By: Remco Vervloed - Gym101
It doesn't matter what gym you walk into the squat, deadlift and benchpress are always occupied. The first thing I think is "oh...they must be powerlifters". Also all the fitfluencers on social media seem to be fans of these exercises. It seems like they can't do anything else. But no, they squat, deadlift and bench for muscle growth. Because, they say, it is the basis of fitness and if you want to create mass you MUST do them. Well NO...
The squat, deadlift and benchpress actually suck when it comes to muscle growth. The idea of muscle growth is to fail the muscle you actually want to train. By that I mean, train your biceps, you want to give up because your biceps has experienced maximum tension. Not your forearm, not your shoulders and not your neck. No your biceps!
The squat is a heart-healthy movement pattern to train. A movement that is common on a daily basis. Many muscles work together, your heart and lung function are put to the test, and you create a lot of tension in your trunk rigidity and core muscles. But for muscle growth, it's not the best choice. No matter how you perform the squat, it is always a quadriceps dominant exercise. As I said above, muscle growth comes down to creating as much tension as possible in the muscle you actually want to train. So in the case of the squat, failure on your quadriceps. And no one, no one, including you can fail on the quadriceps when squatting. The exercise is so complex that you are more likely to fail on technique, fatigue and not keeping your trunk stiff than on your quadriceps.
So what are better choices for muscle growth in the quadriceps?
Think is a leg press, or better yet a leg extension. Instantly full tension on the quadriceps.
Actually a bit of the same story as with the squat. A great movement pattern to train. The deadlift is also a common daily movement. Many muscles work together again and your heart lung function is also put to the test with the deadlift while you build up a lot of tension in your trunk and core muscles. For the average athlete, the deadlift is used to train the hamstring and gluteal muscles. But just like the squat, you won't be able to fail on those muscles but will rather fail on technique, heart lung function and fatigue in the trunk. Another lousy exercise for muscle growth.
So what are better choices for muscle growth in the hamstring and buttock?
Again, think about direct tension on the muscles. So for the hamstring, a leg curl or better yet a lying leg curl would be good options. For the glute, a hip thrust would be a good choice.
With the benchpress, things are a little different. The exercise is less complex and you will find it easier to build tension in the muscle you want to train, the pectoral muscle. But why is this also a poor choice for muscle growth? If we look at the movement that the pectoral muscle makes in this case, it is from stretched arm up with the biceps as close to the chest as possible to the elbows down as far below the body as possible without the front shoulder head coming up. And that's where the problem is. You're holding a fixed bar and so you can never train the pectoral muscle in its full movement. You can't get the biceps against the chest and the elbows far enough below the body with a fixed bar. Then you can think, okay I'll grab the bar narrower but then you're making too much elbow stretch which makes the triceps do the majority of the movement. Also not the best for good pectoral muscle tension.
So what is a better choice as a chest exercise?
How about a dumbbell press. The dumbbell press allows you to train the pectoral muscle in its full movement. You can bring the dumbbells together in the upper position and get the biceps closer to the chest and in the lower position get the elbows further below the body. If the body allows it. You can also have the dumbbells go in one motion that just fits your anatomy a little better since it's not a set pattern of motion.
With this article, I don't mean to say that you can't squat, deadlift and bench press from now on. Absolutely not. I just want to make it clear that there are better choices for muscle growth and that if you want to fully train these muscles you will need to program more exercises than just these three. And try not to pay too much attention to the fitfluencers for a moment. They too train more than just the squat, deadlift and benchpress.
Would you like to improve your technique for certain exercises, build muscle or lose weight? Please contact me and I will be happy to help you! www.gym101.nl