It is no secret that many people live busy and hectic lives. Between making meals, getting the kids to school, going to work and everything else, there’s sometimes very little time left for exercise. But it doesn’t have to be a case of sacrificing something else in your day in order to enjoy an all-over workout that benefits multiple muscle groups and helps lower the calorie count.
By dedicating just 20 minutes a couple of times a week, you too can start to exercise smarter and reap the rewards. Many people choose to hit the gym to get their weekly workout. But the great news is that you can achieve some fantastic results by adapting popular exercises at home or in the park.
The reason why lots of us don’t see fast results is that we waste our time when we workout individual muscle groups. If we are thinking of entering a Mr Universe competition, then it may well be essential to prime and prep every single muscle in our bodies. But the truth is that most of us just want to strengthen and tone as many areas as possible and as quickly as possible.
And this is where compound exercises come into their own. From one single exercise, you will workout several different muscles and feel the benefits in various parts of your body. Why waste time doing five different leg exercises, for example, when we can get pretty much everything done in one go?
Whenever we think of exercises that build strong and impressive muscles, we always think of the traditional bench press. In any movie where the protagonist is bulking up, they’re always laying down holding up huge weights above their heads.
Firstly, it’s essential to point out that a bench press doesn’t have to be impressively heavy. You can get fantastic results from a more modest weight with a decent amount of reps. Forcing yourself to lift too much will only end up with an injury and set you back a number of weeks. And the same can be said for any exercise on this list.
Bench Press Muscle Groups
There are various types of bench press methods and some will engage a couple of minor muscles slightly better than others. But in general, there are three major muscle sets that you will build from the chest press movement. These are the pecs, front delts and triceps.
While this exercise is traditionally seen as a way of simply building a bigger chest, you can see that your arms and shoulders will actually benefit as well. While the chest provides the main burst of power to move the bar, your arms and shoulders are providing major supporting roles.
Bench Press Variations
Not all bench press exercises involve you lying flat on your back and pressing the bar above you. But they are the most popular. It’s possible to use an incline and decline take on the original movement and these are great when it comes to free weights.
Up next is the machine chest press. This involves sitting in an upright position with the weights either side of your shoulders. You will push the weights forward and then release them slowly backwards to complete each rep.
There is another effective chest press that is often overlooked but is extremely beneficial for anyone who would like to reduce the stress on their shoulders. It is known as the landmine chest press. Set yourself up facing the corner of the room with one end of the bar planted in the corner. Add weights to the other end where you are in a half-kneeling position. Lift the bar up to just under your chin in a kind of praying stance and press the barbell straight up in front of you until your arms are extended.
When building muscle, many people choose to overlook the leg exercises. But we’ve all seen it time and time again where someone bulks up on top and has tiny little sparrow legs holding them up. It’s not a good look so make sure you add the leg press to your list of exercises.
The idea of a leg press is to simply sit down at the machine and place your feet on the plate in front of you, which is attached to the machine weights. You then push the plate away from your body using your legs. This movement lifts the weights.
Leg Press Muscle Groups
The first muscles you think of when doing an exercise like this are the thigh muscles. Also known as the quadriceps, these are indeed the main powerhouse in the legs as we move the weights. But there are other parts to the movement that also rely on other muscles. For example, as you extend your hips, you engage the glutes. Over time, this will help give you a firmer backside. And nobody’s going to argue with that, right?
Also, we need to stabilise the knees throughout the movement. And this is done with the help of the hamstring muscles. The hamstring is usually just thought of as a tendon but it’s also a set of three muscles on the back of the leg behind the thigh. Finally, it’s necessary to stabilise the ankles as we are using our feet as the main contact point with the weights. This is done with the help of the calf muscles.
The shoulder press, or overhead press as it is also known, is another exercise that can either be done using a machine or free weights. It’s all about the upper body, as you might imagine. And the benefits of this exercise are five-fold.
Using free weights, many people prefer to do this exercise in a standing position. Load the barbell up with a suitable weight and lift it up under your chin with your palms facing upwards. This is your starting position. You now extend your arms upwards and hold them in place for a couple of seconds. Next, lower your arms back down to the starting position.
This exercise is easier to perform using the shoulder press machine than a barbell, as the machine helps to stabilise the movement.
Shoulder Press Muscle Groups
There are five muscles that get a decent workout as the bar is pressed above the head and supported on its way down again. These are the anterior deltoids, lateral deltoids, triceps, upper pecs and the serratus anterior.
This exercise is best performed with the help of a machine. It is possible to perform the lat pull-down using straps and overhead supports. But it’s a whole lot easier just to sit down at the machine and start.
As you sit on the bench facing the machine, you’ll be able to select the amount of weight that you want to engage. Make sure it is suitable for your level of experience and strength, otherwise you could end up straining and causing a hernia along the way.
Above your head will be a bar with slightly inclined edges. Grab the bar and pull it down in front of you. The weights will naturally pull the bar back up to its starting position and you can go again.
Lat Pull-Down Muscle Groups
The lat pull-down gives you an all-over back workout and also helps build arm muscles too. These include pectoralis major, lower and middle trapezius, brachialis, brachioradialis, teres major, rhomboids, biceps brachii and infraspinatus.
With each of the above exercises, a good target is to aim for 10-12 reps in each set. And completing 2 or 3 sets would be a great place to start. Take it slightly easier with the first set and build your way up. On the final rep of any exercise, try and push yourself to your limit. If you find that it is far too simple completing the reps, then up the weights a little until you reach your appropriate level. Similarly, never go all out and strain your muscles with heavy weights trying to impress anyone looking on.
In between each set, you need to give yourself a short break. Many people in the gym choose to look at their mobile phones as a welcome distraction. They might decide to take a look at social media or other news sites. Some people even like to log into their casino accounts and play some of the best new slots while they’re waiting for their muscles to recover, while others play mobile video games.
Playing video games like this can even be seen as an extension of the workout, as video gaming has been shown to have some potential health benefits, such as improving dexterity, hand-to-eye coordination, thought-processing, and concentration levels, while also lowering blood pressure. So why not turn your gym workout into an all-over boost for the body and mind?