefit from deadlifting. Finally, the sheer amount of work involved in deadlifting helps improve your cardiorespiratory system.
Deadlifting is an extremely exhausting exercise, but the fruits of your labor go way beyond winning competitions. It comes in different kinds, though, with each type targeting a different group of muscles and fitting a different kind of bodybuilder. Although this exercise seems simple, it requires a lot of technique to pull off.
Sumo Deadlift: This variation puts more stress on your legs than the basic deadlift and helps you maintain an upright torso by requiring you to pull with a flat back.
Rack Pull: The simplest variation of the basic deadlift involves just having the bar slightly raised off the floor. This is recommended for you if, for any reason, you are unable to go all the way down to lift from the floor.
Trap Bar Deadlift: Similar to the Sumo deadlift, the trap bar deadlift puts emphasis on your leg muscles. At the same time, it puts less stress on your lower back than the conventional deadlift.
Hack Lift: The hack lift is a good option if you want to work on your quads. You mimic the basic deadlift, except you place the bar behind you. Needless to say, this is riskier than other deadlift variations and should only be attempted if you are an experienced lifter. It also applies more stress on the knees than other exercises, so you want to avoid this if you have had a recent knee injury.
Practice on your squats: Regularly doing squats helps keep your body balanced. If you deadlift without squatting, your deadlift would eventually be too hip-focused. Squats can help you out with that by exercising your quads, which play a key role in deadlifting. Strong quads let you pull up while preventing your torso from being too horizontal.
Have some variety: There are many different kinds of deadlifting styles, and they target different areas of the body. If you stick to just one or two variations, you’re only strengthening the same muscle groups all the time. The problem with that is that it emphasizes the weakness in the other muscle groups. Try to experiment and explore with as many of these variations as possible so as to evenly distribute the work throughout your body.
Do pause deadlifts: Word has it that professional powerlifter Mike Tuchscherer is a firm believer in the power of pause deadlifts. You can pause anytime, but Mike does it at the bottom of the lift, just a few inches off the ground. The main benefit offered by pause deadlifts is discipline. It teaches you to hold the right position despite being in such an uncomfortable position.
Improve your grip: It goes without saying that grip is key to a good deadlift. The amount of weight you can lift is naturally limited by what you can hold! Shrugs, chins, and dumbbell exercises are great ways to improve grip strength.
Work on your technique: You may have heard that in order to improve your deadlifts, you have to strengthen specific muscle groups. You can do that or go the smarter route by developing and mastering technique. Keep pulling until a solid arch becomes automatic. Then strengthening those muscles that need to be worked out shall follow.
Getting jacked is definitely not an easy or fast process. No one ever promises that you can go from zero to perfect in a month because hypertrophy-specific training does take a while to produce results. The best thing you can do to somehow shorten the process is to do the right exercises. We have told you about the benefits of pull-ups, squats, and deadlifts and how they can help you get ripped. We hope they work out for you the same way they have worked for the world’s greatest bodybuilders and for everyone who worked hard to stop being flimsy, weak, and frail.
Billy Smith is a writer, fitness junkie, trekker, hiker, tech geek and adventurer extraordinaire. Having worked in the IT field for over 10 years, Billy now spends a lot of his time writing to inspire people to adopt a healthy lifestyle and to use technology responsibly. As the founder of Checkcorner.com, it is Billy’s endeavor to provide people with the best information and tools to transform their lives.