Big 3 For Aesthetics? No.

Point, Blank. Period.

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I know…I know…you’re probably wondering, “who the hell does this new kid on the block think he is telling me I do not NEED to squat, bench, and deadlift?”

Well…you don’t…orthodox that is.

 Let me explain:

I was on the phone with my broham, JuiCy Deen, as we spoke about his bodybuilding program I put him on for 12 weeks. The one great thing about two meathead fitness professionals with a brain and a desire to change the way conventional thinking is done for bodybuilding is we train hard, we train aggressively, and we train SMART.

When we discussed his needs, limitations, and wants, he made it quite clear when he said something along the lines of, “DO NOT GIVE ME STRAIGHT BAR PRESSES!” Lol, ok, not that aggressive but yes, he was very adamant about it as it caused some issues during some lifts. Fine, dumb bells it is. Well, with poor or lack-luster mobility, deadlifting is probably the last exercise you will want to execute, as it requires incredible ankle and hip mobility. Last but not least, squats(as you know them)…again? Necessary? No.

AESTHETICS IS WHAT WE ARE CHASING!

Nothing irritates me more than someone who says to me, “oh, you know, gonna do a little chest…a little back….some legs.” WHAT THE F*** MAN!? If you want to grow and look better, you need to train the muscles! SETS ON SETS ON SETS! Now, Im not talking about overtraining BUT when we train for bodybuilding, it’s more about volume, time-under-tension, and exercise selection more so than load is concerned (As I can come up with a general exercise list for all muscles, that would be out of the scope of this article. I will be focusing on the “Big 3” replacements).

People feel the ONLY way to get big legs is to throw a bar on your back and squat…well, I was one of those people until I felt I had a hernia (which luckily is wasn’t) but I backed off squats for a few months. I said, “screw it, I’ll do some other leg work” so I went with more lunges, more step-ups, and more split squats with the occasional leg extension machine. The end result, MUCH bigger legs and in fact, better hip mobility. What happened next? When I decided to hit the squat bar, PR’d about a few weeks after my hernia scare. There are TONS of ways to directly load the quads without the bar on the back. I might sound like Mike Boyle but hey, I’d rather listen and sound like him then sound like an asshole who still can’t lift.

Try: Bulgarian Split Squats, TRX Pistol Squats, Single-Leg Leg Press (my personal favorite), lunges (variations), step-ups (variations)

In a society where our posture is pure garbage and shoulders lean in further than a junky on a sidewalk, we still want to bench. I don’t understand. How about trying the many push-up variations from bands, to chains, to suspension trainers? Let the scapulae live! The bench is purely an ego lift. It really is. Side note: not for nothing, BOUNCING heavy ass weight [or what you would consider heavy] is only the precursor to broken ribs. If you can’t control it, you shouldn’t do it!) Anyway, the reason why I find the bench overrated is #1, from a common sense point, it’s a closed-chain exercise. With aesthetics, we are shooting for symmetry, right? Well, this might be new to some of you but you have a dominant and non-dominant side. When two hands are connected to the bar, one side is bound to fire off harder to compensate for the weaker side causing what? Unbalanced sides. Dumbbells are the only smart choice for presses as you are only as strong as your weakest link. Let the weaker side play catch-up. On top of that, using a straight bar is a little more problematic than dumbbells when it comes to shoulder health. If you love lifting, it’s time to put your ego to the side and make smarter choices, not ego choices.

Try: Flyes(variations), push-ups (variations), and if benching is a MUST use dumbbells.

AND NOW, THE KING OF KINGS!!! THE ULTIMATE TEST OF STRENGTH AND POWER!! THE DEADLIFT!

This I might take flack for but hey, the court of public opinion can be harsh and I accept it. Opinions are like assholes and everyone has ‘em…and some smell worse than others. I think it’s safe to say A LOT plays into the deadlift. Hip mobility, ankle mobility, strong core, proper hinge movement, maintaining a neutral spine, yadda yadda. With all things considered, wouldn’t you just want to spark muscle hypertrophy in a safer manner? Now, I will say this, I DO deadlift BUT not for aesthetics. It’s a great lift of strength. Aesthetically, you can train the glutes and hams far more in depth by targeting them accordingly. It’s why when JC switched from trap bar deads to Romanian deads, I allowed it in the program.  Why? Hypertrophy is the name of the game and loading the hams and glutes directly is what we want to do. Now, before you throw Molotov cocktails at me, if you’re training for power and STRENGTH as it IS different than training for hypertrophy, then deadlift until the cows come home. What this is meant to offer is alternatives for those who want and/or NEED something more than deadlifts.

Try: Romanian Deadlifts (RDL), Sumo Deadlifts (variations), Cable SL RDL, Glute-Ham Raises, Barbell bridges, barbell hip thrusts

Now, the big 3 are just that. BIG EFFING LIFTS. That said, power lifters and people training PURELY for strength would without a doubt NEED these exercises (especially for competition). For your average Joe and Jane, are they necessary? No.

Remember, there is a difference between a NEED and a WANT.

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