Exercise selection is a key element in getting the most from your training.
First you must train in a manner specific to your goals. Then you must make sure it gets harder over time. That means you adhering to the principles of progressive overload. After that you can begin to fine tune things.
Once you have established your overall training structure you then need to begin building your training programme based on the most effective exercises for you. This is one of the key areas where individualisation comes in.
What is best for you might not be the best for your training partner. You need to consider your individual leverages when selecting the exercises which will form the cornerstone of your training. Click To Tweet
This is even more crucial for the long-limbed lifters amongst you.
I’m sure you are well aware of the “big 3“of squat, bench and deadlift. These are great exercises which can pack slabs of muscle onto your frame. Many people claim they are all you need to develop and impressive physique. Unfortunately, these guys are often short, with barrel chests and T-Rex arms. However, many people (especially taller lifters) find benching bothers their shoulders and that they aren’t built to back squat or perform conventional deadlifts.
For that reason, I urge you not to follow the dogmatic view that you must squat, bench, and deadlift to build a better body.
While the fundamental movement patterns are required these exact exercises are not.
The rise in popularity of raw powerlifting means the internet is awash with compelling arguments stating that all you have to do to build size and strength is the big 3. The guys promoting this concept are often big and strong, so the argument is quite persuasive. Unfortunately, this dogmatic approach has led many a well-intentioned trainee to become beat up, burnt out, injured and de-motivated.
The risk of this is even higher if you are long-limbed!
To avoid hurting yourself and your gains I suggest you pick the variants of these lifts that best suit you and make them the foundation of your training. Doing so will allow you to progressively overload your body with big weights, while placing tension across many muscles. That’s a win, win for hypertrophy!
How to Pick Your Big 3
When it comes to choosing your big 3 with the goal of building as much muscle as possible, you should ask yourself the following question…
Based on my structure, training and injury history, if I could only do four exercises, what would I pick to develop the most muscular version of me?
To help you answer the above question, use this tip I picked up from my buddy Andrew Heming. Exercises which meet the following criteria will provide you with the most training bang for your buck and keep risk of injury to a minimum:
- They train a large area of muscle mass
- They do not increase injury risk or irritate your joints
- They are exercises you feel comfortable and confident performing with good form
- They stimulate the muscle you are aiming to target
- They have scope for you to continually progress the amount of weight and/or reps you can do on them in the long-term
By picking exercises which meet the above criteria, you will maximize training efficiency. This allows you to provide your body with an effective training stimulus while using fewer total exercises. As a result, you maximize your results and minimize the demand on your recovery capacity.
To give you an idea of how this looks for me my go to picks would be:
Bench Variants – Floor Press or Incline Bench Press
Squat Variants – Front squat or Trap Bar Deadlift (yes deadlifts in the name, but the movement pattern is more akin to a squat whilst holding the weight in your hands)
Deadlift Variants – Conventional deadlift or RDLs (you cold place trap bar deadlifts in here too)
Note.Box squats can be very useful for tall guys. As can goblet squats if you are relatively new to training and not that strong.
You’ll noticed that I mentioned two for each category in my selections. The reason for this is that after several months of striving for progress on these performance will eventually stall and progress will grind to a halt. This is due to the law of diminishing returns. As a result, by having an alternate choice for my big 3 I can rotate on to that one for the next few months. Make progress on the variant which has been substituted in and re-sensitize myself to the effects of the original variant. Thus, when it is re-introduced into my program I can make progress again. This is the concept of directed variation and leads me onto my next point about keeping yourself injury free.
Put your indicators on!
Make Your Big 3 Indicator Lifts.
What is an indicator lift?
Put simply, they are an indicator of your progress. You need to have a consistent indicator of progress to assess the effectiveness of your program.
Remember, there is no such thing as the perfect training program.
Actually, that’s a lie…
There is a perfect program for you, at any given moment in time. Gradually you will adapt to this. Then perfect program is the one you aren’t doing. You will need to tweak your sets, reps, rest periods, tempos, training frequency etc. to keep progressing. However, as long as progress is occurring there is no need to change.
Also, you don’t want to change everything at once because then, you don’t know what has worked of the changes.
You need some elements to be consistent. These act as a barometer of progress.
Instead of program hopping every week here is what you should do…
…Pick your big 3 movements.
These will act as your indications of progress. In fact, just call them indicator lifts.
If your indicator lifts are making consistent progress over time then you are on track.
Build your foundation on these lifts and then…
…add the fun stuff…
…add some variety, change rep ranges, hit different angles, points of the strength curve, use accommodating resistance etc.
Put your big rocks first…Add this stuff in after your indicator lifts (the big rocks).
Then get creative.
This allows you to experiment and keep your training interesting while being sure you are still progressing.
A physique is built on a foundation of the basics. This probably takes care of 80% of your muscle gain. Invest most of your time on these.
Stressing too much about what position your arm is relative to your body to best target the long head of the biceps is most likely to just cause you excess stress and jack up cortisol when you’d be better served doing the basics exceptionally well. Namely eating, resting and getting brutally strong on your big 3.
If you are a long-limbed lifter who wants a full program incorporating this principles then, pick up my Max Muscle Bundle.
You get a periodised 12-week training plan and an auto-correcting macro calculator nutrition plan for only £14.99.