Last Update  On February 13, 2012
Back To Basics:  Classic Upper Body Mass Builders

by Vladi
I spent the last 4-6 months trying different exercises and different programs.  I did a lot of machines and tried different rep ranges, training to failure, training after failure...etc. In other words I did everything I never did before just to see the difference. The difference was huge - I made almost no progress at all. Then I decided to go back to basics and let the “advanced stuff” to those who are actually advanced. In this article I will present you the exercises which in my opinion are the most effective upper body exercises for gaining muscle.

Lats - Close Grip Ring Pull-ups

The most effective lat exercise I've ever done is the close grip chin-up on gymnastic rings. If you go dead hang and arch your back the contraction in the lat is amazing. Much better than almost everything else. On top of it the rings are extremely kind to the elbow and wrist joints unlike the straight bar.
Rear Delts - Wide Grip Rows

When it comes to rear delts many people automatically think of rear flies and while this is a good exercise  nothing beat wide grip rows.
Traps - Deadlifts And Rows

Shrugs are quite often a complete waste of time and energy. They hit mainly the upper portion of the trap and this is not enough for full development. This is where wide grip rows and rows in general come. They hit the whole trapezius area. In most cases deadlifts and rows are plenty for your traps.
Lower Back - Deadlifts/Romanian deadlifts

When it comes to lower back training the deadlifts and the Romanian deadlifts are hard to be beaten. You can play with back extensions and stuff but in the end of the day pulls from the floor are still King.
Chest - Low Incline Barbell Bench Press

10-30 degree low incline barbell press offers the most bang for the buck when it comes to working the chest. You can use dumbbells as well but the barbell is a little easier to program. The barbell flat bench is also good but the low incline offers more stimulation for the middle and upper portion of the chest and many people find it somewhat easier on the shoulders. However if the incline is too high your front delts will take most of the beating. That's why low incline should be used for chest.
Front Deltoids - Overhead Barbell Press

The strict form barbell overhead press is a very shoulder friendly exercise and the most effective deltoid builder as well. You can play with front raises and stuff but in the end of the day we all know what's more effective.
Biceps - Free Weight Curls

There is not need to overcomplicated biceps training. While I agree that machines and cables may be used in some cases the strict dumbbell and barbell curl are the classic biceps builders and many impressive arm flexors were built using them. I recommend using an EZ-curl bar.
Triceps - Close Grip Bench Press And Dips

While I really like exercises like the PJR pull-over and I think it's a solid move if someone pointed a gun to my face and said: “You should get the biggest possible triceps you can in 6 months or you die.” I will drop everything and concentrate on close grip bench press. Dips are also really good for triceps development but some people including me get shoulder problems from them. But if you don't have that problem keep doing them.
Forearms - Deadlifts/Pull-ups

In general I think that deadlifts will take care of your forearms and isolation work is needed only if you have muscle imbalances or very specific weakness/problem.

Neck - Deadlifts/Rows

The deadlift and rows will thicken your neck area much faster than neck extensions and shrugs. With that being said I guess professional fighters will need more direct approach but in this article we are concerned with muscle development only.
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