Drum roll please
There are no set movements you need to do in order to build muscle.
Whilst the big lifts (squat, deadlift, bench press) have often been promoted as essential for muscle gain the truth is that they are not.
In order to gain muscle there are a few essential things that you need. But specifics exercises are not these.
Things you do need to build muscle
A progressive training stimulus
Your body will only build muscle if you put a demand on it to do so. Building muscle also takes time, therefor you need to consistently and progressively challenge yourself to create a stimulus. No profession means reduced stimulus.
A calorie surplus
In order to build more muscle a calorie surplus is important. Building muscle requires energy. You need to provide your body with the energy/calories to get it done.
We all know protein is important for building muscle. In order to recover and develop from exercise protein is essential so make sure you are getting enough.
Rest and recovery
Protein is important for muscle recovery and so is rest. The reason your muscles grow stronger and larger from weight training is the because stress and damage from the session encourages an overcompensation. Meaning you recovery to become stronger if adequate stimulus is placed. The growth and adaptation come when you are recovering from the session. With these points here you can see both the importance of hard work and smart recovery.
So what exercises are best for muscle building?
This depends on a few factors such as ability and technique.
A few examples
If you are not very strong then push ups may provide adequate stress for adaptation. If however push ups are easy for you then you may need to increase the resistance and do these weighted
You be asking how you can define a movement that will be providing adequate stress.
This is very individual but using rep ranges and ability levels I can provide some guidelines.
If you are new to weights/resistance and cannot perform 4×15 reps of a movement with 60 seconds rest between sets then this will be sufficient for adaptation.
(By cannot perform I mean you reach failure and cannot complete all 60 reps)
If you have some experience with weights/resistance and cannot perform 4×10-12 reps of a movement with 60 seconds rest between sets then this will be sufficient for adaptation.
As you become more advanced adding varying rep ranges will help produce continued results. Adding rep ranges of 5-8 reps whilst also continued higher rep sets will help promote muscle gain. The same rules on adaptation apply, meaning you have to be pushing your reps hard and failure is a common occurrence.
A quick note on failure. This does not mean pinning yourself on the bench (although this may happen) it means you cannot complete a full range rep with good form.
The advice above is not advice for all movements in your session as a varied rep range will bring the best muscle building results but it a guide on how you can judge if a movement is challenging you enough to deliver a training stimulus.
Another reason for selecting exercises that suit you and not following general guidelines is a matter of technique and ability.
Let’s take the squat as an example. If your limiting factor with the squat is poor technique or the risk of injury then it will not deliver as good results as an exercise more suited to you and your technical ability. A lunge as an example way well provide you with better results if you can push yourself harder with movement without the risk of injury and without technique holding you back.
As you can see from all the above points exercise selection for muscle building isn’t black and white. There is no right or wrong movements to get the job done.
To recap on my guidelines
Exercises should be selected on your ability and technical level whilst also considering injuries.
Focus on progression and ensure you are consistently challenging yourself.
I love deadlifts and squats for progress and muscle building but they are not right for everyone and that’s fine!!
Get your nutrition right or you will go nowhere!!! Without adequate fuel any advice to do with training is useless. Get your calories and macros right for you and your goals.
Be patient as muscle won’t build overnight. Consistent work in both the gym and the kitchen are the answer. There is no quick fix.
Get support. If you struggle to build muscle then ask for help.
As part of my new calculated food on Beyond and BetterSelf, you will receive hundreds of amazing recipes just like this one. Each recipe is designed to fit perfectly with the exact calorie intake you need to achieve your fitness goals. Don’t waste another month guessing your way through this. It’s time to focus on being the best version of yourself. Calculated calories and structured exercise are crucial so don’t leave these factors to chance as your results depend on them!!