If you hang around the gym for any length of time you'll hear the perennial discussion on the best methods to build muscle.
Are dumbbells or barbells the best tools to build strength and muscle? Are machines helpful in building muscle or are they just good for shaping muscle?
The answer is all three are great for building muscle. A muscle's shape is genetically determined and can't be altered no matter how many preacher curls you do to build a peak in your biceps.
Free weights such as dumbbells and barbells are great for loading up the weight and using both isolation and compound exercises to increase both strength and muscle mass.
Compound exercises, such as barbell squats and deadlifts, are great for adding mass for a number of reasons. They call into play many different muscle groups to complete the lift and stimulate the release of human growth hormone and testosterone. Both hormones are integral to stimulating the addition of muscle.
Pile on as much weight as you can safely use in good form for a rep count in the 6-8 range to add muscle and strength.
Isolation exercises build strength as well but I like to use a slightly higher rep range with them to focus on really hitting the muscle for growth. Use a rep count of 8-12.
Some examples of isolation exercises are pek dek flyes,incline dumbbell flyes, machine or dumbbell pullovers and concentration curls. My books outline many more for each muscle group.
Weight machines, both plate-loaded and selectorized, offer great compound and isolation exercise models. Most are easy to use and effective, just be sure to obtain instruction on their use prior to your initial workout with them. They make the use of negatives, forced reps and the like much safer and effective due to the machine's balancing of the weight.
Construct a training routine using compound exercises first followed by isolation ones for best results. There are exceptions to this rule but they're for another article.
The following HIT workout for chest is one I recommend:
- Incline dumbbell bench press-1x6-8
- no rest
- Machine dips-1x6-8+1,15-second static hold
- no rest
- Pek dek flyes-1x10-12+3 forced reps