When I started training, I didn’t know any better than to go to the gym and do all the machine exercises and isolation movements that everyone else was doing. I figured that these would lead to fast muscle gains and that I would be huge in no time.
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My father knew this steroid-using Italian guy named Tony who owned a gym and was a competitive bodybuilder. He asked Tony to write a program for me and Tony obliged. I was bursting with excitement and thought this would be the key difference-maker that I was missing in my training.
So, I met with Tony at his gym one day, and in a scene that could have been straight out of an episode of The Sopranos, he drilled me with tons of questions about my muscle building workout program. I gave him a piece of paper with my workout routine outlined on it and he took a long and hard look at it.
Then he said: “Here’s whatcha gonna do. And I don’t want any arguments. You do dis and you’ll grow. Undastand me?”
“Yeah, of course. No problem.”
He pulled out a pad and wrote down my new training routine. It was packed with all the exercises I had seen in magazines that the top name bodybuilders were always shown doing. Stiff arm pullovers, concentration curls, leg extensions, cable flyes… you name it — they were there.
Ok, so, I took my new program and thanked Tony and left. Thus, I though that the following weeks would be an amazing time for me. I thought I would experience dramatic growth. Aah, I just knew it!
BUT, nothing happened!
This is why – because the exercises he wrote down suck. Also, the volume was too high for my (novice) recovery ability. If he had prescribed the right exercises, I might have experienced some gains at least.
My point he is that choosing the right exercises could be the difference between lightening fast muscle gains and absolutely no muscle gains. Regardless of how well thought out your workout program is, if you use the wrong exercises, it will be completely useless and even counterproductive. Even a so-so training program will yield some kind of results if you are using the right types of exercises. Therefore, exercise selection is one of the most cruscial components when training to build muscle.
So how do you select the best exercises?
The best mass-building exercises are always the multi-joint, free weight, compound exercises that use the most muscle mass throughout your body and allow you to go heavy on the weight.
These exercises are barbell squats, deadlifts, chin-ups, dips, overhead presses and barbell rows. If you are training to build muscle fast, the last thing you should ever waste your time with is using machines or isolation exercises. These exercises are great at producing that burning feeling that so many people love, which leads to a great pump, but they don’t do much to pack on massive size or build real functional strength. Thus, for a training to build muscle program they are of no value to you.