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Muscle Building Exercises/Workouts Articles Database Articles by Writer Articles Written by Anthony Ellis Muscle Building Exercises/Workouts

My Favorite Mass Building Exercises

In a previous article, I listed some basic compound that are essential for building mass.

Here they are again:

  • Bench Presses (works the chest, shoulders, tricep)
  • Overhead Presses (shoulders, triceps)
  • Pull-ups/Barbell Rows (back, biceps)
  • Squats (legs, lower back)
  • Deadlifts (legs, back, shoulders)
  • Bar Dips (shoulders, chest, arms)

There are endless variations of these exercises, and all will build mass as long as you train heavy and lift with proper form. Unfortunately, many people will think that by simply lifting as much as possible, they will grow. This increase in weight is usually accompanied by bad exercise form. Anyone can lift more weight by cheating, but that's not helping. More weight and bad form does not equal more muscle, it equals injuries and wasted time! Only more weight and proper form equals more muscle stimulation and growth. If you can't do the reps with proper form, then decrease the weight and do them right!

My favorite overall mass builders are Squats and Deadlifts. Unfortunately, these are the least performed and most misunderstood exercises. Many believe that they are bad for your knees or back, which is of course not true. In fact, squats will help to strengthen your knees and deadlifts will help to strengthen your lower back if done correctly. That's the key. Proper form is required, or you WILL get injured. Whether you use these exercises or not, is your choice, but without them, you are limiting your potential progress, as they are proven mass builders. Below I will describe the correct way to perform these movements, but if you are still unsure, it's best to start out with very light weight until the exercise feels comfortable and you are able to do the exercise correctly.




Much of the negative comments about deadlifts are also due to ignorance and people using bad form. It simply involves squatting down, picking up the barbell on the floor in front of you, and standing straight up with it.

Start with a weighted barbell that is resting on the floor, or an elevated platform. Next, step up to the bar and assume a narrower than shoulder width stance with your toes pointed slightly outward. Get your shins as close to the bar as possible (this gives you more leverage and makes sure that you are lifting straight up). Now grab the bar with an overhand grip. But remember you are not lifting with your arms, just holding the bar with them.

Keeping your shoulders back, chest out, head forward and back slightly arched, stand straight up with the bar while you exhale. Keep the bar as close to your body as possible. As you rise, straighten your knees and hip simultaneously. Once at the top, do not arch your back! You should pause, take another breath, and slowly lower the weight in the same manner, while exhaling. Once the weight lightly touches the floor, you will begin the next rep. Never slam the weight on the floor!

When starting out doing deadlifts, concentrate on form and use lighter weights and high reps until your lower back and shoulder muscles have developed enough for heavier weights. You may also have trouble using heavier weights until you develop sufficient grip strength. Make sure you are warmed up and loose before performing this exercise. Concentrate on stretching your groin, hips, hamstrings and quads.






The best way to do squats is on a power rack or cage. This enables you to adjust the safety bars to your desired height. These bars are there to stop the weight from falling to the floor if you fail to press it back up. Set them just below your desired squat depth. Now change the height of the bar hooks. Be careful not to set the bar too high or low, because it will be difficult to remove it from the hooks when you are squatting a lot of weight. Anywhere in your mid-upper chest area is a good level.

Now step up, and place your head and upper shoulders under the bar. To make sure you lift the bar in the middle, aim for the etched middle part of the bar. The majority of the bar weight should rest on your trapezius muscles (not your neck or spine). If the bar is uncomfortable to hold, don't worry: this will go away as your upper body gains more mass and your body gets accustomed to carrying weights in this fashion. In the meantime, you can use one of the bar pads. [Note: Using any type of pad on the bar with heavy weights is dangerous because the bar could easily slip off your shoulders, or become unbalanced.]

Next, lift the bar off the hooks and step away. Before you begin the actual squat, make sure you have the correct foot placement. Ideally, your feet should be slightly wider than shoulder width, with your toes pointing out at a slight angle.

The actual movement is just as if you were squatting straight down from a standing position. Without any weight or a bar, you could probably go straight down or up without changing the angle of your torso. But to keep balanced with weights, you must lean forward. As you begin to squat, your knees bend out in line with your toes, and your torso will begin to bend forward slightly to stay balanced. As you do, always remember to keep your chest out and back arched slightly, it kind of looks as if you are sitting down on a chair that is behind you. It forces you to stick your butt out, but that's normal. Do not hunch over, or look down as you squat. These movements will take your spine out of alignment and possibly injure your back.

When squatting, do not let your knees bow inward. This is very dangerous. Your knees should always bend outward over your toes. If you cannot control this, you should lighten your poundage until your strength increases.

Your aim is to go down until your thighs are parallel (or just short of) to the ground. This is lower than you think. Some guys do mini-squats where they don't go down very far at all (wasting their time), and others go down all the way (only necessary for power lifters). Just try to get as close to parallel as you can. Once at the bottom, don't bounce. Keep your back arched and just press straight up from your heels. As you stand, concentrate on thrusting your hips back in line.

When starting out doing squats, concentrate on form and use light weights until your torso and lower back muscles have developed enough for heavier weights. Knee wraps and weight belts are not necessary when first starting out. They are used to stabilize small knee and lower back muscles when lifting very heavy weights. If you use them, they will impede the necessary development of these muscles.

Do not put anything under your heels while squatting; it can hurt your knees. Make sure you are warmed up and loose before performing this exercise. Prior to your workout, concentrate on stretching your groin, hips, quads and especially your hamstrings and calves. Most people injure their backs doing squats because of tight hamstrings.

Exercise images and instructions are taken from my muscle gain book:
"Gaining Mass! Weight training and dieting for accelerated growth."


Anthony Ellis
The Skinny Guy's Muscle Gain Site!


Stay Strong,

Anthony Ellis

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