T Nation

The Basics of Muscle Building

When people talk about the basics in lifting, they usually refer to the Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift, and the Military Press or Rows…right? What I’m wondering is, why?

These “basics” should be called the muscle building “truths.” I would also add dips and pull ups to the list.

Anyway, how can you actually put on good mass without these lifts? Who is going to be able to gain appreciable mass with only iso movements? I think it’s safe to say that these “basic” lifts are necessary for every lifter’s program and more than that, they deserve the most attention.

I have a hard time believing anyone ever got big by neglecting those “basic” lifts and instead just did bicep and hamstring curls until they reached 8% body fat at 240 lbs…

In fact, it seems likely that a lot of skinny guys would make gains if they threw out all of their iso movements and instead just did the “basic lifts.”

Until recently, NO ONE MADE ANY DISTINCTION BETWEEN ISOLATION MOVEMENTS AND “BASIC MASS BUILDERS” as far as how a training program was structured. Everyone understood THAT IT WAS ALL NEEDED.

Personal trainers trying to sell books have made this overly complicated. Newbies who don’t have a clue have continued this misperception.

Who the hell do you know of that ONLY does isolation movements? It doesn’t happen. However, I see more than a few idiots ignoring all isolation movements and they don’t seem to be outgrowing anyone either.

You would think one quick look in the mirror would clear all of this up…but NOOOO.

You would think one glance at even this site as far as those who actually LOOK LIKE THEY LIFT WEIGHTS and the answer again is that the best physiques are built using a body split training strategy.

Maybe one day the rest of you will figure that out too.

Maybe not.

The term “basic mass builder” usually refers to the one exercise in your list of exercises for a certain body part that is generally associated with producing the most gains in size and strength. For chest, this often either dumbbell presses (many bodybuilders are moving away from only doing barbells for this) or barbell presses.

For back it may be bent over rows of some kind or deadlifts.

This shit is NOT complicated…unless you make it that way.

What are you talking about? Basics to gaining muscle is just a list of exercises?

Basics would be how to train, how to eat and how to manage it without screwing up. Exercise selection is just one of the secondary aspects. And for the record there’s not one single exercise that MUST, without exception, be performed in order to build muscle.

I know it’s great to read the Ultimate Exercise List, That One Perfect Training Program, Universe’s Greatest Diet and all…But that road was long ago paved and made it’s way into the dictionary: PROCRASTINATION. Don’t succumb to it, just get with something solid and do your best.

Well, you don’t have to tell me twice. I’ve gone from the guy you see in my pictures to something else entirely, over the last 5 months. How? Heavier lifting and better (more) eating.

I cringe when I see guys doing tricep pressdowns. Why not dips or bench? I just can’t understand it. One of the things I really, really agree with Waterbury on is the simple concept of choosing exercises with the most “loading potential.”

If you can put more weight on the bar or on the body, then you’ll be stimulating the muscle group in a big way. It seems pretty simple.

Prof X, what Iso movements do you usually use to supplement the big lift(s) within a muscle group? What would you do for chest, back, and arms, for example? Curls in the squat rack? :wink:

[quote]dhuge67 wrote:
I cringe when I see guys doing tricep pressdowns. [/quote]

Almost every exercise has it’s place. It’s obvious that some are much more effective than others and those should take a priority in a training routine. Just because someone is doing tricep pressdowns and not close-grip bench or heavy skullcrushers don’t think they haven’t already done them or are just variating from their normal routine.

[quote]dhuge67 wrote:
I cringe when I see guys doing tricep pressdowns. Why not dips or bench? I just can’t understand it. One of the things I really, really agree with Waterbury on is the simple concept of choosing exercises with the most “loading potential.”[/quote]

You minimalist people have to realize something. You will not get the same development and size with ONLY COMPOUND exercises as someone who’s doing BOTH.

News Flash!: nobody in the universe recommends doing only single-joint movements. Stop fighting some imaginary population of bodybuilders who only do isolation work. Short of the people who ‘just want to tone’ every single person with serious intention does bench presses and squats and rows. What can’t you understand?

[quote]E-man wrote:
dhuge67 wrote:
I cringe when I see guys doing tricep pressdowns.

Almost every exercise has it’s place. It’s obvious that some are much more effective than others and those should take a priority in a training routine. Just because someone is doing tricep pressdowns and not close-grip bench or heavy skullcrushers don’t think they haven’t already done them or are just variating from their normal routine.[/quote]

I still wonder though, about why someone would do pressdowns with maybe 15 lbs of resistance when they could be doing heavy dips.

Is the pressdown a necessary movement, even once in a while?

[quote]dhuge67 wrote:

I cringe when I see guys doing tricep pressdowns. Why not dips or bench?[/quote]

Uh, why not all of them? I do press downs. It is the first exercise I do for triceps to get more blood into the area. I personally consider it a warm up as my second exercise is usually what would be referred to as “a basic mass exercise” if someone were writing an article in a magazine. My second exercise is usually dips.

You are simply showing the same behavior I wrote about before. You look at people doing isolation movements and have thoughts of this being “wrong”. Why? What author made you think this way? Have you figured out that you are incorrect yet?

From the confrontation I had with Waterbury in the past, I can’t say I am impressed with his…thoughts as far as training.

[quote]
If you can put more weight on the bar or on the body, then you’ll be stimulating the muscle group in a big way. It seems pretty simple.[/quote]

So you actually believe that going heavy on triceps pressdowns won’t result in muscle growth? I do pressdowns on a lat pulldown machine. I have seen people do less weight on lat pulldowns than I use for triceps pressdowns. Are you saying this can’t be done or that my triceps get no benefit?

Here’s a tip…be careful about getting all of your training knowledge from one place…especially the place you seem to be getting all of yours.

[quote]
Prof X, what Iso movements do you usually use to supplement the big lift(s) within a muscle group? What would you do for chest, back, and arms, for example? Curls in the squat rack? ;)[/quote]

If this was a joke, I think you can look at me and tell that I lift heavy. Can the same be said of you?

[quote]dhuge67 wrote:

I cringe when I see guys doing tricep pressdowns. Why not dips or bench? I just can’t understand it. One of the things I really, really agree with Waterbury on is the simple concept of choosing exercises with the most “loading potential.”
[/quote]

How do you know he wasn’t doing dips or bench before he went to pressdowns? I agree it is bad to base your entire program around isolation exercises, but they definitely have their place.

Say my shoulders and chest are already pre-fatigued, why would I do close grip presses or dips for my triceps if the other links in the chain are already spent?

What if my triceps are a weak part of my pressing chain? I want to isolate my triceps and keep the pec and delt stimulation low so I can build up my triceps without the stronger muscles taking over and leaving my tris understimulated.

The basic compounds are good, but the isolation exercises have their purpose and place. Don’t diss 'em.

[quote]Majin wrote:
dhuge67 wrote:
I cringe when I see guys doing tricep pressdowns. Why not dips or bench? I just can’t understand it. One of the things I really, really agree with Waterbury on is the simple concept of choosing exercises with the most “loading potential.”

You minimalist people have to realize something. You will not get the same development and size with ONLY COMPOUND exercises as someone who’s doing BOTH.

News Flash!: nobody in the universe recommends doing only single-joint movements. Stop fighting some imaginary population of bodybuilders who only do isolation work. Short of the people who ‘just want to tone’ every single person with serious intention does bench presses and squats and rows. What can’t you understand?

[/quote]

Even the Great Chad once said not doing isolation exercises isn’t the right way to go. i believe it was most recently stated in his Art of Waterbury article, i think that was what it was called. Just stating this so you can’t fall back on"CW doesn’t do iso!!!" l8rz…

I agree with what is being said; iso movements have their place. No doubt about it.

However, I don’t think I’m imagining things when I say that there ARE people who do NOTHING BUT iso movements. They exist, I’ve seen them, and it’s frightening.

Prof X, the point I meant to make about tricep pressdowns was; if the triceps can receive optimum stimulation from the other exercises then are the iso movements that follow just “spinning the wheels?”

[quote]dhuge67 wrote:
I agree with what is being said; iso movements have their place. No doubt about it.

However, I don’t think I’m imagining things when I say that there ARE people who do NOTHING BUT iso movements. They exist, I’ve seen them, and it’s frightening.

Prof X, the point I meant to make about tricep pressdowns was; if the triceps can receive optimum stimulation from the other exercises then are the iso movements that follow just “spinning the wheels?”

[/quote]

The triceps are not receiving “optimal stimulation” from the other exercises because bodybuilders consider “OPTIMAL” to mean nearly every possible fiber in that target muscle has been worked, fatigued, and stimulated to grow. Dips are a great exercise, but they are not the ONLY exercise needed for full development of the triceps. I feel the long head of the triceps work more with cable pressdowns. I have no doubt that you don’t have a clue what head is working and generally didn’t care because Waterbury wrote that it didn’t matter.

What a way to go through life.

I don’t know what people you have seen ONLY doing isolation movements, but how about you avoid insulting my intelligence by pretending these people are the biggest trainers in the gym and LOOK LIKE BODYBUILDERS/WEIGHT LIFTERS.

I could personally care less what some 60 year old grandmother does in the gym for her pinky toe.

…the hell happened here…why is my post at the top and it says i started the thread…Mods!!!check this out, something happened.

I’m not trying to insult anyone’s intelligence, so I’m sorry if it came off that way, especially to you Prof X. Anyway, I thank you for your explanation.

However, you should also not just assume that I “go through life” with blinders on. I am here, trying to learn and figure things out. Trial and error, program and reprogram.

There are, I know, differences between going for maximum hypertrophy and strength. That difference can make the difference between what exercises become necessity. Obviously, I don’t want to be the 105 lb woman who can clean 200 lbs. I could care less about that sort of thing, so I do fall on the “bodybuilding” side of the fence.

I want to look bigger, but I also want to be stronger. For that reason, I am focusing on building a large base before I attempt to bodybuild like a Professor, or a scientist, or whoever.

I think you, Prof X, would agree that to build the large foundation for an eventually polished and finished building it would be best to focus on those basics. We can look at the “basic” lifts as if they are the steel beams for a big building. Tricep pressdowns might be the ligthing fixtures, so to speak…

[quote]dhuge67 wrote:

I think you, Prof X, would agree that to build the large foundation for an eventually polished and finished building would be to focus on those basics. We can look at the “basic” lifts as if they are the steel beams for a big building. Tricep pressdowns might be the ligthing fixtures, so to speak…[/quote]

You are thinking of this all wrong. I am not even sure if I can blame you for it considering what I have seen from one particular author. Your goal is to understand WHY you are doing what you do in the gym. Triceps pressdowns have been my first exercise FOR YEARS. I remember my first goal simply being to one day put the pin all of the way down the bottom of the stack. That was when I first started lifting seriously at a 24 Hour Fitness and the triceps cable machine only had 10 plates on it. I can now use the whole stack on all of those machines which is why I now use the lat pulldown for the movement. That means I am not just going through the motions and there isn’t one exercise that I do where I am just moving weight without focus on how heavy the weight is.

Someone has misguided you. It will be up to you whether you allow it to continue.

Yes, you want dips in your routine and yes, those are considered one of the exercises that help with the most development. However, if you think that triceps kickbacks won’t put large amounts of meat on the back of your arm, you are clueless.

Get away from the type of thinking you are doing now. The only thing wrong with isolation movements…is that some guys need something hate on so they can sell books.

Your opinions are interesting, Professor X. Your experience and knowledge is helpful and I’m inclined to now go and prove this particular author wrong, by trial and error.

I hope everyone on the site knows that just because someone is using a split routine to isolate muscle groups doesn’t mean they’re doing an isolated-lift-only workout.

[quote]FightingScott wrote:
I hope everyone on the site knows that just because someone is using a split routine to isolate muscle groups doesn’t mean they’re doing an isolated-lift-only workout.

[/quote]

I honestly think the comprehension around here is so bad that many DO believe just that.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
FightingScott wrote:
I hope everyone on the site knows that just because someone is using a split routine to isolate muscle groups doesn’t mean they’re doing an isolated-lift-only workout.

I honestly think the comprehension around here is so bad that many DO believe just that. [/quote]

Well, not me if that’s what you’re getting it. But you probably don’t mean me. Who knows though, since the comprehension is so bad…

I hate to go and throw another T-Nation contributors’s name out there but my Westside videos with Dave Tate as the subject sure seems to be hitting the triceps pressdowns and side raises pretty regularly.

I’m sure he even went so far as to hit his rear delts as well.

Funny thing is, the reason he adds those exercises in his routines is to increase hypertrophy so as to assist in powerlifting.

I’d like to rename “isolation” exercises. Maybe we should just call them “assistance” exercises, as in they “assist” in achieving your goals like hypertrophy, strength, aesthetic improvments etc. Would that help any?