In today’s developed society, we have long forgotten about our origins and about what has brought us here. Yes, when men really acted like men and women followed. When men used to fight for a reason, being for power or for acknowledgment, leaving blood or even their lives on the ground. Or when men faced the unknown, looking for food and provision, to keep the community safe and protected.
In our ultra-comfortable and safe lives, we tend to despise what is our nature, why we have such a human anatomy and, perhaps most importantly, how we have struggled to reach where we are. And 99% of the people just take it for granted, forgetting the venturesome journey which many men have taken to turn everyone’s lives better.
But what happens nowadays? What before were crucial traits and skills for survival, are today seen as irrelevant or even as primitive. A strong, good fighter male was somehow more valuable than others, since he would be a fundamental element for any battle. But the strong men of today are mostly used for entertainment, as they delight the fans of MMA and iron man or even turn on the lonely women who like to see them performing as strippers. Basically, there is not really a need for being strong, as it is no longer a current asset valued by society.
But that is why, more than never, every man needs to bring back his primal nature and assume his masculinity. Not only to assume it, but to live it and to be proud of it. And if there is a way we can prove to ourselves (to others, does not really matter) that we have warm blood filled with testosterone running in our veins, that is exactly by going beyond our physical limits. And lifting weights and taking our body to the limit, it’s exactly what every man should be striving for.
So let’s talk about real masculine fitness goals
In the fitness world, what was true yesterday might not be true today. Everyday there is a someone coming with some new study, theory or method about the most efficient way of exercising, with the ultimate goal of making your body bigger and leaner. But like most of the things in life, mastering and following the basics is usually the most direct way to achieve success.
And regarding bodybuilding, if there is a foundation you should follow no matter what, that one is exactly to stick to compound exercises. I know how you love those dumbbell curls, the cable push-down, the leg extension or the shoulder lateral raise but, in case you want to go for the real deal, then put these isolation exercises where they belong: as a complement to the compound ones. I know how we all like to cheat ourselves sometimes, but do not even consider skipping the latter just because the former feels much better.
But even within the compound exercises, choosing which one to do may not be the easiest task, as you have a bunch of variations for every group of muscles. That is why I will only talk about the ones which have brought bodybuilding to where it is today.
The Fantastic Four
Squat, Dead lift, Bench Press and Military Press.
(And before you ask, all of them performed with the barbell, not with dumbbells)
Yes, these are the four commandments which, in my honest opinion, every bodybuilder should follow almost blindly. The exercises which will make you bigger and will put you closer to your most extreme goals.
If today a magic force would show up before you and would obligate you to perform just four exercises for the rest of your life, these would be the only ones you would do. There would be no other options or second thoughts. Forget about new advanced formulas and innovative ideas, because these fantastic four are the ones which really train your whole body and therefore are so goddammit effective.
As you have already read in previous posts, I am a guy who has been training for more than fifteen years. I have tried it all but trust me, if it wasn’t for these four fellows, I would be the same thin guy my DNA made me so. These are the exercises which have helped me in growing and reaching the physique I have today.
But the today’s article is not to talk about my body, rather to tell you how you shall use these four compound exercises to gauge your fitness level and ascertain that you are on the right track of pure strength.
How to perform those
Instead of following the good, old “one-rep max lift”, which basically tests your maximum strength, I will base these standards on the 5-6 repetitions, simply because I believe these assess one’s fitness condition in a much more controlled and safer way.
As you already know, I like to follow the routine of 5×5, so in this case I will am referring to the first set of the five. Meaning that you should aim for these indicators only on the first set, due to the fact that in the remaining four you will not be able to lift that hard (as your muscles fiber recruitment will be on a high level and most likely scenario is that you will need to lower the weights).
So starting from the lower to the maximum weight:
Military Press: x0.75 of your bodyweight:
So if you are a 80kg man, you must have as a goal to raise 60kg above your head, between five and six times. Please be aware that you should apply a narrow grip and tuck your elbows while lifting. You can also give a small impulse with your legs, really pushing the “floor down” with your heels, but just make sure you do not use any help coming from your back.
Bench Press: x1.25 of your bodyweight:
In this case, you should be able to lift 100 kg (usually 40kg each side, plus the Olympic bar of 20kg). Use a normal grip – whose alignment is slightly after the shoulders – and take the bar until your chest, but never use it as a bump to go up. You should also neither arch your back nor raise your butt, meaning that you must have a solid base, in order that you just use the power of your arms. Lastly, your feet must be firmly placed on the ground, pointing out, and your elbows tucked in.
Squat: x1.50 of your bodyweight:
Ready to go for 120kg? Great, but first there are a couple of basics you should be aware of. First, and as a safety instruction, always squat using a power rack. You never know whether you will not be on a bad day, so always play it safe. Then, place the bar firmly over your traps, open your legs and point your feet 45° out. Contract your abs, throw your ass a little bit back and always go for a full squat (ass totally parallel to the floor). When going up, make sure your use your heels to push the floor and that your hips and chest move like a single unit, never bending your back.
Deadlift: x2.00 of your bodyweight:
Last but not least, until you can not lift two times your weight, then you are just playing around in the gym. So if you are a 80kg man, then you must try to dead lift 160kg for at least 5 reps. And regarding this exercise, there are plenty of details you must follow, otherwise you will not reach this goal. First, buy these straps in order that you will always have a safe, firm grip (trust me, they are a game changer). Keep your core tight and your back straight and pull the bar using all the power of a solid base on the floor – again, the secret is on the heels. When bringing the weight up, throw your chest out, your hips in and straighten yourself up.
First of all, I have to say that this is the goal every guy should aim for but watch out that you may be light-years away from these objectives, so first please check where you are currently at. If your strength level is way below the values I have just told you, just think that like everything in life you have to be patient but, if you really work for it, you are persistent and you do not neglect your diet and sleep, then you will reach it. It will neither be tomorrow nor next week and eventually it will not be in six months either, but do not give up simply because you do not see the results yet.
On the other hand, you might be on the opposite side of the spectrum, and you might be laughing about these “goals”: “oh come on, 1.25x of my body-weight in the bench press?! I lift at least 1.50x for 5 reps!”. So if you are already this far, great, let me tell that you have a physique which 95% of the men worldwide are probably jealous about. Just keep up the good work but never rely on what you have already achieved, rather on what you can still improve and attain.
However, keep in mind that technique is always the crucial element to keep an eye on whenever you are lifting weights (or, by the way, when practicing any other sport). So if you are already lifting 200kg in the squat, but you are stopping at the 45° when going down, also helping with your back to go up, then perhaps it is time to put you ego aside, lower the weight and perform the exercise correctly. There is nothing worse than getting injured and having pain for life, just because you cared more about impressing others than about your health.
So but regardless of where you currently at, simply keep these objectives in your mind as the fitness level you want to achieve. It might look hard and impossible now but, if you do not aim for the stars, you will never reach high. In addition, think that you are doing a favor not only to yourself and to your body but also the man kind. It may sound too exaggerated or even lunatic but, if all men make the effort to become stronger and leaner, keeping their masculinity on a top-level, then the world will surely be a more balanced, better place to live.