Acquiring more and more possessions just because you can does not make you happy. It just means you have more stuff around. You can’t drink from more than one glass and you can’t drive more than one car. The mainstream world, however, is based on consumption and has silently installed a micro chip in our subconscious minds. That chip is constantly convincing us that we need to buy things in order to be happy and progress.
The reality is that when the basics are covered everything else becomes an extra, and just like extra calories it can make us fat – both in the physical and spiritual sense. Humans were never planned to be fat and nobody performs their best in an out of shape state. The solution? Just cut what you don’t need and throw it out of the window. Someone who needs it more may find it.
The same rules apply in the muscle world. Doing more exercises does not mean you’re going to get stronger and bigger faster. Often it means the exact opposite. There comes a time when you need to evaluate your belongings and cut them down to bare essentials.
First, get rid of the stupid isolation exercises. Chest flies, Scott curls, front raises, rear delt raises, wrist curls, rotator cuff drills, side delt raises, cable crossover and all other baloney exercises have to go one by one. Once you stop doing isolation exercises because they told you so in a mainstream bodybuilding article, you will feel a sense of liberation. But it doesn’t end here.
Sometimes even compound exercises have no business in your workout. You should only perform movements that you truly need. Doing exercises just to be accepted by the community is stupid and will not make you happier. After you have developed a solid base which takes about 1 year of solid training, you have earned your right to choose. At this point you should have sufficient information about yourself and the lifting game. This is when you are no longer a baby. You’re a big boy, and as such, you have think for yourself. If your inner core says something ain’t working, don’t try to battle nature. It’s as useful as fighting gravity after a naked jump off a cliff.
So, what are the best exercises for a minimalist bodybuilder?
Compound exercises that you can do without pain. Below is a list of movements which should serve you well as a general guide when it comes to exercise selection.
Legs: squat, leg press, Romanian deadlift, sprints, rope jumping;
Triceps: Dips, close grip push-ups;
Chest: Dips, push-ups on Olympic rings;
Biceps and forearms: pull-ups and chin-ups;
Abs: Isometric holds;
Back: Deadlifts and pull-ups;
The above is a general exercise selection. When you take into consideration your personal needs and abilities your list may look like this:
Legs: Sprints + Bulgarian split squats;
Chest, Triceps: Dips;
Back, Biceps, Forearms: Deadlifts, Pull-ups;
As far as programming is concerned there is no need to complicate things. You train, recover and add more weight. How often? A session consisting of compound exercises requires at least 4 days of rest to recuperate. This means that you can expect to be able to repeat your workout or even do a little bit better only after 4 days of rest. When you can no longer progress, it’s time to deload and build back up again from a higher starting point.
Example: You started with a 200 lbs squat. Then you increased your squat to 290 lbs by adding weight each session and recovering appropriately. When you can no longer progress, the next step is to reduce the weight to 220 lbs or so and build up to something a little higher than 290 lbs. This is called cycling. One step backward, two steps forwards.