It’s important to implement a workout regimen that strengthens the most important areas of your body as efficiently as possible. That’s the key to muscle gain and fat loss, regardless of your fitness goals.
Whether you’re working with barbells or your own bodyweight, we highly recommend at least a moderate amount of cardiovascular exercise along with a compound bodybuilding program that hits your chest, back, core, and legs. After all, you don’t want to be that guy or girl who does bicep curls in the squat rack for hours on end with nothing to show for it other than a bruised ego. (You don’t do curls in the squat rack, do you?)
Here are five underrated exercises that can bring out the beast within you:
Barbell Low Bar Squats
When performed with a full range of motion, the barbell low bar squat will not only strengthen your legs, core, and back but release hormones that facilitate growth all over your entire body. Many muscles work together simultaneously: Though your legs and core are doing most of the lifting, your upper body is working to keep the bar stable on your shoulders.
Get under the bar and position it onto your upper back; your back will support most of the weight, and your hands will simply be along for the ride. Turn your feet out at a slight angle and keep them flat on the floor. Remember to keep a neutral spine throughout the entire movement and keep your head in line with your torso.
Once you’ve cleared the rack, squat below parallel — think of sitting back onto a chair. Push your knees to the side and make sure they don’t go past your toes. Return to the starting position and repeat for five sets of five reps to build big, strong legs.
Rowing is a great low-impact cardiovascular exercise that can work out your entire body. U.S. Olympic rowing coach Mike Teti touts the benefits of rowing because it requires “equal effort from both your lower and your upper body, which could lead to greater gains in overall cardiovascular fitness.”
Simply position a bar to waist height or adjust two rings accordingly. Grab the bar with your palms facing away from you and pull yourself to the bar, making sure that it touches your chest on every rep, as if you’re doing a push-up in reverse. Lower yourself back down and repeat.
There are three things that are certain in life: death, taxes, and the presence of all kinds of heavy objects that you may need to lift off the ground. Nothing helps you do that and builds power all over your body quite like the deadlift, which is a staple of military organizations such as the United States Army Rangers and many professional athletes like Stephen Curry. According to Business Insider, the NBA MVP can deadlift more than twice his own body weight.
Start by positioning yourself in the middle of the bar and gripping the handles to your sides. Your arms should stay locked and motionless throughout the movement because your legs and back will be the main movers. Keep a neutral spine, making sure that your head stays in line with your torso, and ensure that your knees track your feet throughout the entire exercise rather than collapsing inward.
Next, lift your chest and simply stand up with the bar in your hands. Whether you’re working with a barbell or a hex bar, protect your upper body by refraining from shrugging or leaning back at the top of the movement. Return to the starting position and repeat.
Just about every elite military and law enforcement organization in the world uses pull-ups to gauge the mettle of prospective recruits, and that’s because there are few exercises that can do more for your upper body. The legendary Arnold Schwarzenegger did at least 50 to failure on his back days, dividing them up among as few sets as possible, to toughen up his lats and shoulders. Best of all: It can be done almost anywhere.
Position yourself under a high bar and simply pull yourself upward using only your upper body muscles without swinging your legs to assist you. Use different grips to target different muscles: Wider-grip pull-ups can help build a bigger, wider back, closer-grip pull-ups can toughen up your forearms.
If you’re new to pull-ups, you can either perform lat pull-downs using a machine or perform the movement with a buddy holding your lower legs to make things easier.