The Worst Exercises for Natural Bodybuilders

| by Truth Seeker |

1. Low bar Squats/Cheated Good Mornings

Powerlifting was the sport that breathed air into low bar squats. The goal was to lift more weight by shortening the range of motion and increasing the involvement of the posterior chain  – the collection of muscles that modern gurus and Instagram whores show deep appreciation for. 

The trade-off comes at a high expense – low bar squats put more stress on the hips, wrists, elbows and shoulders while reducing the emphasis on the quadriceps.  

If Mark Rippetoe, who is unsurprisingly a former powerlifter, and his crew of muscle scholars didn’t promote this version of the squat, nobody except actual powerlifters would be aware of its existence.  

If you think that the kids who are now worshiping this variation would have figured it out by themselves, you would be incorrect. Nobody, certainly not a beginner, would put a bar that low on their backs because it’s uncomfortable, slippery and the exercise resembles humping rather than squatting 

Millennials bought the hype because they were searching for something special, an online mystery, that could lead to insane natural growth. 

Many say that this squat variation works the hamstrings more than the classic high bar squat. That’s debatable, but even if it is true, squatting for hamstrings is the equivalent of benching for biceps. In both cases, the arm and respectively the leg flexors work – but not nearly as much as they do during pulling exercises. A deadlift is a better hamstring exercise than any squat could be. 

The reason why this movement is tragically unnecessary for naturals (unless they are powerlifters) is the discomfort that it comes with and its needless focus on the posterior chain.  

If people were honest with themselves, they will admit that the low bar squat is their preferred choice because it allows the lifter to move more weight and satisfies an elitist mindset based on Internet sentience. 

What to do instead?  

The high bar squat is a simpler squat variation that provides a longer range of motion and more quadriceps stimulation. One’s obsession with glutes will also be satisfied. You will never see a person who’s been high bar squatting for a fairly long time with no glute development. 

2. Vince Gironda Antics 

Vince Gironda had some great ideas and rightfully criticized bodybuilders for their obsession with carbs, but he also came up with many exercises that are pointless and even dangerous for the average bro.  

Movements like sissy squats, the guillotine press and Gironda’s dip variations expose the problematic pattern perfectly – Gironda would take a classic exercise and rearrange it to put more stress on the so-called aesthetic muscles or a portion of them (e.g., quads, upper chest…etc.). But those modifications would always create extra stress on the supporting joints.  

Similar tactics are useless for most people. You are better off focusing on classic basic movements like regular squats, dips and incline presses for your upper chest than looking for some mythical movements designed to transform you into a Gironda pupil.  

Years ago, I was really interested in Gironda’s tricks and wanted to read his book, Unleashing the Wild Physique. 

Guess, what? As you can see in the video below, It’s filled with images of professional bodybuilders on steroids.

Stop looking for magical exercises that will turn your puny natty physique into something that Gironda would have put in his book. You are wasting your time.  

3. Adding Bands and Chains to Basic Lifts

Many naive noobs who have graduated from the University of YouTube think that they are hardcore for following advanced training methods such as Westside.

In reality, most complications are ineffectual. The most popular powerlifters on earth, who weren’t natural by the way, never bothered to add bands and chains to their squats, benches and deadlifts. Today, there are delusional kids who plan to break world records by incorporating similar nonsense into their lifting.  

4. Olympic lifts 

There are three reasons to do Olympic lifts and their variations: 

1. You like them. 

2. You are a weightlifter. 

3. You practice a sport that benefits from those exercises.  

The Olympic lifts are very technical and require constant practice. They don’t build as much muscle as slow lifts like squats, deadlifts, barbell rows, shrugs…etc. Therefore, if your goal is muscle construction, and you are not attracted to those movements – you are better off ignoring them regardless of what the experts claim.  

Rippetoe used to say that if you cannot do at least the power variations, you are not a real lifter.  

Honestly, who cares?  

Power cleans were a part of my routine for 2 years. Dropping them didn’t make me feel like a fake lifter.

5. Any exercise that doesn’t match your goals. 

Exercises performed in a hopeless attempt to satisfy someone’s ego rather than the end result you are after are to be avoided. Yet many noobs ignore their own wishes to seek external validation.  I was the same way. I wanted the experts to consider me alpha – a goal deprived of logic and value 

If a movement is not producing the desired results, don’t be afraid to ditch it.  

For example, if the flat bench press is leaving your upper chest naked, focus on inclines without remorse, provided that pec development is your mission. 

If pull-ups are not building up your biceps, do curls shamelessly.  

As they say – nobody judges the winners.

6. Exercises that promise the impossible.

You will be surprised how many experienced lifters, some even on steroids, believe in myths that die under the pressure of logic.  

For example, many naïve souls do tons of Scott curls in the hope that the movement will fill the gap between their biceps and elbow joints. You can’t build muscle where there isn’t any. That void is due to a combination of short muscle bellies and long tendons.  

Lifting can only amplify – it cannot restructure. Many forget that principle and attribute miracle properties to the fight against gravity. Stop dreaming, brothers. 

 7. Complicated bodyweight movements  

Bodyweight training is fun because it offers progression based on skill and joint strength rather than muscle construction. In other words, the limitations that a natty faces are of smaller importance.  

But many gymnastic gurus love to manipulate their pupils by convincing them that gymnasts, acrobats, street fitness icons and other bodyweight maniacs owe their muscular development to complicated movements such as front levers, planches and iron crosses. This isn’t really true – most of the mass, if not all of it, comes from the basic exercises that prepare you for the advanced stuff. If your goal is hypertrophy, focus on simple drills 

Another frequently ignored part of the puzzle is that many gymnasts have shorter limbs – some of the movements are practically impossible to perform if you have long arms.  

8. CrossFit

Many years ago, when I pointed out that female CrossFit competitors like Miranda Oldroyd look more like men rather than women, some fans explained the exceptional growth with the magic of CrossFit. I quickly concluded that those people are extremely stupid.  

What is CrossFit, really? It’s a bit of everything and a whole lot of nothing at the same time.  

It certainly isn’t capable of triggering steroids-like growth – no training method is.

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  1. Rob

    Great post as ever. The only thing i would say, bands / chains /slingshot helped me work around back and shoulder injuries. I do however agree, adding these wont have much carryover to your raw lifting.

    1. John Mortimer

      Again a great post. The only things im not keen on is overhead pressing of anykind, especially incline bench. I tend to follow Doug Brignole’ views on the danger of overhead pressing and the idea that the incline doesn’t work the upper chest but more the anterior delts. Just food for thought guys, we all have our own ideas.

      1. Andy

        Could you elaborate on the dangers of overhead pressing? I guess you’re referring to the shoulders.

        1. John Mortimer

          Over head pressing even with a light weight (relative to what u lift) can put alot of strain on the rotator cuff and potentially cause impingement. Again experience, lifting technique, genetics ect come into play too. I’ve experienced impingement and also know of plenty of others too from over head pressing.

          1. Andy

            Thanks. I’ve been having problems with my left shoulder for about a year now and I think it first reared its head as a result of poor bench press form. I stopped immediately but my boxing aggravates it quite often now too, and swimming was pain free for a good while but now causes a distinct ache after just one length of front crawl. I don’t want to stop training altogether as my brain is warning me to do, as routine exercise is a great way for me to alleviate depression and boredom. I remember back when I was benching the overhead press also caused distress to my left shoulder… thanks for reading my blog, all the best.

            Truth seeker, thank you for your words and your website full of great content and insightful messages and stories. I know it’s not directly related to lifting, but have you ever written anything about the porn industry and its effects on the male brain?

          2. Matt

            Overhead pressing is the only thing that lets me postpone surgery on my shoulders (not a lifting related injury either).

        2. Rob

          Hi Andy,
          Ive also a shoulder injury, the swiss bar allivaites shoulder impingment to a large extend. Ive no issues with it.

      2. Sam

        I do not know if you have seen the last pictures of Doug on Facebook, made in Malibu (20 oct.). One of those photos (which he has now removed) clearly showed an underdevelopment of his chest muscles. So I doubt whether he is correct with his statement regarding the decline, flat and incline bench.

        Truth seeker, thanks again for a good article!

        1. TheFinisher

          The incline DOES work the upper chest. If a person was to feel it more so in their front delts then the incline is too high.

          A shallow incline can sort this issue out. If that fails then switch to dumbbells. Always go by feel.

      3. Sam

        In my opinion, Doug does not claim that incline press does not encourage the upper chest to grow, but that incline press does not tackle the upper chest more than a flat bench and therefore the incline press is unnecessary.

        1. Sam

          Btw, Doug has been using steroids since the age of 19, so what is true about what he claims is doubtful imo.

  2. John

    Another great article which I enjoyed reading

  3. Marked Wolf

    When will you have discount on your books?

    1. CJ

      Ur writing and confidence in ur writing improves with every piece.

  4. Psychotic_Egg

    Something tells me there is a very strong correlation between you and that Phillion guy on youtube. I think your website is getting exposed to a lot of people Truth.

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      I don’t have a YouTube channel.

  5. Pete South

    Kind of a myth that low bar squats don’t activate the quads. They activate the quads almost as much but include the posterior chain, easier on the knees too.

    This, combined with Pendlay rows allows for reduced (1×5) deadlift volume. The pendlay row/power clean and low bar squats provides additional back and hamstring volume that fills out the program nicely.

    If you tried to do starting strength with only high bar squats, your deadlift would probably run into issues as well as muscle imbalances between the hamstrings and quads.

    If you try to do multiple sets of deadlift, novices run into CNS fatigue issues. You could add good mornings or RDLs but now you’re looking at things beginners shouldn’t be doing, the whole thing degenerates. The whole point is to make the squat more like these exercises. lol

    Everyone wants more fluff work but the important thing is just getting your bench/row to 225, low bar squat to 315 and the deadlift to 400 and you worry about the rest later.

    If you keep adding accessories, the body doesn’t have enough left over resources to grow.

    I think people need to realize that you’re not going to get this amazing body naturally. If you work your ass off and diet, you’ll be able to look like a lean, reasonably solid guy and be strong but that’s probably it.

    If all you care about is looks over performance or you want aesthetic results NOW over taking the time to build a base of strength, you’ll be disappointed.

    Rippetoe knows what he is doing, he sees the big picture.

    1. Sam

      CNS fatigue is nonsense, enough research has been done on that and to sprinkle with numbers that a natty lifter must comply with is even greater nonsense.

        1. Sam

          As you can see here … http: // … you talk nonsense.

          Of course it has to do with age, body weight and above all: good genes.

          The numbers you show are for some genetically blessed people, the average person can only dream of this.

          1. Pete South

            There is nothing at the link you posted.

            The numbers I posted are for average genetics, let’s say under 50-60. Genetically gifted lifters can go higher.

            So you think those numbers are high but you insist that CNS fatigue and axial loading are figments of my imagination…maybe that’s why.

            Body weight has nothing to do with it, height does.

            If you’re under 5’5 or something maybe you’ll have more trouble doubt that a 4-500lb lifetime deadlift is out of reach for solely that reason.

            Alpha Destiny and Franco Columbu would like a word…

            I was benching 225 and squatting 315 weighing in at 125lbs in high school and I was tall for that height. My arms and legs were like toothpicks and I could still do it. You don’t need much muscle to lift those numbers.

            Maybe just face that you know nothing about training and start over.

            It’s hard to learn anything if you think you already know because what you are peddling is Grade A BS.

          2. Sam

            The fact that you believe that age, body weight, body height, limb length (leverage) and genetic predisposition doesn’t matter and that you get two athletes (Alex & Franco) with genetic predisposition tells me enough about your lack of knowledge and experience.

            The link works, by the way, but you will probably have a nonsense argument about the outcome of that research too.

            I am done with you.

  6. Pete South

    The name of the game for natural, novice lifters (sub 225 benchers, 315 squatters, 405 dl) is hitting as many muscles at the same time as possible.

    Overhead press is the most underrated exercise for arm size and upper chest. Really one of the only exercises that targets the long head of the triceps with enough overload.

    Most people don’t realize that chin ups also target the upper chest and long head of the triceps.

    If all you do are bench presses, press downs and curls, you are missing out greatly.

    The pullover style triceps extensions are good for intermediates but shouldn’t be done by novices, there’s simply no need. Bench presses, Pendlay rows, chin ups and OHP hit the arms hard enough.

    Doing inclines for upper chest instead of overhead presses means cheating oneself quite a bit since there is no shoulder extension, long head recruitment.

    Sinilarly no reason to do laterals for shoulder width instead of banded face pulls, they strengthen the rotator cuff, blow up the side delts and hit the rear delts hard in one motion. If you choose laterals instead, you need to add 2 other exercises, remember, the natural lifter can only recover from so much.

    When I switched to banded face pulls over laterals, my shoulders blew up. My wife refused to do banded face pulls when she saw what it did to my shoulders. lol

    Again, the modified starting strength/blaha model knocks it out of the park.

  7. mattski

    On the other spectrum. The more underated exersises for natural body builders would be an intersting topic. I’d like to hear opinions on push ups, pull ups and walking.

    1. raccoon whisperer

      These 3 things you mentioned are exactly what I do and they have always given me consistently good results.

      TruthSeeker thank you for all the great articles

    2. Sam

      Push up, pull up, walking. All healthy exercises. But what do you think results in more muscle growth? 30 push ups or 8 reps dumbbell bench press, 20 pull ups or 8 reps barbell row, 5 mls walking or 8 reps squat …

      1. mattski

        Yes, weight lifting on multijoint movements for 8 reps at 60-80% of max are very effective for growing muscle. Weight lifting just has not been around that long and people have done other things for size. You can make push ups and pull ups more effective for size by doing 10-30s negatives each rep. You can also make walking more effective by carrying heavy weight or waking up steep incline. I was just wanted to take a look at the less obvious methods that build size and which of those have benifited bodybuilders.

  8. EM

    I would actually go even further as it relates to low bar squats. I would no longer even advise high bar squats. I’ve evolved to the point where except for a few exceptions I no longer believe in any form of barbell squatting (back, front, high bar, low bar, safety squats etc.). It just no longer makes any sense to me to try to work one’s legs by applying an ever increasing load to the very top of your torso. I’ve fully embraced Trap Bar Deadlifts, and Hip Belt Squats for the last 15 years. It’s just a way more logical way of applying the resistance to one’s body. The reality is most trainees will never squat well, whether high bar or low bar. Almost 90% of all squats I see look somewhat shitty to downright awful. I don’t believe that’s the trainees fault most of the time. I really have come to believe barbell squatting is just a shitty exercise. At least for me I have found no single exercise works as much muscle, with as great a poundage potential, with as much a safety factor as the Trap bar Deadlift. It works my quads harder than the squat (despite the lesser depth due to the resistance actually going more directly to my quads) while at the same time working my upper back and traps harder than anything I’ve ever done. Never be afraid to drop any exercise if it isn’t right for you.

    1. mattski

      That is great you found a lower body movement that works for you with trap bar deadlifts. I never really saw gains with back squats for my quads. All my gains seemed to go to my glutes, hips and upper thigh. I switched to Front squats and I like them better because it is easier to maintain form and it helps me with power cleans. If you like trap bar dealifts their is a barbell version of squats you might like. Hack squats. Its not the machine and your doing a deadlift but the bar is behind you. I have done them and really feel them in my quads. No one seems to do this squat. Guess its too old school.

    2. Rob

      I agree, bar squats, high or low bar, are pretty crappy exercises, the trap bar is vastly superior.

  9. James Suntres

    Great post Truth-seeker! As always

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      Thank you.

  10. LB

    We’re very similar. I did bodybuilding a long time ago but quickly converted to the cult of 5×5 and mark Rippetoe when I bought into the hype. I did 5×5 for years. I didn’t get bigger actually I probably looked worse, and I got repetitive stress injuries from back squatting heavy 3 times a week for years. I even did the retarded milk thing a long time ago. Turns out if you’re natty none of this shit matters. The only reason those programs got traction is because BEGINNERS did them and got some gains. All beginners will get gains no matter what program they do. I did 5×5 for years and completely regret it. I don’t regret doing bodypart split training because I think it makes a more balanced physique and I’m able to avoid injuries by training around a bodypart that’s sore. But yet I still see fat natties chasing the dream at the squat rack every time I go to the gym. They put on a belt and several plates and go to town. Sorry to tell them but that’s not going to last forever. While you’re young you can get away with it. But the spine is not meant to do this unnatural behavior; putting tons of weight at the top of a lever arm. Also who the hell naturally squats the way Rippetoe and gang squats? Watch the way a baby squats down. That is more like a high bar bodybuilder style squat. I also agree that trying to train the hamstrings during a squat is wrong and retarded. Most likely you’ll just train your spinal erectors since the ass is so far back behind you

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      Thank you for the great comment 🙂

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