Building mass with only 4 exercises sounds too good to be true, but when done right, these four exercises can hit the optimal number of muscle fibres to achieve an overall bigger look.
Squats come in many shapes and forms. By slightly altering your stance, the start and end position of your squat, the range, reps and amount of weight you lift, squats are far more diverse than many people realise.
In the spirit of keeping things simple, go with the standard squat, for which you will need a squat rack, barbell and all the weight you can handle. Sound obvious? Well, once you have mastered your technique and are comfortable in your ability, working the reps might not be enough. You need to go heavy once a week to build your strength, but we’ll get into that in a moment.
Deadlifting is your first stop for building bigger hamstrings. A correctly executed deadlift will bear the weight in your hamstrings while strengthening your posterior chain, back and shoulders. There are many popular variations that could work your hamstrings in different ways. Using a trap bar you will shift some of the weight, making it harder to cheat, down your centre for an upward thrust. Or you could try the ‘clean deadlift’, which involves a wider grip and footing so that you lift from lower on the ground, thus putting your glutes and hamstrings to greater use.
The leg press is a friend to all who have trouble balancing, an injury or want the gains without working the auxiliary muscles associated with deadlifts and squats. It’s far from an isolating exercise still, as you’ll be working several muscles with each press.
This is a perfect exercise for mass builders because you will be able to press a considerably greater volume of weight than you would be able to squat or deadlift. One hand washes the other: by developing your strength (and mass) with the leg press, you will also contribute to your squatting ability.
If it’s the mass look you’re going for, compound lifts are the way to go. However, to really pump up your quads at the end of a leg day workout, increase the weight and lower the reps on the leg extension machine. Better yet, work one leg at a time. Isolating exercises are not usually the best way to build mass, nor the healthiest for your joints, but combined with compound lifts you can isolate your thighs (or hamstrings with leg curls) for greater gains. Note that without heavy-weighted compound lifts, leg curls and extensions will not be as effective with long-term strength and mass building.
Tips For Mass
Of course, nutrition is key. If you want the size you will need to consume the fuel to get you there. You will need the mass to work with.
There are a few other variables you can play around with to achieve mass gains. As touched on before, you should focus on a heavyweight. We’re talking 80 percent upwards of your one-rep maximum potential. (If you can squat 100kg, work at a minimum of 80 kg). You want to focus on full-range reps to hit as many muscle fibres as possible. To do so, breaking up your reps into more sets so that you have more recovery time in between. A good starting point is 5 sets of 5 reps. Each time you find this comfortable enough, increase the weight and lower the reps until you are able to do 5 reps of that. Repeat. (This could take weeks, and won’t happen overnight).
Partial reps can help by strengthening and developing the muscles that they target. Partial reps won’t build mass the same as they won’t hit the same volume of muscle fibres, but they can assist full range reps in the longer run. The same goes for the aforementioned extensions and curls; they won’t get you there alone, but combined with compound lifts they can definitely support a longer term plan (not to mention pumping them up for an immediate aesthetic mass look).