Squats, Bank presses, Deadlift, and many more of the great compound exercises are on every to-do list of required exercises. If muscle and strength are on your agenda, then this exclusive list must be included in your training regimen. Law?
And who can argue? If you look at the big, strong bodies in bodybuilding, powerlifting, and strongman circles, you will see some well-known trends. Do you want big legs You have to squat. Do you want to push more weight? You had better bench press and shoulder press. Do you want a huge, powerful back? Deadlifts are the order of the day.
But we are not all built the same and all have our subtle nuances that make us unique. Shorter limb lifters are better pushers, as opposed to longer limb coaches who are better pullers. In addition, one taller person will have quite a hard time crouching effectively, while another may have creaky knees, sore elbows, and / or crouched shoulders.
Benefits of compound exercises
Well, there are good reasons these steps are so sought after. First, they comprise most of the muscle mass. For example, a bench press involves the pecs, shoulders, triceps along with stabilizing muscles like lats, traps, and abs. The squat basically activates the entire lower body, including the lower back, chest, and most of the back.
All in all, you are getting the most bang for your buck. Second, these movements offer the greatest potential for strength gains. Think bench press against pecs. The bench press allows you to move most of the weight, while flying is more of an isolation exercise that requires more focus but requires significantly less weight.
Connected: The best compound exercises.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular must-do exercises and how we can find alternative, yet equally effective, versions to help build more muscle.
Perhaps you’re a taller strength athlete who just can’t crouch comfortably. Or maybe you have bad knees or a compressed disc or two in your lumbar spine. Traditional squats, while very effective, can easily become a person’s Achilles heel.
If you are uncomfortable with an exercise, how are you ever going to master it? Forget about more muscles, you can’t even squat properly with your own body weight.
First and foremost is the stretching and mobilization of the ankles, knees and hips. For many, the lack of freedom of movement is the culprit. If that’s not the problem, let’s look at some alternatives. One-sided movements are king for the taller coach. Think Bulgarian split squats, pistol squats, and weighted lunges. You may think that these do not offer sufficient resistance, but you are wrong.
Try holding a pair of dumbbells for the Bulgarian split squat and slowly lower and raise your torso to avoid pinching your knees for 10 or more reps. Other alternatives are front squats, Smith machine squats, and goblet squats.
Also read: Back Squats or Front Squats: Which Builds More Muscle and Strength?
You will have a hard time finding a strength athlete who did not bench press complaining of shoulder pain of any kind. From chest muscle strains to rotator cuff tears, the bench press has become the ultimate mistress. We know it can be bad for us, but we do it anyway.
But are we just throwing away one of the most effective compound moves ever? Are we just banished to having tiny pecs for the rest of our days?
Aside from competitive powerlifting reasons, there are many more effective ways to stimulate breast growth. From a pure dumbbell program to leaning exercises to subtle setups for better shoulder health, the pecs can gain from many other angles. Try pre-tiring the pecs by starting with dumbbells or pecs, starting each chest workout with dumbbells and doing each rep slowly and in a controlled manner, or try a slight decrease instead of a flat bench to relieve pressure on your shoulders.
If you still get stuck on the barbell bench press, try tucking your elbows in your sides to avoid opening your shoulders to avoid injury.
Another challenge for the bigger lifter is the deadlift. Touted as the granddaddy of lifts and one of three of the most important powerlifts, it has a lot of potential to add power, strength and mass to any body. But what if you have some compressed disks? What about lifting that is never really comfortable no matter how you try to support your form?
Does it make you sore the wrong way for days? Does it negatively affect other exercises like your squat performance?
Of course, there are many alternatives for the deadlift. Try the rack deadlift, which involves placing the safety rails of a power rack just below your knees for a shorter range of motion. This also reduces the extreme freedom of movement required when lifting from the floor. Using a trap or hex bar is another way to reduce the stress on your lower back.
Sumo deadlifts, a wide stance, and holding a dumbbell between your legs are another great alternative to saving your spine.
The overhead barbell press is a staple for all types of strength athletes. From the bodybuilder to the competitive weight lifter, the overhead press not only builds mass and increases strength, but it also has a real world application. But as with the flat bench press, many injuries reap from lifting heavy weights for years.
From shoulder pinching to lower back strain, this lift can also be the bane of a strength athlete’s exercise regimen.
It’s hard to replace such effective bulking, but many of us need the shift if we are to live long in the gym. In the long run, dumbbell workouts could become your new best friend in terms of shoulder day. Sitting and standing dumbbell presses are the obvious choice.
Do you need more comfort in your shoulders? Use a more neutral grip (hands point to each other as you push. This closes the shoulder joint and protects it from possible injury.)
It is now commonplace for people to do a barbell row similar to an upright row; standing almost upright, pulling the weight up. Cleaning up your form should be the first task. Lighten the load, bend your hips and pull into your belly button. If this is still pinching your back or putting strain on your neck, why are you continuing with it? There are many ways to effectively stimulate your back.
If relief and more mobility are not enough, a few alternatives are appropriate. In addition to dumbbell and cable rows, there are many more challenging options. T-bar rowing, single-arm T-bar rowing, bench-supported dumbbell row, and single-arm cable rowing are just a few examples you can try.
Another important thing to do is learn to pull with your back instead of your arms. To do this, imagine that there are ropes or cables attached to your elbows. Using your hands only as hooks, pull your elbows and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
This of course requires you to reduce the weight you lift, but rest assured, it is guaranteed to stimulate more muscle growth in your back.
Isn’t it funny that there are people who can lift nearly half a ton, bench over 500 pounds, and do a house squat, but can’t do a single chin-up with their own body weight? The question arises: what is strength really? Many have a deep desire to be able to do a pull-up or two, but never try.
Pulling your body weight straight up is a real strength achievement and one that you should learn.
If you find that you can’t lift your body to the chin-up bar, some training wheels are fine. First, imagine your pull-up routine as a total versus individual sets.
For example, pick a number for the day like 20 or 30. You will do as many sets as it takes to get 20 or 30 reps. Next, you will use ribbons. Loop a ribbon over the chin-up bar and place your feet in the lower end. Be sure to use slow and controlled movements as the tapes can have a slinging effect.
In time, as you gain strength, you will go from a heavy band to a lighter one. You will also find that other back exercises also gain weight.
There are equally effective alternatives to the “necessary” exercises. It just takes a little shift here and there to suit your specific needs. Do not consider these exercises inferior or supportive. Find your groove, reduce pain and discomfort and finally start building your muscles. It might just be a tweak away.