Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Favorite Physique-Building Hobbies

There are scores of workouts and exercises and the like you can do to get big in the gym. It's nice to get out of the gym and apply that strength though. Even better when you are building strength as you are enjoying yourself. What follows is some great hobbies I've cultivated throughout my Adonis years...


Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, PA - One of my Former Hiking Destinations
 Pretty straightforward this one. I've always enjoyed nature so hiking was a logical option. So much more exciting then running on a damn treadmill for hours on end. Look around for natural parks, mountains, trails and the like in your area. It makes for a great workout and you can't really beat the beauty of nature. For you city-dwellers, hiking through some large city parks (Central Park, NY; Fairmount Park, Philadelphia; etc.) can be a great escape from the concrete jungle.


MMA has taken the world by storm in recent years with the popularization of UFC and similar organizations. Take a look at some of the top fighters like Georges St-Pierre...absolutely ridiculous muscle definition. Of course they put in work at the gym, but you are crazy if you don't think fight training plays a huge part in building that kind of body as well. So naturally, I decided to go and seek out a great gym to learn how to kick some ass.

If you want to look for a gym, I can do no better than point you at . Great comprehensive resource on the matter. As far as my experience, it was and has been awesome. Going in and sparring and really putting my strength to the test and driving my muscles to absolute failure, what better fun is there. Go check it out, many quality gyms offer free into classes so you've got nothing to lose.


The first time I went rock climbing I beat my upper body into the ground in a way I hadn't done in the gym in quite some time. And I had fun doing it! Right there and then, rock climbing became a big hobby for me. You can climb indoors, outdoors, whatever strikes your fancy really. Check out some of the guys you see there, they do things that require some incredible strength and power. It can be a bit of an expensive hobby, particularly if you go to an indoor climbing gym (perhaps $50-60 a month), so it may be something you want to restrict to doing only occasionally. If you want to look for a gym, just check out google maps for some local gyms in your area. I've found frequent climbing to really help my grip strength (great help during a heavy deadlift) and general arm and upper body size. Climbing also makes a great date.


If you have ever seen Casino Royale (with Daniel Craig), you may remember a scene where he is chasing a man through all sorts of crazy locales (top of a crane, construction site, etc.). That guy he was chasing is Sebastien Foucan, one of the world's foremost traceurs (parkour practitioners). Parkour is a sport where you basically find the best way to get from Point A to Point B, sort of like an improv obstacle course. Jumping over obstacles, between ledges, even running on walls Matrix-style, your only limit is your imagination (and courage). This makes for an incredible cardio workout. It's also being incorporated into military training!

There is also a strong gymnastics element with many practitioners throwing tricks like backflips to get over obstacles. I had never really thrown a backflip before in my life. But I went to a parkour session at an open gymnastics gym and we spent all day setting up obstacles and doing anything you can imagine to get over and past them. By the end of the day, many (successful!) flips and backflips later, my body was absolutely wrecked. It's incredible what some unconventional training can do; I hadn't gotten that sore from a gym workout maybe ever! Tons of fun too...I mean really, who doesn't want to be able to do a backflip!?!

If you'd like to find more information, check out for all sorts of tips and guides. To find other traceurs in your area, I would recommend googling parkour and your city as your best bet of finding fellow traceurs. I have listed below sites I've used before to find fellow crazy folk:

Southeastern US (I was in Atlanta at the time):
New York City:

Alright guys, that covers some of my favorite albeit unconventional muscle-building activities. It makes a huge difference to vary up your training and hit your muscles in new ways. Give some of them a try,you might just find them to be a lot of fun and make some great friends along the way. Feel free to comment with some of your own muscle-burning hobbies.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How to Choose a Gym

There are so many gyms out there…so many choices. Finding the right gym could make the difference between reaching that Adonis physique of your dreams or not. What follows are some guidelines to ensure you find the best gym that fits your needs.
  • Location – The gym’s location, especially how far it is from you, is a huge factor in deciding on a gym. You should travel to prospective gyms during the hours you would workout to evaluate both the traffic as well as the situation at the gym. Is there ample parking? Are there enough machines/weights for that particular time? 
  • Price – Cost is obviously a big factor. Is it within your budget? If other gyms are cheaper, is the more expensive gym worth the extra cost and why?
  • State Bond – When signing up for a  membership 3 months or longer, gyms are required to place state bond numbers in the upper right hand of the contract. If you sign a contract with a gym that doesn’t have a state bond, you are left hanging if the gym goes out of business.
  • Cleanliness – Cleanliness can be very telling of the effort the staff puts into maintaining the gym. Make sure the gym floor is free of any debris and slip/trip hazards. Check the shower and locker areas to see if they are up to par. Anti-bacterial soap, towels and spray bottles should be available in the cardio areas as well.
  • Equipment – Some gyms have more machines than free weights and others the opposite. Whichever you prefer is up to your goals and preferences. Many gyms allow you a trial workout or at the very least a tour. During this time, you should check:
    • Does the gym have the pieces of equipment you use in your programs
    • Is the equipment high quality and in good condition? Ask other members how quickly broken equipment is repaired.
    • Do other members remove the weight from the machines once they are done?
    • Are there enough pieces of equipment to allow you to workout without waiting for others (particularly popular equipment such as the bench press)?
  • Music – Different gyms have different music policies. Some play rock or uptempo music to stimulate. Others are quieter. You decide which you prefer. It is hardly a deal breaker though since you can wear headphones.
  • Vibe – Nothing will kill your motivation faster than a gym full of unwelcoming, unhelpful depressed looking staff and members. A positive and encouraging environment will do wonders for your lifting goals and overall experience. Some gyms tend to be louder than others with respect to the amount of noise members make as well, which may or may not bother you.
  • Lighting – Is there good lighting in the gym? What about the parking lot at night?
  • Hours – Are the hours compatible with your lifestyle/desired workout times?
  • Support – You don’t want to be ignored after you sign a contract. Be sure you have staff you can ask for help. See what options there are for personal training if that interests you.
  • Freezing Membership – Does the gym allow you to freeze your membership if you suffer a long term injury or leave the area for a long period of time?
I hope these guidelines help you find an awesome gym to lift at. It makes a world of difference being at a gym you love to go to.

The Adonis Supplement Guide

I’m sure you’ve seen countless supplement advertisements. Fat burning pills, muscles burners, testosterone enhancers, the list goes on. Some of them don’t really do much (if anything), but some can play an important part of a good health and fitness regimen. I’m going to break them up into various categories and tell you what type of supplements I feel are worthy of use and some of my personal favorites.


Multivitamins – Have you ever tried to figure out if you are getting the RDA of every vitamin and mineral? You’ll undoubtedly find you aren’t, you might even be seriously lacking in some areas. Eating a perfectly balanced diet on a consistent basis is extremely difficult. That’s where a multivitamin comes in. I should emphasize that you want a high-quality multivitamin. Getting some Centrum or whatever is the cheapest isn’t going to be of much help to you. They are very poorly digested and the forms of the vitamins they use aren’t the best and can sometimes even be detrimental. A lot of lifters swear by products such as Orange Triad by Controlled Labs (which I have used and love) or Animal Pak. Those are a bit expensive and perhaps more than you need. A more affordable quality option may be Source Naturals Life Force Multiple or NOW Adam. Even so, still make sure to get your fruits and vegetables.

Fish Oil – Open up google. Now search for any disease you want and add fish oil at the end. I guarantee you will find a study that says fish oil shows some kind of benefit. This stuff is tremendous for your overall health, and can even provide acute benefits such as skin improvement and pain relief for those ever-aching joints. Eating fish helps, but supplementing ensures you get enough of the good stuff without the mercury. No particular brands needed here, just get them. Try to stick to reputable brands like NOW Foods who have excellent records when it comes to product testing so you don't turn into a human thermometer (mercury...what a shame what we have done to the oceans). Carlson makes a Lemon flavored liquid fish oil for those who don’t want to take pills. Just don’t take an unflavored liquid version! I'd recommend at least 1 g combined EPA/DHA daily (at least 4 pills).

Joint Supplements – You might find once get some joint soreness/stiffness as you start lifting heavily. Or maybe you have some nagging pains. Either way, joint meds give big benefits. Glucosamine, Chondroitin and MSM are standbys that are highly recommended (btw, they are included in the aforementioned Orange Triad multivitamin!) In addition, an herbal supplement called Cissus has shown tremendous effects in studies as well as in my own personal experience. Look for a product called Super Cissus RX by USPLabs which you can find at Vitamin Shoppe/GNC or cheaper online. It can be a bit mix and match here as what works for some may not work for others.

Protein Powder – HUGE! It can be very difficult to get all your protein from whole food sources every day. Protein powder allows you go mix it in water, make smoothies, mix it in oatmeal, and a lot of other uses (plenty of recipes out there). Just find the cheapest whey protein you can find and that should suffice (unless you are lactose intolerant, in which case you should buy pure whey isolate). I also like blends that include some slow digesting proteins such as casein and egg protein in addition to whey (which is fast digesting). Using a blend at night helps me stay much more full before going to bed than if I had consumed pure whey. A brand I like for both my pure whey and my protein blend is TruNutrition

TruNutrition Trutein Protein Blend
I have used fat loss supplements in the past and they can be effective. However, its not going to make a difference if your diet and exercise regimen isn’t in check. I recommend using fat loss supplements either to accelerate results when everything is on point or to help you past a plateau during your fat loss. Fat burners come in two forms: stimulant or non/low-stimulant.

Stimulant Fat-Burners – If you aren’t against some nice jolts of caffeine and similar substances, than this is the way to go. During a fat-loss period, you’ll often find yourself a bit lethargic and lacking energy so these can combat those effects as well. If you are willing to try a stimulant based product, there is really one choice that stands above the rest, OxyElite Pro (OEP) by USPLabs. From my personal experience with the product, the stimulant effect you get is smooth and without a crash as opposed to the cracked out ephedra-like feeling (not pleasant).

I’ve also tried Alpha-T2 by Performance Enhancing Supplements (PES), which is significantly less-stimulant intensive than OEP. Highly recommended for those sensitive to stimulants.

For the hardcore, many recommend combining OEP and Alpha-T2 (I haven't tried such a protocol).

Non-Stimulant Fat-Burners – If you don’t want any kind of stimulants for whatever reason, there are some effective options out there as well. I have only tried one, Recreate by USPLabs and it played a huge part in reaching my first ever six-pack, so it has my full seal of approval. I have also heard great things about Lean Xtreme by Driven Sports.
Note: I have combined OEP and Recreate before to good effect. However, I’m not sure if the difference was worth the added costs of using both.


Creatine –This baby has become quite the controversial supplement in the public eye. However, studies have proven time and time again it is perfectly safe. And the results simply speak for themselves. Awesome strength and hypertrophy results. I prefer to get micronized German creatine which is held to high testing standards, but any creatine should do. Powder is much cheaper than pills and has no taste in water.  Just be sure to drink a lot of water throughout the day and follow dosing directions.

Beta-Alanine – This supplement has been termed the new creatine. Just like creatine, it has massive scientific backing showcasing its effects. It delays failure allowing you to lift more weight (and therefore gain more muscle). It also helps any endurance activity. There is a tingling side-effect noticed by many, but it isn’t a health concern (I’ve actually come to quite like it J). Once again, pick up some powder, very neutral (though not quite tasteless) flavor.

*2012 UPDATE*

D-Aspartic Acid (DAA) / PES Erase - I've come recently to trying to play around with my testosterone and estrogen levels in safe and conservative ways (i.e. not the rediculous increases, hormonal imbalances and body shut downs you get from steroids/prohormones/etc).

That led me first to PES Erase, as I wanted to see the effect of lowering my baseline estrogen levels, which I suspected to be higher than average. Running it was an absolute dream. It helped me get past some weight loss plateaus while not sacrificing much if any muscle (probably because decreasing estrogen indirectly causes the body to produce more testosterone, which of course is anabolic gold). I loved the athletic performance increase, I was noticeably stronger and faster, probably as a result of being at a a personal best level of body composition and fitness.

After that awesome experience, I decided to spice things up with D-Aspartic Acid. A lot of users did warn of symptoms characteristic of high estrogen levels, which is bound to occur with any potent testosterone booster. As mentioned before, I felt I was predisposed to estrogenic side-effects so I tempered the risk by using the awesome PES Erase in conjunction with DAA. WOW! I have always had a bit of a hard time putting on muscle...this was like a whole new world. Muscle building no longer felt like a Sisyphean task. Lift hard, eat right, and results came regularly. And the Erase did its job too, no nasty side-effects of high estrogen (soft body composition, gyno, libido loss, etc.) Highly recommended combination!

I've tried some others in the interim, some of which have proved pretty good, but nothing to date has beat this combination. I even got blood tests to make sure. If you're curious about that adventure, check out my search for the best testosterone booster.


Of course, I've only really scratched the surface of the possibilities with my post. There are countless supplements out there that do so many different things. It really depends on what you need and what you are looking for as to whether or not they are right for you. My list comprises of what I believe are universal true staple supplements and some personal favorites that have been helpful for my particular needs.

Builiding an Affordable Basic Home Gym

Hey guys, just finished getting in a nice workout without even leaving the house. I know sometimes the hustle and bustle gets in the way and you can’t seem to find any time to hit the gym. But that’s where the home gym comes in. So today I’m going to talk about building a very basic home gym to keep you honest and your muscles pumping when you can’t make it out to the proper gym (or if you just feel like lifting at home).

If you happened to read my articles on the core upper-body/lower-body lifts, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of dumbbells. There is nothing you can do with a barbell that you can’t do with a dumbbell. And most of the time, the dumbbell is better than the barbell! It’s pretty clear then that the dumbbell is the one piece of equipment you simply must have in your gym.

Spinlock Dumbbells with Cast-Iron Plates
I recommend you target some good old-fashioned adjustable spinlock dumbbells. You get two 5 pound bars, a bunch of plates, and there you go, infinite variability. Plates typically come in vinyl, cast iron, or cement. There really isn’t a price difference between them so get the vinyl if you must, but the cast iron is the way to go, the cement doesn’t stand the test of time very well at all. You can also get them in chrome but weight is weight unless you’d like it to look pretty as well, in which case you’ll be paying a premium.

I have seen sets come from 40 pounds upwards of 100 pounds. 40 pounds is a bit light (a mere 20 pounds a dumbbell if you load two of them) and you will almost certainly need more. I would recommend nothing less than a 70 pound set although you might that to be insufficient as well. To give you an idea of prices you may find yourself paying, I bought a 105 pound set of 2 dumbbells (and 95 lbs of weight) for $110 with shipping included. I had seen a 40 pound set for 40 dollars, a 70 pound set for 75$ including shipping, which can be exorbitant as the weight goes up. I recommend you shop around, eBay is a fantastic option (that’s where I got the 105 pound set which has been fantastic).

Obviously, if you are going to have the dumbbell, you will need a bench. A bench isn’t too complicated, simply find an acceptable bench that allows at the very least a flat configuration, and preferably the ability to adjust it to an incline/decline as well. Once again, eBay is your friend. At the time of this writing, a quick search found a new adjustable bench on eBay for $42 + $20 shipping = $62 total.

Another optional but I feel to be vitally important element of a basic home gym is a chin-up/pull-up bar. I think very-very highly of that movement and you simply must have a bar. Unless you happen to have a pipe/bar you feel comfortable hanging off of, I recommend the Iron Gym. It is very easy to setup and will hold a significant amount of weight (300 lbs!) no problem.  And you simply can’t beat the price: $30 retail and often on sale.

That covers the pieces of equipment you will need for a comprehensive basic home gym. With the 105 lb db set, bench, and Iron Gym, the total is about $200. That $200 buys you the ability to do a number of movements effectively. As you get stronger and do heavier lifting at home, you may want to buy more plates for your dumbbells. Check your local fitness store, they often have dumbbell plates on sale for great prices.

Death to the Treadmill...My Cardio Workouts

If you want to have a great physique, you must do cardio. Fortunately, there are so many different ways to do cardio that you are bound to find something you’ll enjoy. I’ve never enjoyed the classic treadmill standby, mostly due to my bad knees but I simply don't enjoy the machine. So what follows are the various solutions I found to the problem.


Ergowhat? Its also known as a rowing machine. I love these things. It gets my heart pumping but it still works my muscles in a big way. From the legs to my back, biceps, and abs, total body workout while doing cardio! What else can you ask for. Be sure you use proper rowing form as shown and described below.
Proper Ergometer Form
Directions: Sit on seat, place feet in the straps, and grab the handle bar with both arms in an overhand grip. Slide back by extending legs while keeping arms straight. Once legs are near/at full extension, pull handle bar to midsection while keeping your forearms horizontal. Then return to the starting position with your shins vertical and your body pressed up to your legs. Repeat.



This machine is a a recent discovery for me. Most gyms don't have them, but if you are one of the lucky ones that has one available, you are in for a treat. A stepmill is essentially a rotating set of stairs, effectively the stair version of a treadmill. I like to set the program to fat burner, set a challenging level, and climb until my legs fall off. Try it!



Basically the treadmill for those with weak knees. My solution for the monotony is what’s called High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). You pedal at a moderate pace for 30 seconds, and then pedal at sprinting Tour de France deluxe pace for 30 seconds and repeat the 30/30 for 20 minutes or so. This is an amazing routine for those looking to burn fat. Just those 20 minutes provide you cardio more effective than an hour running on a treadmill. You may not be able to complete 20 minutes of HIIT right away. This is perfectly fine, be honest with yourself and push yourself as far as you can take it. It's not supposed to be easy. Over time, you will hit that 20 minute goal. For those of you who do like a little treadmill time, try HIIT on the treadmill. Fun in store for sure...


Jumping jacks, burpees, jump rope…all those exercises from middle school. You can also do depth jumps, box jumps, etc. These exercises basically involve using boxes or platforms which you jump over or on top of repeatedly. In addition to the cardiovascular workout, I love these exercises as they increase the explosive ability of your muscles. For example, that leg strength you’ve been developing is channeled into jumping ability through exercises such as these.
Plyometric Box Jumping

That covers the principal exercises I do for cardio at the gym. I also enjoy occasional hiking or running in scenic areas when my knees feel up to it. And if feeling like I need to let out some steam, hitting the punching bag for a while with some gusto will do the trick as well. Just focus on getting your heart rate up for an extended period of time and you’ve got an effective cardio exercise. Don’t underestimate the power of an iPod to help you along either.

The Core Lower Body Lifts

You ever go to the gym and notice the guys with huge upper bodies and toothpicks for legs. You don’t want that for you, do you? Do NOT ignore your lower body. Respecting the major compound lower body lifts will not only build your legs, but abs/lower-back and could even help your posture (and make that backside look nice and toned).

First and foremost, we have the…


This is perhaps the most foundational bodybuilding exercise there is. You should really learn this exercise and perform it often. It targets a great deal of your lower body, from your quads to your glutes to your hamstrings, and does it well.  You may hear a good deal about it being unsafe/detrimental to your knees, etc. –that’s all bs. Any such claims come from those you do not perform a proper squat. I had an old sports knee injury alleviated from doing squats. You can perform a squat with either dumbbells or barbells without any significant difference.


Barbell Squat:

With the bar racked at upper chest height, and position it high on the back of shoulders and grasp barbell with either a shoulder-width or wide stance depending on preference. Bend knees forward while allowing your hips to bend back behind, keeping your back straight and your knees pointed in the same direction as your feet. Bend until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. Then extend knees and drive up until legs are straight. Repeat.

Dumbbell Squat:

Stand with dumbbells grasped at sides. Bend knees forward while allowing your hips to bend back behind, keeping your back straight and your knees pointed in the same direction as your feet. Bend until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. Then extend knees and drive up until legs are straight. Repeat.

Next we have the:


I love this exercise. It gets my blood pumping and making all sorts of primal noises. Can you think of a better test of strength then picking up the biggest weight you can off the floor? It’s a bodybuilding stalwart for good reason. In addition to targeting many of the same lower body muscles as the squat, the deadlift exerts a huge focus on lower back development. Again, dumbbell or barbell, makes no difference, just do it.


Barbell Deadlift:
With the bar on the floor, squat down (DO NOT BEND OVER) and grasp bar with shoulder width or slightly wider grip. Your hands should either be both overhand or one overhand, one underhand, whichever you prefer. Lift the bar by extending knees to full extension (much like the squat). Pull shoulders back at the top of the lift if they are rounded. Then return the weight to the ground by squatting down and repeat.

Dumbbell deadlift. Squat down and grasp the dumbbells from the floor.  You can either use two dumbbells shoulder width apart or one dumbbell in between your legs held by both arms. Extend your knees until your legs are straight just like the squat. Pull shoulders back at the top of the lift if they are rounded. Then return the weight to the ground by squatting down and repeat.

Those are the only two exercises you really need to know about. There are a few useful variations like the front squat or Romanian/stiff-legged deadlift that I may cover in the future, but you can stick to these with no worries.


Many people also like to do an isolation exercises targeting the calves. I myself have tried calf raises and found them ineffective, but you can try them if you wish. I noticed that most people with great calf development are athletes who use those calves often: basketball players, volleyball players, etc. What do they have in common, they JUMP!  So if you would like a fun exercise to hit those calves, take a dumbbell in your right hand and hop on your right leg until your can’t jump any more…then switch legs. Then watch your calves explode.

Alright guys, that covers the core lower-body lifts you need to know about. Yeah, I know after you start doing them, you might find those squats and deadlifts to be a pain. They are tough lifts that really tax the body. But after you do them, you feel awesome for quite a while, like you actually did something! And by God, do they work!

Happy lifting!


The Core Upper Body Lifts

Below you will find my absolute go-to exercises for building an upper body to be proud of. Most of the exercises are pretty old-school compound lifts. They work, do them. I’ve thrown in a couple of isolation and bodyweight exercises as well, but we’ll get to that as we go along. First up…


Ask anybody on the street about weightlifting, and they will know about the bench press. Guess what: there is damn good reason for that. It is simply a great chest-building exercise. While it is traditionally performed with a barbell, I’m going to recommend you do them with dumbbells. Firstly, you get a deeper range of motion to really tax those pectoral (chest) muscles. More importantly though, the difference in safety and joint health is tremendous. A traditional barbell bench press puts seriously undue stress on your shoulders and wrists. Over time, especially as you get stronger and the weight adds up, injuries are inevitable. The dumbbell bench press allows your arms total freedom and as a result, alleviates the anatomical problems that exist with the barbell. Additionally, the dumbbell press removes the need for a spotter.

With my reasoning covered, lets go into the actual movement.

Lie on a bench and position dumbbells to the sides of your chest with your bent arm underneath each dumbbell. Press the dumbbells up until your arms are fully extended. Then lower the weight back to the sides of your upper chest until a slight stretch is felt. Repeat.
A couple of comments about the pressing movement. The dumbbells should be pressed in a slight arch pattern, with the weights out above the upper arm at the bottom of the movement and moving inwards in line with your shoulder at the top of the movement.



Yet another classic. This exercise is an absolutely fantastic back-builder. It targets your whole back, from the rhomboids to the lats and a host of other muscles. Again, while it can be performed with a barbell, I recommend dumbbells for an increased range of movement (and therefore greater back activation). Although you can do both arms at the same time, I recommend you do this with one-arm at a time since this exercise is best performed with heavy weight. Doing the exercise with one-arm allows you to use your other arm as a support and get a very deep back stretch on each side.

On to the exercise:

Place your knee and the hand of your support arm on a flat bench. Position your opposing leg slight back and to the side to allow your back to be close to horizontal. Pull the dumbbell up from the floor until it makes contact with your ribs or your upper arm passes horizontal. Then lower the weight until your arm is extended and shoulder stretched downward. Repeat for the desired number of reps and then switch to the other arm. IMPORTANT: Ensure you allow your shoulder blades to move as you lift the weight. You should feel them being tightened at the top of the rep.

Time for the shoulders…


Incredible shoulders exercise. Probably the only real shoulder exercise you need. Really works the shoulder and keeps it burning for days. If you perform it with dumbbells, you may want to do the press while seated to make it easy to bring the weight up and back down. With a barbell, you can use a rack to ensure its at the appropriate height and can do it either seated or standing (I prefer standing so I can’t cheat by leaning back against the seat of the bench).


Barbell (Seated or Standing): Grasp barbell from rack with an overhand slightly wider than shoulder width grip. Position bar on the upper chest just below your neck. Press the bar upwards until arms are fully extended overhead. Lower the bar back to the starting position and repeat.

Dumbbell:  Position dumbbells to side of shoulders with elbows below wrists. Press the dumbbells upwards until arms are fully extended overhead. Lower the bar back to the starting position and repeat. 

Those cover the major upper-body weighted compound exercises. I also believe strongly in the benefit of compound bodyweight exercises for muscle building. The three such exercises I find to be the best are: chin-ups/pull-ups, pushups, and dips.


Incredible back builder. Particularly the pull-up (palms facing away from you). This is because a conventional pull-up has a wider grip than the chin-up (palms facing towards you) and requires more back activation than the chin-up which uses more of the biceps in addition to the back.  These exercises also have the happy effect of being a great bicep exercise and perhaps the best ab exercise you can do (seriously!)

Pull-Up Directions: Grab a bar with a wide overhand grip and pull your body up until your upper chest reaches the bar. Lower your body until your arms are fully extended and repeat.

Chin-Up Directions: Grab a bar with a shoulder-width underhand grip and pull your body up until your chin is above the bar. Lower your body until your arms are fully extended and repeat.


Great chest-builder. If you do enough of them, you’ll be VERY surprised the amount of chest burn you will get. They also work your triceps quite well. If you find them too easy, elevate your feet. I really don’t think I need to tell you how to do a pushup…so on to dips.


Dips are like the upper-body squat. Tremendous movement and another fantastic chest/triceps builder. A lot of people perform what are called bench dips, but a dipping bar will give far better results.

Bench Dip: Find a bench/chair/whatever and sit down. Place hands on the edge of the bench, straighten your arms, and slide off the bench, placing your heels on the floor with your legs straight. Lower your body by bending your arms until a stretch if felt in your chest or shoulder, or your rear touches the floor. Raise your body and repeat. If you find this too easy, find another bench to place your heels on instead of the floor and perform the movement.

Dip (on dipping bar): Stand in between dipping bars, grip them, and push yourself off the ground until your arms are fully extended. Bend your knees slightly and then lower your body by bending your arms. When a slight stretch if felt in your chest, push your body up until your arms are straight and repeat.

Dips on a dipping bar
Well, there you have THE definitive list on the best upper-body building exercises in existence. These have withstood the test of time and for good reason. While you may notice that they chiefly work the chest/back/shoulders, each movement, because it is compound, works numerous muscles, so rest assured everything from your biceps to your abdominals will feel the burn. If you feel you would like to supplement with isolation exercises to target your biceps, triceps, abs, etc. stay tuned for some of my favorites to be on the Becoming Adonis blog in the future.