One of the most sought after grails in the athletic and aesthetic worlds is that of muscle hypertrophy.
This refers to the gaining of muscle strength and size. Whether you’re looking to be the next Michael Phelps or just live a healthy lifestyle, compound weight training will change your life.
Weight training utilizes resistance in the form of machines, barbells and dumbbells in order to stress the muscles into adapting and coming back stronger.
Your muscles are made up of many microscopic fibers. There are a fixed number of fibers in each muscle.
Strength gains are made from two sources, hypertrophy and neural adaptations. During weight training, micro tears occur in the muscle fibers; this is the soreness that’s felt after a difficult workout.
These micro tears then repair themselves via inflammation that triggers protein synthesis and come back thicker and stronger. We covered the science of inflammation in our podcast Episode 6: Inflammation Roundtable. This mechanism is your body adapting to the workload and responding to stress.
Why Core Lifts Matter
Core lifts are compound stapes in any weight training program.
These lifts utilize multiple muscle groups as well as smaller stabilizer muscles. They are multi-jointed power movements. In order for maximal muscle gain, muscle fiber stimulation is a key component.
These heavy compound movements produce an intense stress on the muscles working causing the highest degree of fiber usage.
Due to motor coordination of these synergistic muscle groups this results in a high degree of functional strength. This functional strength carries over into the athletic world producing powerful individuals.
As far as aesthetics and bodybuilding, compound lifts produce grand proportional muscles. Another crucial response to heavy compound lifts is the increase in testosterone release.
In males, testosterone is the key component in muscle growth, bone density, and is a pivotal component of overall health. Natural increases in testosterone have been shown to reduce blood pressure, decrease chance of heart attack, lower obesity, and increase self-efficacy.
Here are the main compound exercises that should be incorporated in every workout.
- Bench Press – this hits the chest, triceps and shoulders
- Squat – all of your leg muscles, lower back, core, stabilizers for balance
- Deadlift – Legs, back, arms, trapezius. (Basically everything)
- Dips – Triceps, chest, shoulders
- Pull-ups – Back, biceps, forearms
- Shoulder overhead press – Shoulders, triceps
Other types of exercises often used in weight training programs consist of axillary lifts and plyometrics. Axillary lifts are single-jointed isolation exercises.
Most axillary lifts consist of dumbbells and machines. These put far less stress on the working muscles and lack usage of stabilizer muscles yielding minimal results. Lack of stabilizer muscle development can lead to functionally useless muscles while also increasing the risk of injury.
Although highly criticized in the weight training world, they have their place in every workout. These specific movements target single muscle groups. This can be beneficial for “burning out” the muscle after a hard workout. These are to be thrown in after compound lifts.
Sample 3 day split intermediate workout (4 sets of 8 for all compound lifts)
Monday: Chest and Triceps
- Bench press 4×8
- Dips 4×8
- Overhead shoulder press 4×8
- Side lateral raises 3×12
Wednesday: Back & biceps
- Deadlift 4×8
- Pull-ups 4×8
- EZ bar curl 4×8
- Hammer curls 3×10
Saturday: Legs & abs
- Squat 4×8
- Lunges 4×8
- Leg press 4×10
- Crunches 4×20
- V-ups 4×20
Every effective weight training program must adhere to the progressive overload principle.
This states that a gradual increase in stress on the muscles must be maintained in order for strength gains. This can be achieved by either an increase in weight or number of reps performed. This should be done weekly for maximal gains. Even with a proper weight training program that utilizes the overload principle, results will be minimal without proper rest and nutrition.
A healthy diet high in lean meats and vegetables should be implemented with every program. Muscle mass is approximately 80% water, so daily hydration is also essential.
Alcohol is a weight trainer’s biggest nightmare due to its effects on lowering testosterone levels, dehydrating the body and inhibiting restful sleep.
Sleep is the final key component in every successful exercise program. This is where your body regenerates torn muscle fibers causing inflammation, healing, and in turn, increased muscle size. The harder you train, the more sleep you need to recover that inflammation. Remember…
Consistency is key to any exercise program. “Rome wasn’t built in a day”