When I first started training, I didn't know any better so I went to the gym and did all the machine exercises and isolation movements that I saw everyone else doing. I figured these would all lead to fast muscle gain and I would be huge in no time.
My dad knew a steroid-using Italian guy named Tony who owned a gym and competed in several bodybuilding shows. He asked Tony if he could write me a program and Tony obliged. I was bursting with excitement and thought this would be the difference maker in my training. I met with Tony at his office one day, and in a scene that could have been straight out of an episode of The Sopranos, he interrogated me about my muscle building program. I gave him a piece of paper with my workout on it and he took a long, hard look at it.
"Here's whatcha gonna do. And I don't wan any a'guments. You do dis and you'll grow. Ya undastand me?"
"Yeah, definitely. No problem."
He pulled out a legal pad and scrawled out my new training program. It was loaded with all of the exercises that all the top name bodybuilders in the magazines were always shown doing. Stiff arm pullovers, concentration curls, leg extensions, cable flyes, you name it—they were included.
I took my new program, thanked Tony, and left. The next few weeks would surely be an amazing time for me, I thought. The growth that I was about to experience would be dramatic, I just knew it.
But nothing happened.
You know why? Because those exercises suck, that's why. Sure, the volume was too high for my limited recovery ability at the time, but if he had me doing the right exercises, I might have experienced some kind of gains.
Choosing the right exercises could ultimately be the difference between lightening fast muscle gain and absolutely no muscle gain whatsoever. No matter how well thought out your workout plan is, if you use the wrong exercises, it will be completely useless. Even a bad training program will yield some results if you are using the right exercises. For these reasons, exercise selection is one of the most important components of any muscle building system.
So how do you choose the best exercises?
The best mass building exercises are always multi joint, free weight, compound exercises that use as much muscle mass as possible and allow you to use heavy weights. This includes movements like squats, deadlifts, chin ups, dips, overhead presses and rows. If you are desperately seeking fast muscle gain, the last thing you should ever waste your time doing is using machine or isolation exercises during your workouts. These exercises are great at producing that burning feeling that so many people love and can often lead to a great pump, but they do very little to pack on massive size or build real world, functional strength.