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Very Effective Muscle Building Exercises You Should but May Not Doing

By jbehar at Sept. 12, 2016, 2:04 p.m., 8403 hits

Sometimes the best exercises are the ones you are not doing. And why, exactly, would you be skipping some of the most effective muscle building movements from your training? Probably one of two reasons: a) you don’t know that the exercise is one of the most effective exists, b) or b) it’s so challenging that you’d rather skip it and do something easier.

The following exercises are often overlooked exercises that you should be adding to your workout routine if you want to see some great results.

1) Arched-Back Pullup

This exercise I learned from 1983 Mr. Olympia and very good friend Samir Bannout

Why You Should Be Doing It

For those of you who don’t know, there are two different types of upper body movements:

1. Vertical pull (pullups, pulldowns, etc…), and
2. Horizontal pull (bent over rows, inverted rows, etc…).

Arched back pullup’s just so happen to work the lats in both the vertical and horizontal planes, — most pulling moves involve only one or the other.

How to do It

Grab the neutral grip seated row handle and place it over the pullup bar Grasp the handle with both hands and start from a hanging position, arms fully extended. What you will notice though is that, because of the angle of the handle, your body will be slightly tilted backwards as you pull up, activating your lats in the horizontal plane. At the top of the pullup, your chest should touch the bar and your hands so that your torso is roughly parallel with the floor.

2) Front Squat

Why You Should Be Doing It

There are MANY reasons why you should be doing front squats.

Front squats target the quads and glutes, help build overall mass and sweep in the quads and help with detail in the glute/hamstring tie in.

The front squat engages your quads to a greater degree because of the more upright body positioning required. With front squats there is also less chance of injury to your back and knees. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning proved it. According to this peer reviewed study, concluded that the front squat was as effective as the back squat in terms of overall muscle recruitment, with significantly less compressive forces and extensor moments. Bottom line: the study suggests that front squats may be advantageous compared with back squats for individuals with knee problems such as meniscus tears, and for long-term joint health. It is also impossible to do the movement incorrectly. Unlike back squats where many people lean forward incorrectly, and also put themselves at risk for injury, it is impossible to lean forward excessively while front squatting.

How to do It

In a power rack, place the bar across your front deltoids (shoulders) with your forearms crossed in front of you and hands gripping the bar. Unrack the bar, step back, and begin the set standing straight up with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your elbows pointed straight ahead, not downward.

Keeping a slight arch in your lower back, squat down over your heels, keeping your elbows up, until your thighs reach parallel with the floor. Press up through your heels until your knees are extended but not locked out.

3) Floor Dumbbell Press (also can use a barbell)

Why You Should Be Doing It

There are MANY reasons to add floor presses to your chest workout.

Decreases Range of Motion and Shoulder Pain - The most important reason you should floor press is because it takes stress and strain off the shoulder joints. I don’t know any weightlifter powerlifter who’s lifted heavy for years who hasn’t had an ache, pain or tweak around the shoulders. Even if you’ve mastered bench pressing technique, you can still get beat-up if you’re constantly going heavy. I myself have already had 2 shoulder surgeries (one on each side), and I am in need of a total shoulder replacement on my right side.

Isolates the Chest Muscles. When you floor press (versus bench press), you really target and isolate the upper body. Leg drive and lat engagement is minimized with a floor press, forcing you to overload the big pressing muscles of the upper body such as the pecs, shoulders and triceps.

Helps overload the triceps without putting undue stress on the elbow joints.

Decreases Stress on the Lower Back - Many people complain that the bench press irritates their lower back, and even if you do not arch, there is a reason why. When you set-up on a bench press you increase the natural curve or arch in your lower back. If you have poor mobility in your upper back (thoracic spine) or in your hips (poor hip extension), this cranks up the pressure on your lower back further. Floor presses (either with the legs straight, or knees bent) reduces extension through your lower back and can keep you pressing even if you have lower back issues.

How to do It

Lay on the floor holding dumbbells in your hands. Your knees can be bent. Begin with the weights fully extended above you.

Lower the weights until your upper arm comes in contact with the floor. You can tuck your elbows to emphasize triceps size and strength, or to focus on your chest angle your arms to the side.

Pause at the bottom, and then bring the weight together at the top by extending through the elbows.

4) Crush-Grip Dumbbell Bench Press

Want to set your chest on fire? Try Crush-Grip Dumbbell Bench Presses. The “crush-grip” is simply pressing both dumbbells against each other throughout the entire movement.

Why You Should Be Doing It

This exercises forces your chest muscles to deal with applying force both horizontally (“crushing” dumbbells) and vertically (pressing dumbbells) which allows for greater muscle activation and contraction! The neutral grip will also take off some pressure of the shoulder when doing this exercise. This is advisable for people who suffer from shoulder impingement.

How to do It

Lie down on a bench and bring the dumbbells above your chest – Keep your palms facing each other (neutral grip) and bring the dumbbells together; aligning them so that weight plates touch each other.

Position your arms in line with your shoulders and slightly bend your elbows.

Squeezing your chest, press the dumbbells against each other as hard as you can.

Maintaining the “crush-grip” lower the dumbbells down about an inch off your chest.

Immediately bring the dumbbells back up and contract your chest at the top for a second.

Keep the rep speed slow, increasing the time under tension (TUT)

5) The Biceps Ladder

Why You Should Be Doing It

The biceps ladder is a great movement for extending the time under tension (TUT) while enabling maximal contractibility of both biceps heads. It also emphasizes the negative part of each rep to promote more muscle micro trauma (and subsequent growth) compared to other movements. To understand the value and the power of employing TUT principles into your training, read more here:

How to do It

This movement is best performed on a power rack or a Smith machine. Set bar at a level low enough for you to fully extend the arms, with your back just clear of the floor. Begin by grasping the bar with an underhand grip, arms fully stretched; then contract your biceps while curling your upper body to the bar until it touches your forehead.

Squeeze hard at the top, and then slowly lower back down to starting position.

After completing as many reps as possible from this position, raise the bar a notch and immediately complete another set to failure.

Continue in this fashion until you reach the farthest notch.

6) Spider curl (AKA: the Larry Scott curl)

The spider curl is so named after the eight-legged bench it was originally performed on. It was popularized by the first-ever Mr. Olympia winner, Larry Scott, who rocked unmatched biceps during his time, and as such the exercise is also known as the Larry Scott Curl. Why is the move so great when it comes to building boulder biceps? The movement helps to lengthen the long head to promote greater fullness while building the short head to create more biceps width.

How to do It

The spider curl uses the conventional preacher bench, but in an unconventional way! When you do a spider curl the padding that is usually used to support your upper arms is used to support your stomach.

To set up for the spider curl you need to either turn the arm padding around 180 degrees, or position yourself at the front of the bench facing the seat.

Grab a barbell and hold it with an underhand false (thumbs under) grip around shoulder width apart.

Position yourself with your stomach on the padding and arms hanging off the high side.

Keep your eyes facing forward and in a slow and controlled motion slowly curl the weight up as far as possible.

Squeeze the biceps, pause, and then slowly lower the weight while always keeping the tension on your biceps throughout set.
Repeat for desired reps.

7) Seated Reverse Grip Overhead Triceps Extension

Why You Should Be Doing It

In most people’s tricep routine the long head of the triceps tends to get neglected primarily. The long head responds best to heavy loads and overhead movements, which people often leave out of their arm routines. This is why the seated overhead extension is my go-to move for bringing up the long head and creating impressive large and full triceps

How to do It

Sit on a low-back seat or bench and hold an EZ-curl bar overhead with your arms extended and an underhand grip (palms and forearms facing behind you) inside shoulder width.

Keeping your upper arms stationary and your elbows in tight, bend your arms to slowly lower the bar until your elbows reach 90 degrees of flexion.

Contract your triceps to extend your elbows to full lockout at the top.

Repeat for the desired number of reps.

8) Reverse-Grip Tricep Pressdown

Why You Should Be Doing It

If you want great triceps, you should never neglect the medial head. These exercises help target the medial head.

How to do It

Start by setting a bar attachment (straight or e-z) on a high pulley machine.

Facing the bar attachment, grab it with the palms facing up (supinated grip) at shoulder width.

Lower the bar by using your lats until your arms are fully extended by your sides. Tip: Elbows should be in by your sides and your feet should be shoulder width apart from each other. This is the starting position.

Slowly elevate the bar attachment up as you inhale so it is aligned with your chest. Only the forearms should move and the elbows/upper arms should be stationary by your side at all times.

Then begin to lower the cable bar back down to the original staring position while exhaling and contracting the triceps hard.

Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

Variation: This exercise can also be performed with a single handle using one arm at a time. This will allow you to better isolate the triceps. With this version you can self spot yourself by placing your hand over your forearm and applying some pressure to help you perform more reps than before.

About the Author Jeff Behar

Jeff Behar, MS, MBA, is a well-known author, champion natural bodybuilder, and a recognized health, fitness and nutrition expert with over 30 years of experience in the health, fitness, disease prevention, nutrition, and anti-aging fields. As a recognized health, fitness and nutrition expert, Jeff Behar has been featured on several radio shows, TV, and in several popular bodybuilding publications such as Flex, Ironman and in several highly regarded peer reviewed scientific journals. Jeff Behar is also the CEO and founder and, a staff writer at and the current Medical Commentator on Exercise for the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M), the world's largest medical anti-aging organization comprised of 26,000-plus member physicians, health practitioners, scientists, governmental officials, and members of the general public, representing over 120 nations.

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