If you have access to a gym, or have a good barbell set at home, then you could definitely build some serious muscle with the exercises demonstrated in this video by Mike Chang, the creator of Six Pack Shortcuts. That said, I do want to draw some attention to a couple of his recommendations that have me scratching my head over here, which is more common than you might think.
Mike Chang’s Top Muscle Building Exercises
So, this collection of exercises is meant for building “mass, strength, and size.” And, upon first glance, I’d have to agree with the assessment that these exercises, in general, are well-suited for that goal. However, there are some important issues at stake here that shouldn’t go unmentioned.
First things first, what do I like about this list and the tips in the video? Well, for starters, Mike recommends doing these exercises for three sets of eight reps, which is a classic muscle building routine that works (at least for awhile because nothing works forever, right?). Also, the majority of these exercises are compound movements, meaning that they involve at least two working joints. Thus, these compound exercises recruit a lot of musculature and can be used to build significant strength, and consequently, muscle mass. Good show. And finally, I’m very glad to see exercises like deadlifts and squats included in this list, which are largely considered the kings of all muscle building exercises. I probably would have sworn away Mike Chang forever if they weren’t on this list. But WHY Smith machine squats? More on that in a minute.
Now, all that said, the critic in me would like you to know the following…
The bench press… oh my GOSH? Did you just say that? And did you just start your “Top 7 Muscle Gaining Exercises” video by recommending the bench press first? Seriously? Talk about cliché. Every guy in every health club in America just got validation for participating in bench press Monday every single week (and Bench Press Tuesday, and Wednesday, and…). Now, I know that these exercises aren’t necessarily listed in order of effectiveness, but gimme a break!
Also, the Smith machine… come again? Since when has the Smith machine been the best equipment option for anything outside of rehabilitation and extermely specific conditioning attribute enhancement (for sporting or vocational purposes). But maybe I’m speaking a little above my pay-grade here…
Let me give it to you straight. The Smith machine is a great machine for the right purpose, but given that the barbell travels along a fixed path, and cannot deviate from that path, this seriously limits the musculature involved in any Smith machine exercise. In simple terms, Smith machine exercises generally don’t recruit the same amount of musculature (and strength) because they don’t require nearly as many stabilizer muscles to control the barbell. That’s a dumbed-down version of the explanation, but it gets the point across. Talk to any old-school weightlifter if you don’t believe me, and they’ll probably give you an earful about it.
Now, this next one might come as a surprise, but personally, I couldn’t possibly include ANY type of bicep curls or tricep extensions in a list of the best muscle building exercises. I’m sorry. I just can’t. But it could be argued that that’s what people want to hear. They want that validation.
But listen here. If you want bigger, stronger arms. Then you need to quit the isolation exercises (unless you’re an advanced trainee or competitive bodybuilder), and stick with the big money-makers: compound exercises. Do presses and pulls from different angles. Lift, carry, and swing heavy things, and you’ll have a couple of cannons in no time (figuratively speaking).
So, bent-over rows, shrugs, and military presses are all great exercises in that regard. And I would definitely say they’re all good for muscle gaining purposes. To be fair, I think the technique demonstrated in some of those could be seriously improved – particularly in military presses and tricep extensions which weren’t done through a full range of motion. And it was hard to tell from the angle of the video, but it appeared that Mike may have had a seriously arched spine while doing the Smith machine squats, but I can’t be sure. So, my advice is to take this list – pick and choose the exercises that are most suitable/interesting to you, and then study up on the technique on how to do them properly.
Now, I think my favorite part of this video was when Mike tells us that he’s a lot stronger when he’s not demonstrating exercises on camera. Priceless! And in all seriousness, come on buddy – grow up. If you’re delivering good, valuable info that can really help people, then we really don’t care how much you can or can’t lift, and you shouldn’t care what we think either. We’re all on our own journey’s strength-wise, bud. What we do care about is how you can help us and others with your knowledge and skills as a trainer.
Speaking of which, Mike most certainly can help you (if you’re the right kind of person), and you can find out how in my complete Review of Six Pack Shortcuts. I know – shameless plug.