T Nation

The Big 6 Compound Exercises


Okay, from what I gather these are the major compound exercises for attaining mucho muscle mass.

1.Barbell Bench Press -> chest, front delts, triceps

2.Barbell Bent-Over Row -> lats, biceps

3.neutral-grip Chin-ups -> lats, biceps

4.Weighted Dips (torso upright) -> chest, front delts, triceps

5.Deadlift -> posterior chain

6.Squat -> quads, glutes

**I know dumbbell rows hit the rear delts if you perform the exercise with your 'elbows out' however, I'm doing refering to the 'traditional' bent-over row

Now my question is:

  1. Won't just doing these exercises leave the middle deltoid and the rear deltoid underdeveloped?

  2. Am I going to have to add an assistance exercise to target the middle and rear deltoid?

Any feedback would be appreciated.. I'm looking to start the ABHP program by Mr. Waterbury in a couple of weeks, and these factors concerned me.




the medial delts should be fine, but after a while, you'll probably want to incorporate some overhead pressing, besides, doing the same 6 exercises every workout would get old rather quickly.


do some military presses and upright rows for shoulders.


ah.. so substitute dumbbell presses for the dips and maybe close-grip bench presses for the bench press? (in order to work triceps since dips are superior to push presses in targeting triceps)


Your rear delts will get hit when you do bent rows and chins.


No. Add them, don't substitute them. You can't do only 6 lifts, you'll burn your CNS out.


LoL, I don't do all six every workout.. like I said, I was refering to the ABHT of Mr. Waterbury :slight_smile:


Ah.. so any variation of the row and overhand/underhand/neutral grip pull-ups hit the rear delts?


I've gained about 20# in the last 8 months using almost all big compound lifts. Now, my anterior delts are comically disproportionate with the medial and posterior delts. For some people at least, direct shoulder work is definately needed to prevent this problem. Don't be afraid of using isolation exercises, just make sure most are compound (isn't this what CW has been saying in almost every article?)


To answer that, yes, but not to the same degree as it would with direct work. At least with my body mechanics, there is no way my post delts get the same level of stimulation from chins or rows that the anterior delts get from benching and military presses.


Like some other people have said, you need to get that bar overhead. Military presses will help to address that issue to some effect.

The other thing to consider: This is one of the trade-offs when limiting your exercise menu to only 6 items. The 6 moves you listed are top notch, absolutely, but so are power cleans, romanian deadlifts, turkish get-ups, and a few others.

It's just like eating food. You might only eat grilled chicken breast, canned tuna, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, almonds, and olive oil. Those are 6 great foods, but if that's all you're ever eating, it'll get real old, real fast. And you know you're leaving something out.

A few diffent coaches on T-Nation have different opinions of this. I wouldn't say you "have to". But as someone else said, it couldn't hurt, as long as it's done after the main course of compound moves.

Using a food analogy again (I'm hungry, waddayawant), as long as you eat a super-clean breakfast, lunch, and dinner (the serious compound exercises), you can have an indulgent dessert (like chocolate-covered dumbbell curls).


Replace dips with military press. Then you have a big 6.


How about power snatches?


::looking at your avatar:: Yeah, how 'bout 'em? :wink:


Well, I won't be doing these 6 forever.. I figure the first 3 weeks:
Sun: superset bench press + chin ups -> 10x3

Mon: Squats 5x10 + 1-2 assistance exercises

Wed: superset weighted dips + bent-over rows -> 5x10

Fri: Deadlifts 10x3 + 1-2 assistance exercises

Then after the first 3 weeks, I'll reverse the sets, e.g. bench + chins 5x10, squats 10x3, etc

And then after those six weeks.. I'm screwed cause I don't know what other exercises to do :stuck_out_tongue:

Heh, well said. Pure poetry. :slight_smile:


Out of curiosity, where'd you get this list?

Also the posterior head of the deltoid.

Also pull-ups and other variations. These also hit the posterior head of the deltoid.

A good exercise, but you could almost as easily substitute the bench press or vice versa. If you're limiting your exercise selection this much, you should (as other posters have noted) choose the military press. It works all three heads of the delts, the triceps, as well as the chest and back in a supporting role.

Note that these last two are where you should put the lion's share of your effort as they stimulate much larger muscle groups. Weight training is both systemic and localized. That is to say, if you stimulate a response by lifting heavy and compound, your body will grow muscle everywhere due to the hormonal and metabolic changes that occur. In other words, squat to make your biceps grow.

The rear delts are still involved to some degree.

Yes. It sounds like your overdevelopment has been due to concentrating too hard on benches and dips to me. Overhead presses, VARIOUS chins and VARIOUS rows are the solution, as well as heavy freakin' deadlifts.

Not unless you want to call a money exercise like the military press an "assistance exercise".

Hope this helps.

Dan "money exercise" McVicker



I've found that limiting my exercise selection has been one of the most beneficial things I could do. Now I cycle back on occasion, change rep and set formulas, and do other things to prevent burnout, but, IMO, changing exercises for the point of changing exercises is pointless. Otherwise, you never really have to adapt. After 4-6 weeks you get to a baseline level "plateau" and that's it. Then you change exercises to "mix it up" and your CNS has to learn a new motor pattern. (Where the smart solution is to cycle back a little and make another run at a bigger weight.)

So you mix it up, you get to the baseline on that, and six weeks later you're already on to the next thing. After a couple of years, you're confused why you haven't made any progress. It's because you haven't had any focus.

Did that make any sense?

Dan "focus" McVicker


If you do only 6 lifts forever and ever, you will burn out your CNS. Plain and simple. These 6 lifts are fantastic lifts, some of the best, but to limit yourself to only these 6 is asking for trouble. This is a central idea in Westside training.

And yes, they should form the core of your lifting routine, but these lifts exclusively? Not a good idea.


concerning CNS stimulation/stress manageament, exercise selection is the least of issues. actually, it's a non-issue.

the idea that Westside switches exercises to manage CNS stimulation/stressing is made up.