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Illustration of a man with disproportionately small arms relative to his chest and back muscles

Should You Double Down on Strengths Or Bring Up Weaknesses?

In this article, let’s talk about the philosophy you should adopt while choosing your lift variations and accessories. Should you run lift with your strengths and focus on what you’re best at? Or should you address your weaknesses so that you can build a more balanced and versatile physique?

What’s interesting is that the answer changes depending on your goals. Doubling down on strengths will make you stronger, bringing up weaknesses will make you look better, and a mix of both approaches tends to be best for general health.

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Barbell Biceps Curl Illustration (with EZ-Bar)

The Lifter’s Guide to Graceful Cheating

Being a loyal, honest, and faithful person is incredibly important. In fact, I think it might even be the most important thing in life. If you doubt that, I highly recommend the book Lying by the neuroscientist Sam Harris, PhD. In it, he outlines the many ways that lying is morally wrong and will ruin your life.

However, cheating while lifting weights has no moral implications, and it will probably help you build more muscle. There are a few different ways to cheat, too, each with their own unique benefits.

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Illustration of a man doing a barbell front squat

The Front Squat Guide (for Size)

The squat is the strength training lift. It’s the best lift for bulking up your quads, glutes, and calves, and it stimulates more overall muscle mass than any other lift, with the possible exception of the deadlift.

There are different ways of squatting, each with different pros and cons. This article has nothing to do with powerlifting or Olympic weightlifting, just with using the front squat to getting bigger, stronger, fitter, and much better looking. For this, the front squat is the best. That’s a controversial claim, I know. But I’ll show you why.

The Front Squat guide
Illustration of a man doing a sumo deadlift (outlift)

The Deadlift Guide (for Size)

The deadlift strengthens our bodies from our fingers down to our toes, bulking us up from our forearms down to our calves. In fact, it’s such a good indicator of strength that it’s the only lift that’s a staple of both powerlifting and strongman training.

When it comes to size and aesthetics, though, the deadlift becomes more controversial. Most casual gymgoers skip it. Many bodybuilders do, too. And it’s easy to see why that is. Deadlifts are hard to do, they’re fatiguing to recover from, and people worry about hurting their lower backs.

And besides, most powerlifters and strongmen deadlift with the goal of developing their max-effort strength. It’s a different style of training designed to get them a different outcome.

If your goal is to build a bigger, stronger, and better-looking body, then you’ll want to deadlift a little bit differently.

The Deadlift Guide
Illustration of a man doing a barbell bench press

The Bench Press Guide (for Size)

The bench press is the best lift for building a powerful chest. It’s also great for bulking up your triceps and the fronts of your shoulders, making it a great overall lift for improving your aesthetics.

The bench press is one of our Big 5 bulking lifts, and in this article, we’re going to go over the best strategies for integrating it into your bulking routine. This article has nothing to do with powerlifting or even powerbuilding, just with using the bench press to becoming bigger, stronger, and better looking.

The Bench PRess Guide
Illustration of a man doing the barbell overhead press

The Overhead Press Guide (for Size)

The overhead press is the best lift for building bigger, broader shoulders. It’s also fantastic for your triceps, your traps, your posture, and even your core, making it one of the best lifts for improving your aesthetics and general strength.

As a result, the overhead press earned its spot as one of the Big 5 Bulking Lifts, and in this article, we’re going to go over the best strategies for integrating it into your bulking routine. We’ll also talk about the best assistance and accessory lifts for building an even more massive shoulder girdle.

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Illustration of a man doing chin-ups (back view)

The Chin-Up Guide (for Size)

Chin-ups are a great lift for your upper back, abs, and grip strength. They’re even a great lift great for improving your cardiovascular fitness. What they’re most famous for, though, is building absolutely killer biceps.

In fact, the only other lift that can develop comparable biceps size are curls. But given that curls are a smaller single-joint movement, they’re better thought of as an assistance lift to the chin-up anyway.

The chin-up is one of our Big 5 bulking lifts, and in this article we’re going to go over the best strategies for integrating it into your bulking routine, getting the most muscle mass and strength out of it as possible.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • How to bulk up your arms, back and abs with the chin-up.
  • Whether you should use a neutral grip, overhand grip, or underhand grip as your main chin-up variation.
  • How to assess your weaknesses and then fix them.
  • The best assistance lifts for improving your chin-up strength.
  • How to use accessory lifts, such as biceps curls and rows.

This article is bulking: It will grow over time. Occasionally we’ll trim off some fat. Stay tuned.

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What are the best lifts for bulking? For gaining Muscle size?

The “Big 5” Approach to Bulking

A powerlifter’s strength is calculated by adding up how much they can squat, bench, and deadlift—their total. If their total goes up, they’re improving. If it doesn’t, they aren’t. As a result, all of their training is centred around improving their total, either directly or indirectly.

This gives every exercise a specific purpose. Powerlifters have their main lifts, which is how their strength is measured. This is where they invest most of their energy, and rightly so. But they also have assistance lifts and accessory lifts that help them emphasize their strengths and/or bring up weak links.

It’s a good system. Or, at least, it’s good system if you’re a powerlifter. But let’s imagine that instead of trying to become a powerlifter, we’re trying to become bigger, stronger, healthier, and better looking. How would those lifts change to help us accomplish those goals? How would we measure our progress?

If we can figure that out, then we can bring that same specificity and clarity to our training that powerlifters have.

This article is bulking: It will grow and change over time. Occasionally we’ll trim off some fat.

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Illustration of Milo of Croton

You can’t outrun skinniness

Most people play to their strengths. If you’re thin and fit, you focus on cardio. If you’re squat and strong, you gravitate towards strength sports. That’s good if you want to excel at a sport, but what if you’re trying to improve your versatility, general health, and appearance?

That requires turning your weaknesses into strengths. And when it comes to naturally skinny guys, weakness is our weakness. No matter how far you run—and ectomorphs can run quite far—you won’t be able to outrun skinniness.

There’s only one way to defeat skinniness: outlift it.

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Barbell Illustration

The Complete Barbell Guide

We’ve got a full guide on building a barbell home gym, but I got way too deep into researching barbells, so I decided to make a whole separate post about it. This is that separate post.

The reason I fell so far into barbell research is because barbells are totally rad. They’re our connection to all of the weight we’ll be lifting. And if we didn’t have so many calluses and deadened nerves, we might even be able to enjoy how they feel in your hands.

Each barbell is designed for a particular purpose. One barbell might be flexible so that it bends when you pull a deadlift. Another barbell might be springy so that you can launch it into the air and then catch it on your shoulders without all of the force crashing into your joints. Yet another barbell might be designed to be sturdy so that you can bench press without the weight bouncing around.

By the end of this article you’ll understand every feature of every barbell, you’ll be able to lift more weight more comfortably, and you’ll know how to buy a barbell that’s perfect for you.

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