Adding more muscle to your body isn’t just for macho guys who love to sweat and grunt in dank gyms. Men and women at every age and every walk of life are beginning to hear about the enormous health benefits of having more lean mass: more calories burned every day, more fat burned off, lower blood pressure, greater bone density – the list goes on and on. In short, muscle is youth!
I’m often asked what exercises will build muscle the fastest. As a general rule, it’s the exercises that allow you to lift the most weight. The following three exercises use the largest muscles in the body and I’m going to show you the Static Contraction technique for lifting the maximum weight possible and in a safe manner.
Squats are a good leg exercise if you don’t have access to a leg press. But the leg press stands alone as the single exercise where a human can hoist the most weight. Here is a method that will allow you to lift two or three times what you normally use on your leg workouts.The technique is called Static Contraction and is being used by thousands of athletes around the world.
Move the empty sled of a leg press to the top of its range and lock it into position with the safety stops. Load the press with double what you would normally press or triple what you would normally squat. Sit in the leg press machine and adjust the seat so your legs are within two or three inches of full extension. Press the sled up and try to hold it motionless for 5 seconds. Do not lock out – force your leg muscles to do the work. Adjust the weight so it is so heavy you can only hold it 5 seconds.
This exercise should feel as though it is at the limits of your exertion. That’s why the goal is to hold it 5 seconds. If you can hold the weight for much longer than 5 seconds it is too light. Stop the exercise, add more weight and try again.
Remember to make a note of what weight you lifted so that next time you perform this workout you can shoot for a ten percent increase. The progression from workout to workout is what adds the new muscle to your body. Keeping the weight the same each time will keep you on a plateau of no growth.
The muscles of the lower back are extremely strong. That is why the average person can deadlift hundreds of pounds. To maximize the muscle building benefit of the deadlift it is best to limit the range of motion to the top portion of the movement. This is the strongest range and allows you to use more weight.
Place the barbell in a power rack or on a Smith machine so that it rests just above your knees. Load the bar with 150% to 200% more weight than you would normally use on your full range deadlift. Using an overhand, shoulder-width grip lift the bar about 3 inches off the rack and hold it for 5 seconds. Keep your back straight and head up.
The first time you perform this exercise the weight will probably be too light and you’ll be able to hold the weight for more than 5 seconds. Just add more weight to the bar and try again until you are at maximum effort for 5 seconds.
Most people perform shrugs with dumbbells and in doing so they shortchange themselves enormously. The trapezius muscles of the shoulders are capable of hoisting enormous weight and they also provide the benefit of being a highly visible muscle group. A guy’s well developed traps are visible from across a crowded room. That can’t be said for most muscles.
After you perform the deadlift, leave the barbell set up in the power rack or Smith machine at a level just above your knees. If you don’t know how much you can hoist in this exercise, use the same amount you just used for the dead lift. Take an overhand grip on the bar and lift it off the rack. Let the weight hang from your straight arms, do not bend your elbows. Use your trapezius muscles to shrug the weight up an inch or two and hold it there. Don’t worry about making your shoulders touch your ears. The key to maximum growth stimulation is to use more weight and less range of motion. Again, the 5 hold is your guide as to whether the weight is heavy enough.
These three great exercises will not only add new muscle to the target muscle groups, they are demanding enough to trigger you body’s systemic anabolic state. That means that the other muscles you target in your other workouts will also respond better to the growth stimulus provided by those exercises. Make sure you are able to add more weight on each successive workout. If you can’t, just take a few days of extra recovery between workouts. Within three of these Static Contraction workouts you will feel and see the benefits of your new strength and lean muscle!