Every bro around the country counts down the minutes until international chest day that falls on the first of every week known as Monday. However, it always bleeds over into Tuesday...and Wednesday...fuck it. Chest day every day! "How much ya bench?" is always the first thing that rolls off of every dude bros tongue when they see your muscles poking out of your shirt.
But in all seriousness, the bench press is the bread and butter of lifts. It's primarily a chest and tricep builder, but when properly executed and performed to lift the most weight with an arch in the back and leg drive incorporated, it also activates the lats, glutes, and lower back.
The pectoral muscles (also known as the chesticles) are made up of the pec major and the pec minor. A great deal of bodybuilding articles like to make a big deal out of hitting all three angles of the chest, upper, lower, and mid chest and then they generally prescribe a ridiculous blend of cable flys, dumbbell presses, and push ups to "ensure" you're getting a fully well developed chest.
This is bull shit.
If you were competing for Mr. Olympia and you were in the running for the top 10 and you were on grams of gear (which if you are, why the fuck are you reading this book?), you might consider indulging in some of these extras in the minor case that they should prove beneficial. However, for a person who doesn’t partake in pharmaceuticals, you’ll get the most benefit from just sticking to the bench. Once you’ve dominated that lift for two years, you can start playin’ with the other nonsense.
There is no great signifier of strength than the squat. In powerlifting your order of lifts always goes Squat, Bench, and Deadlift. Squat is king. And for good reason. The squat is God in the barbell kingdom. There is nothing more terrifying than being under heavy weight and purposefully crushing yourself only to get at the very bottom and throttle that bar up to the stars.
The Squat at it’s very core is a quad and glute strengthening movement. However, for those of you who have experienced a heavy low bar squat know how much your lats flare up, or for those who do a high bar, ass to grass squat know how much hamstring soreness you’re in for. Even holding onto the bar and giving it a pressing movement from the bottom position activates the entirety of your upper body. I’m almost certain an individual only needs squats to be a strong human with a fantastic physique.
The Legs are often times the most neglected of the trained muscles. Why? Because they’re not as showy as Chest, Biceps, and abs. The common joke in the fitness community is “how terrible leg day is” and “friends don’t let friends skip leg day.” If you don’t train your legs, and don’t do squats, you’re missing out on a great deal of physical benefits. For one, the majority of the muscle a human can acquire is on your back and legs and as I discussed before, muscle is energetically expensive and requires more calories to maintain. If you enjoy eating like a child and still putting on lots of fat every time you step outside a starvation diet, be my guest. Also, people who don’t squat will not receive all the glorious gluteus gifts bestowed upon the brave men and women who do. I’m talking about that ass. Regardless if people are interested in seeing how your wheels look, everybody sneaks a peak of the butt. Men, women, gay, straight, everybody is trying to sneak a peak of the goods. If you receive a compliment about your pants, that’s code for “I’m looking at your ass.”
By far my favorite lift. It’s an activity we’ve been doing since we were children in the woods. We’d spy a big ass branch covered with moss and say to our friends “I bet I could pick that up!” Those of us who huffed, puffed and squealed until the tree left the ground mere centimeters felt like Hercules amongst our foolish mortals for friends.
The Conventional deadlift is a movement that involves pretty much every muscle in the posterior chain, from your calves all the way to the Trapezius muscles. Many people consider the deadlift to be a very dangerous exercise, and I myself have warned people against this movement before. However, the rewards involved with mastering such a badass lift outweigh the risk involved, especially if you make the investment of obtaining exquisite technique with this barbell Kung Fu. Pulling one rep of a weight that is twice your body weight off the floor will make you feel like a monster among men. It was actually the exercise of choice for Hugh Jackman in getting in the crazy conditioning he achieved for Wolverine.
I'm talking shoulder boulders, mutha fucka! There is no manlier activity a gentleman can participate in than the act of taking a heavy object and putting over his head. There is a reason why a great deal of the Strong man lifts require overhead movements, it's because they're fucking difficult, and you gotta be a baddass to be a strong man.
The overhead press is primarily a shoulder builder, but it also engages the glutes, the abs, triceps. So, not only are you looking like super atlas carrying the world on your shoulders and pushing it above your head, you’re also giving all of the pretty boy muscles their due diligence.
The shoulders are mostly made of the deltoids (anterior, lateral, rear), but the visual perception of the shoulders also includes the trapezius and upper chest. As far getting the most bang for your buck, you won’t go wrong with investing in the overhead press. You could do front and lateral raises while supersetting them face pulls till the cows come home (whatever the fuck that means) but you’re going to get more than enough stimulation from one heavy ass overhead press for all three of these delts than fussing with all of that nonsense.
Another practical lift. Everybody has tried to get themselves out of a pool and failed miserably, huffing, puffing, struggling, groaning before you finally make a huge as scene as you either slap yourself like a big wet seal on the edge of the pool or you crash back into the water and do the doggy paddle of shame back to the ladder and or shallow end. Dips save lives, people.
Dips are a fantastic exercise for tricep development, but if you incorporate a slight lean forward you also get incredible chest activation. This is also an exercise that is done best when hanging weight off of a chain below your junk. Weighted Dips I should say.
Side Note: Dips and Chins are the best way to maintain your aesthetics when you’re away from a gym for extended periods of time. All it takes is a sturdy hanging bar to knock out a great back and bicep session and Dips are easy to throw together when you have two chairs of the same height. Put their backs facing each other, put yourself in between and dip into the sunrise.
What I generally refer to as “Chins,” the chin up is one of the most basic forms of universal baddassery. As far as functional fitness is concerned, the chin up has the most carryover in the real world. This shit could literally save your life some day. You never know when your dumbbass is going to end up hanging outside of a building, or off of a cliff (shit happens.) Knowing that you’ve be able to do multiple repetitions of chins (preferably weighted chins with some plates hanging from a chain wrapped around your body) is going to ease your mind when it comes time to pulling yourself back up to safety.
As far as building biceps is concerned, look no further. You can do bicep curls with the ez curl, preacher curl, hammer curl, side curl, reverse grip, pulleys, and still you’re doing a fourth of the effectiveness as a well accomplished chin up.
Bent Over Row
As the philosopher, Chris Jones preaches: Rows for the hoes. Lats so wide, hoes wanna piggy back ride.
The funny part is that this movement is often the one that gets the most complaints when I prescribe it. And to be fair, it’s an awkward movement. But that’s exactly why it’s so effective. The angle you’re required maintain with your back while moving a barbell with minimal keeping puts a great deal of emphasis on your upper back, your lats, and your spinal erectors. Your glutes and hams also are required to stay flexed and active while slinging some big mama weight. And since you can’t get away with doing any kind of rowing movement without using your biceps, you got the guns pumped as well.