There exist eight proven movements that have built lots of muscle on all kinds of people for decades.
The movements are simple in nature and use loads of muscle mass to perform. Only athletes looking to develop a commanding and powerful physique should experiment with these potent movements. Get good at them, and you will own the field and undoubtably grow more muscle. I call them the “Great Eight.”
- Bench Press
- Shoulder Press
- Power Clean
- Bent-Over Row
- Barbell Cheat Curl
It’s beyond the scope of this article to relate the fine details of how to properly perform each movement. I always advise finding a competent and experienced strength and conditioning professional and taking a few lessons. However, I will briefly discuss each movement and why you need it in your bag of tricks to grow more muscle and dominate your sport.
Possibly the most important movement you can do. Packs a powerful endocrine response and ramps up favorable muscle-building hormones. Most sports heavily involve the legs, so it’s a great idea to build them up to become strong and powerful to enhance performance and minimize risk of injury. Put a heavy bar on your back and you can’t help but to grow more muscle.
2. Bench Press
The Bench Press has been turning boys into men for ages. In my humble opinion, it is the king of upper-body mass builders. It’s simple to perform, and you can use much heavier weight than the Shoulder Press. Show me an athlete with a big bench and I guarantee you he or she will be able to display incredible upper-body strength on the field.
3. Shoulder Press
To be done standing with a barbell. This actually used to be an Olympic lift back in the day. Giant men could press over 500 pounds over their head in a fairly strict fashion. It is hard to find that kind of brutally raw strength today. Aim to be able to shoulder press your body weight, and you will develop a raw strength that is easily transferrable to nearly every activity.
Say no more! The Deadlift is truly an honest test of strength. A person simply cannot deadlift shallow or cheat a rep. The bar either comes up off the floor or it doesn’t. This power-packed exercise will build a strong and stable body. It will do wonders for your posterior chain strength. I strongly advise learning how to deadlift from a professional coach. Done safely, this is one of the best things you can do for your athleticism.
5. Power Clean
I like to say that the Power Clean teaches you how to “crack the whip.” As you build your body to be stronger, you must also be able to translate that strength into speed and power—i.e., “cracking the whip!” The Power Clean does just that. You cannot perform it slowly. You must blast the bar up with great speed every time if you intend to rack it and finish the rep.
6. Bent-Over Row
Most people erroneously overwork their “mirror muscles” and sorely neglect the back of their body (posterior chain). However, the back of the body plays a crucial role in athleticism and the ability to reduce the risk of injuries. You need to spend as much time, if not more, building the backside of your body. The Bent-Over Row is beautiful because it works your low, mid, and upper back and also gives your hamstrings a challenge. It even keeps your shoulders healthy by offsetting bench pressing, keeping them back in a more neutral position.
I put these together because they are both bodyweight movements. Both are absolutely great for developing relative strength and helping you learn how to control your body in space. Make it your goal to crank out 20 of each. Then add weight with a belt or weight vest. Always do these with strict form and full range of motion. Don’t cheat yourself by swinging around or doing half reps. On a Pull-Up, go from arms straight to chin completely over the bar every time, without fail. Use full range of motion on dips, and never cheat reps. If you do, you’ll never know if you are actually getting stronger.
8. Barbell Cheat Curl
OK, OK, I know I just told you to never cheat reps, and now I am recommending Cheat Curls. This is the only time you’re allowed to cheat a rep now and then. Grab a heavy barbell and curl it until failure. Then use a little momentum from your hips and legs and cheat a few more reps up, maybe 2 or 3 additional reps. This serves to bomb your biceps, and they will grow like weeds in the spring! Many of the best arms in history used this technique to blow up to superhuman size. Be cautious not to use too much weight and do not throw your back into it. Aim for 8-10 reps, then cheat 2 or 3 additional reps. If you do this, you won’t have to worry about being called “spaghetti arms” any time soon.
Employ the Great Eight in your training regimen and you will grow more muscle. More muscle is a huge advantage in most sports. You can fine-tune your newly acquired muscle mass and get even stronger. A bigger muscle is a stronger muscle once tuned up. As an athlete, you should strive to build a balanced performance machine. These movements will do just that. Your body will be faster, stronger and more powerful than ever. You will perform better at your sport, feel great throughout the day, and minimize your risk of injury. You will get all of these benefits because you chose to work hard and trained smart. You used the simple, proven Great Eight when every one else was doing it the hard way instead of the smart way.