3 tips for strengthening your arms, chest, abs, hips, and shoulders

3 tips for strengthening your arms, chest, abs, hips, and shoulders

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AS MUCH AS you tell people that you go to the gym to stay young, feel great, and keep your blood pressure in check, you’re not kidding anybody-you want to get laid as much as is humanly possible, and you’ve noticed that guys who sport bodies carved out of granite do pretty well for themselves in that department. We’ve noticed, too. That’s why we put together a master plan for pumping up all the trophy muscles you love to show off­ and the ladies love to look at. Use the following as a guide to bigger arms, a buff­er chestchiseled abstoned hips, and broader shoulders. Fortunately, taking our workout advice will also improve your health along the way, but it’s your sex life that will be in the best shape ever.

Arms

Master the chinup: It’s the best arm-building exercise there is, bar none. What’s that about curls? Curl exercises have their place, but chinups allow you to lift more weight (think about it: a 40-pound dumbbell vs. your whole body)—and lifting more is the greatest contributor to muscle gains. To build bigger biceps, perform some variation of the chinup at least once per week. We like this one: Drape a towel over the bar and grab an end in each hand. Hang so that your palms face each other. Now pull yourself up as normal. The towel makes for a greater challenge to your gripping muscles, which will spur growth in your forearms as well as your biceps.

Tuck your elbows: When you bench press, take a narrow grip (so that your hands are about shoulder-width apart) and pull your elbows in close to your sides—as opposed to letting them point straight out away from your body. Keeping this tighter position will allow your triceps to take on more of the load, and that emphasis will make them grow. You’ll also be in a biomechanically stronger position, which means you can lift more weight.

Keep constant tension: Everyone does lying triceps extensions to isolate the tris, but almost no one gets the full benefit from the exercise. Start with the bar directly over your forehead when your arms are extended, rather than directly over your chest as most lifters do. Maintain the position as you lower the bar behind your head for your reps. Keep your arms at this angle to your body to force your triceps to fully engage throughout the exercise; the other version allows the bones of your arms to bear the weight in the up position (denying your muscles their rightful load).

Chest

Be eccentric: Most chest exercises emphasize only the concentric contraction of your pecs (when the muscles shorten, as in pushing up in a bench press). But you can achieve greater growth by focusing on the eccentric contraction (the point of a rep in which your muscles lengthen) combined with a powerful concentric action immediately afterward. Use the power pushup. Set up two aerobic steps and rest one hand on each. Get into pushup position. Quickly move your hands inside the steps before your body touches down and then immediately explode back upward, placing your hands on the steps again. That’s one rep. Do five sets of three to eight reps, resting up to three minutes between sets. This much-intensified variation of the old-school clapping pushup works every muscle fiber in the chest, making it a foolproof strategy for growth.

Straighten your posture: If you’ve been doing bench presses, flyes, and pushups, congratulations! Chances are, you probably have a pretty good chest already. The problem is, it may not be getting you the credit you deserve because of your rounded shoulder posture. A weak upper back allows the shoulders to droop forward, giving even large pectorals a sunken appearance. The solution: Strengthen the upper back and make more room for the chest to show. Try the face pull. Set up as you would to do a seated row, but attach a rope handle to the cable. Keeping your torso straight, pull the handle to your face, stopping just before your chin, so that your upper arms are parallel to the floor and your shoulder blades are squeezed together. That’s one rep. Do four sets of eight to 10 reps, resting 60 seconds between sets.

Plug in your chest flye: It’s easy to learn good form on the chest flye exercise—just think of giving someone a bear hug. Well, we’ve got another mnemonic device that will help you remember how to do the flye more efficiently. Think of plugging two extension cords together. It’s the same basic movement as a regular flye, but your palms are turned away from you, rather than facing each other, which activates more pectoral musculature.

Abs

Go heavy and go over: Two of the best ways to build your abs are hopefully already second nature to you. Lifting heavy weights on any exercise forces your core to contract hard to keep your spine safe—so you’re getting an automatic ab workout every time you go after a big lift. Also, core activation is even greater in any exercise that’s done overhead, so shoulder presses (especially done standing) are an ab workout in and of themselves. Want to fire up the abs even more? Actively squeeze them throughout your sets. Picture yourself wringing all the fat out of your abdomen with every squeeze—the end result will be the same.

Burn calories: More than any other strategy, this is the one that is most responsible for revealing the tight abdominal wall beneath your layer of chub. To burn the most calories, you must work the greatest possible number of muscles. For a multiplied calorie-burning effect, try combining various exercises, such as lunges with an overhead press, or Romanian deadlifts with a bentover row.

Work your abs in reverse: You already know how to crunch, but reverse that motion by bringing your torso away from your body and you’ll open up an entirely new avenue for growth. Try the reverse woodchop. Grab a medicine ball and stand with your feet at shoulder width, staggered heel to toe. Reach down with the ball to the front of your back knee (as if you’d just finished chopping into a log), and then quickly extend up and back to the opposite side, as if you were throwing the ball over your shoulder. Perform three sets of eight reps on both sides, resting 90 seconds between sets.