Light Weight, Baby! 20 Heavy Compound Exercises For Brutal Bulk
We could start this article off with some horrible cliché’ like “size does matter,” but we have too much respect for our readers to stoop that low. No, there is no need to go there and conjure up bad memories of bodybuilding magazines’ repetitive cover lines. We all will be better served by getting right to the point of the matter and list 20 of the most intense and muscle-pumping compound movements for you to do at the gym if you want to finally become that mass monster you have always emulated.
It takes more than just kicking your own ass in the weight room to get there, but this will determine how good the payoff is going to be.
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1 – Squats
The lion may be the king of the jungle and squats hold the same distinction in the gym. The ‘King of Exercises’ has earned that title and for good reason. It is a total body movement with high concentration to the quads. Besides building up your body, squatting will also build up your overall strength.
Don’t half-ass squats by loading up the bar with plates only to limit your range of motion to something in the neighborhood of ‘barely bending your knees.’ You need to at least break parallel (even if you’re not of the ‘ass to grass’ mentality) so that your quads are engaged fully.
2 – Flat Barbell Bench Presses
Most likely the first exercise that we ever did in the gym was the bench press and guess what? We are still doing it and there’s a good chance that it is the opener of the week for you. But there are a few things that you should be sure of so that you can get the most out of this ass-kicking exercise.
Take a shoulder-width grip, slightly arch your lower back (not your butt), retract your shoulder blades and keep your feet flat on the floor. When you see guys moving their legs or crossing them up in the air, which is not doing anything for you and will prevent you from taking advantage of a staple movement.
3 – Deadlifts
Similar to squats, deadlifts are a power movement and will bring up your overall strength. They will benefit your lower back and hamstrings (especially when you do the stiff legged variety), but also be more or less a full body exercise.
The most important tip we can give you is to roll the bar until it touches your shins before you even begin the set and keep it in contact with your body throughout the entire rep. This will ensure that your form is proper and you are working the muscles correctly. Secondly, each rep should be its own ‘mini set,’ in that you shouldn’t bounce the plates off the floor and come back up. Start from scratch after a brief pause at the bottom before rising again.
4 – Behind-The-Neck Shoulder Presses
One of the better mass builders for deltoids, presses are great when used in conjunction with isolation movements such as side lateral raises. Combined, all of these will give you those sought after cannonball delts.
One head’s up: don’t jump right into these at the start of your shoulder workout. Get a good warm-up with a rear delt movement first before pressing. It’s easy to injure your rotator cuff otherwise.
5 – Bent Over Barbell Rows
This will be the one to build barn door delts; plain and simple. Any back workout without them is incomplete. At a 45-degree angle, you should use a weight that you can handle and not jerk the bar up, as that incorporates your arms more into the movement and lets the lats off the hook.
Every once in a while, use an underhand grip on a 30-degree angle and bring the bar up to the bottom of your sternum. This method was invented by six-time Olympia winner Dorian Yates and has been christened ‘Yates Rows.’
6 – T-Bar Rows
While this is a similar exercise like bent over rows, the T-bar allows you to use a narrow grip while bending over at a higher angle. The middle of your back will be worked hard here and you can really put more emphasis on it by pausing slightly at the top of the rep while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Keep your head up, torso parallel to the floor and touch the handle to your chest. This will build nice thickness in your back and give you that vertical line for deep separation.
A good idea is to use 25-pound plates instead of 45s, as you can improve your range of motion with the smaller circumference. If you’re one of these guys that load up the big wheels, then 25s will not do a whole heck of a lot for you.
7 – Arnold Presses
What is interesting about this movement is that it’s a hybrid between military and behind-the-neck presses. Kind of the best of both words and it is no surprise that the great Arnold Schwarzenegger invented them, hence the moniker. Rotating the dumbbells engages the entire shoulder and calls on the triceps and upper chest, as well.
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8 – Walking Barbell Lunges
Ronnie Coleman made this exhausting exercise famous by doing them around the outdoor parking lot of Metro Flex Gym in the sweltering Texas heat – with 315 pounds on the bar!
Lunges are sometimes overlooked as a mass builder because they are popular with the ladies, but doing them in the fashion that “The King” does is all balls.
9 – 45-Degree Leg Press
Take advantage of the exercises where you can use heavy weight in a safe and efficient manner. You can really push a big amount up and put your legs through hell, but don’t do so at the expense of full reps.
The higher you place your feet on the platform, the more your glutes come into play and take the emphasis off your quads. And stop just short of locking out your knees so the tension remains on your quads.
10 – Military Press
The standing version is one of the oldest exercises out there and is still as effective today as it was back then. The one negative with them is balancing and that may effect your form and/or amount of weight used.
You can do these seated and that will put you in more of a comfortable and steady position so that you can control the barbell better. Either way, this is a movement that really taxes your front delts.
11 – Pull-Ups
The luxury of this exercise is that they can be performed basically anywhere and not only in a gym. You can purchase an over-the-door pull-up bar for your home or use a solid stanchion at the local park. (The crossbar of football goalposts has long been doubled as a pull-up or chin-up bar.)
This movement will give you thickness and detail in your back and different parts of the muscles can be worked depending on the width of the grip.
12 – Weighted Dips
This exercise just screams ‘bad ass,’ with heavy chains draped around the user’s neck to make an already great movement just amazing. A leather/chain belt can also be used with plates if your gym is chain-free. Either one will annihilate your triceps and chest.
13 – Leg Curls
Even though you are hitting your hamstrings as a secondary muscle with a lot of quad exercises, you also need to put them first in the pecking order on leg day. So that means doing a good number of sets of leg curls.
There are a few different options here, as you can do them lying, standing or seated. Most people prefer the lying version, but you need to be careful doing them as to not have the pads slide off the back of your feet at the top of the rep. This will take the tension away, even for a brief second, and that is something that you want to avoid.
14 – Close-Grip Bench Presses
One of the triceps exercises that allows you to put up some big boy weight and build some serious horseshoes in the target area make close grip presses a favorite in the gym. Although your chest and shoulders are also incorporated, the tris are called upon to do the bulk of the task.
15 – Incline Dumbbell Bench Presses
You can do these with a barbell, but using dumbbells will give you a deeper stretch at the bottom and help even out your weaker side. When you’re pushing a bar up, the strong arm will compensate for its brother. But dumbbells don’t allow this luxury.
16 – Standing Barbell Curls
A basic but effective exercise, barbell curls also give you some flexibility to include an extra ‘power set’ at the end of your predetermined amount. Or you can even get a spot from the front and tack on a few cheat reps following the amount for your working set.
17 – One-Arm Dumbbell Rows
Just like incline presses, hitting your lats with dumbbells will also be a two-way benefit – a deeper stretch and evening out your strong and weak arms. These rows differ from the majority of other back movements in that they are down with one arm at a time. Take advantage of this and implement this exercise into your back day as much as possible.
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18 – Barbell Upright Rows
The traps are worked with many shoulder and back movements, but you should also give them their just due with some exercises specifically designed to give you that ‘no neck’ look. You can use different grips (wide, narrow, intermediate) to hit the muscle from different angles, too.
19- Dumbbell Pullovers
When an exercise is work just getting into position to execute it, you know that it isn’t for the weak. That is exactly the case with pullovers, which will work your lats, lower chest and ribcage. Because the range of motion is not a very long one, man up and grab a heavy dumbbell to stretch out your upper body with authority.
20 – Power Cleans
Linemen in football are all bulk, so we should heed their advice and include one of the ‘must do’ exercises in their weight training. There really isn’t a muscle in your body that doesn’t get involved here, but the main objective is strength, power and size building.