Compound Lift Alternatives

Do bodybuilders or the general population need to squat, bench and deadlift to get an aesthetic body? Absolutely not!

CAVEAT: If you’re a Powerlifter, or someone who’s sport depends on you having to perform the big three, ignore this answer and move on to the next one.

While the ‘Big Three’ – Squat, Bench, and Deadlift – are awesome, they’re not equally awesome for everyone.

People have all sorts of different body types, anthropometrics, and bone structures, some movements may not be as beneficial and could be potentially hazardous to some while being fine for others.

While compound movements should be an integral component of everybody’s program, compound is not restricted to just the big three, there are hosts of different exercises you can use instead.

Alternative Exercises to the Big Three

Bench Press

– Dips
– DB Press variation [flat, decline, incline]
– Hammer Strength Chest Press

Squats

– Leg Press
– Bulgarian Split Squats
– Lunges
– Goblet Squats
– Front Squats with Kettlebells, Barbells, Dumbbells, Medicine Balls, etc.

Deadlifts

– Chin Ups/Pull ups
– Rack Pulls
– Bent-over rows
– Trap Bar Deadlifts… For a lot of people who have aesthetic based goals, the trap-bar deadlift is a much better alternative than the standard deadlift. Reduced injury risk and it’s easier and faster to pick up and learn [not as technical].

The main thing to remember is that muscle growth is a by-product of progressive stress [resistance] placed on the body forcing it to build new muscle and grow stronger – lifting weights and specific exercises are just the tools you’re using for this purpose.

And when it comes to tools, you have to pick the ones that are going to best suit you, your body, and your goals. Do shit you enjoy, is safe for you, and fits with your goals and as long as you’re adding reps, weight, sets over time [weeks, months, years] you’ll make gains.

Thoughts on training protocols – bro split vs each muscle group 2x a week.

This is a contentious topic in the fitness world, some will claim that bro-splits are stupid, others will claim that it’s the only way to train.

My opinion: Why not both?

As I mentioned in this article more frequent training should make up the bulk of your training.

But, Bro splits can be a useful aid when used intelligently.

How to incorporate ‘bro-splits’, i.e one body part per day splits, intelligently:

  1. Deload’s

I find ‘Bro Splits’ – one muscle group per workout style splits – to work well in place of the traditionally prescribed deload’s [most of the time].

To allow for recovery we either need to reduce the volume or the intensity. I often find when intensity is reduced, people come back to the normal routine complaining of being weaker than before the deload. To remedy this I recommend reducing volume while keeping intensity as it is

– put simply: drop the number of total work being done while lifting the same amount of weight.

The bro split accomplishes this with the added benefit of the trainee feeling like they’re still training hard. Uh, What? Let me illustrate: Let’s assume our hypothetical trainee is lifting 4 x per week, with a weekly volume of 20 sets per muscle group, per week, and hitting every body part twice per week. Now, let’s assume during his deload week he decides to use the traditional Bro-split: hitting one muscle group per session, like so: Monday: Chest – Tuesday: Back – Wednesday: Shoulders – Thursday: Legs – Fri: Arms – Sat & Sun: Off. Due to the drop in training frequency from twice per week to once per week, he’s automatically reduced his weekly volume by 50% – from 20 total sets per muscle group, per week to 10 total sets per week – allowing the body to recover and grow.

  1. Low Frequency Phases

A good programme needs to have periods where you’re training hard and building up volume and frequency, and conversely it should have periods where you’re training at higher intensities, doing less volume and frequency.

I like using the bro-split’s during low frequency phases of my training cycle.

Generally, this would run anywhere from 4-8 weeks before I go into another high volume, high frequency block.

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