3 Compound Exercise Muscle Building Assists

April 11, 2011 by  
Filed under The Fitness Bug


Ok, it’s time to take a walk into the gym again. But this time we are going to make a few changes to some of the exercises that you perform along side the compound exercises that you would perform on a normal day at the gym. 3 exercises to be specific.

The goal?

The goal is to perform assistant exercises that will…

1. Help strengthen synergist muscle groups

2. Help increase performance in the said compound exercises

And the 3 compound exercises in question are?

  1. The Deadlift
  2. The Squat
  3. The Bench press

#1 The deadlift

So, the deadlift is the undisputed king of all weightlifting exercises, as it works all muscle groups. But namely your butt, back and thighs. However, the deadlift is not an exercises for newbies. And chances are, your lower back muscles won’t be ready for the amount of stress you are about to inflict on it. Which is why you need to take as much time as you need to improve your form, because if you mess up your back, you’re screwed. Because your lower back is the most important muscle in your body.



Assistant exercise = Stiff leg deadlift

Target: Hamstrings

Secondary target: Glutes, Lower back


It’s ‘ok’ to perform stiff leg deadlifts along side the standard deadlifft movement.

1. Because the stiff leg deadlift is more of a light endurance and conditioning exercise (Well, as long as you treat it that way).

2. There should be no problems as long as you are focusing on good exercise form.

Now, why did I choose the stiff leg deadlift?

1. They’ll make your hamstrings expload in size, better than most other exercises can.

2. It will help strengthen your lower back muscles, which in turn should allow you to push forward and progress better with the deadlift exercise.

How to perform them?


Like the standard deadlift exercise, the stiff leg deadlift is performed standing up, with the bar placed on the floor 3-4 inches in front of your shins. Don’t worry about scraping those shins. At least you’ll know you’re performing the exercise correctly that way. What would you rather have, scared up shins that eventually heal, or a back that’s screwed up for LIFE???

In all seriousness though. You could always wear football shin pads to protect your soft baby skin.


#1 Once in the execution position, bend down with your knees and grab the barbell with one hand using an overhand grip (palms facing down) and the other hand using an underhand grip (palms facing up) with your hands around shoulder width apart or wider.

#2 Keep your back straight, stand straight up while resting the barbell on your thighs. (Remember to keep the bar close to your body on the way up)

#3 On your way up to the top of the movement, pull your shoulders back (But don’t hyper extend), stick your chest out, and arch your back ‘slightly’.

#4 Keep your eyes facing forward throughout the entire movement. Doing so prevents your back from arching.

#5 Slowly bend at the hips lowering the barbell straight down and still close to your body.

Where you should feel tension?

In your hamstrings! If you begin to feel it in your lower back then you are performing the exercise incorrectly. Here’s a few mindset tips to help you fix that.

#1 Like I mentioned earlier, this exercise should be treated as light endurance rather than an all out blasting session of increasing the weight. Do that and I can guarantee that in one of your stiff deadlift sessions you’ll start to feel a stabbing pain through your lower back and down your right or left leg. The technical term being a disc herniation at the L5 vertebra. OUCH!

Trust me, like I’ve said on previous posts. YOU DO NOT WANT THIS!

  • Never do this exercise as a max lift. (You know, like your reps based on your ORM)
  • Do not test your ORM
  • Do not train till failure
  • Focus on a slower movement.
  • Focus on using your butt and hamstrings to drive the movement.
  • If you have back pain history, skip this exercise altogether, it really isn’t worth it.

#2 Bend your knees

Let’s take a look at a real world example

Say you have the bar loaded with 25kg. The force of lifting a 25 kg load from the ground with your knees bent is 3 times your bodyweight on L3 (a vertebrae in your low back). Lift that same load with your legs ‘straight’ and suddenly you have 4.85 times your body weight acting on L3. Pretty big difference right? Bend your knees slightly please and don’t screw up your back. Back pain reduces grown men to tears. Trust me, I’ve seen it!

#6 Lower the bar down as far as your hamstrings will let you ‘comfortably’ go. (This is different for everyone. Your body will let you know how far down you can go).

#7 Ready your hamstrings and begin to raise the bar straight back up.

#8 Repeat.

#2 The Squat

Squats, like other big compound movements usually get a bad name, because of the injuries that can occur on your lower back. But ONLY if performed incorrectly. One thing you need to ensure that you have when attempting to progress with the squat exercise, is upper back strength. And the following exercise will give you plenty of that.

Assistant exercise = The barbell row

The barbell row is a pretty tough exercise to perform. Mainly because you are fighting against gravity. Nevertheless, performing this exercise will help you improve performance in your bench press, overhead press, deadlift and of course squats.

I’ll give your eyes a rest for a moment and give you a video to watch which shows exactly how to perform them.

#3 The bench press

The bench press is the exercise that even non gym goers know about. Yes, it is that popular. But the real reason behind it’s popularity is the fact that it’s the only upper body exercise that allows you to load up a stack load of weight. STACK LOADS!!!

However, the following exercise will help you increase your strength gains and performance on the bench press exercise. Yet, despite it’s popularity, you still won’t see many people performing them in the gym. Maybe they’re just scared of progressing. But you are not one of those people!

Assistant exercise = Pull ups and chin ups

Pull ups and chin ups are the opposite movements to the bench press and overhead press exercise. It will take you some time to really conquer pull ups and chin ups, but once you do, your performance in the said weightlifting exercises will improve vastly.

The most common tip is just to keep doing more pull ups and chin ups. The more you do them, the better you will get. Before you know it, you’ll get yourself a dipping belt and start adding some resistance. Once you get to this stage, you’ll start to get weird looks from people at your gym. Simply because most people are weak. They just can’t do them.

Now for some quick fire tips before I leave you with a video.

  1. Always perform them with a full range of motion (All the way UP and all the way DOWN)
  2. Always aim to get your chin over the bar (This may take time to perfect, but always aim high. Never partial)
  3. Don’t swing! And keep your hips inline with your body
  4. Always start from a relaxed dead hang position and pull UP!
  5. Squeeze your butt and cross your legs (Effective when adding resistance by placing a dumbbell between your feet. 20kg max. After that, get a dipping belt)
  6. Look up. This mental technique will help you perform more reps. It’s kind of the same reason why looking down over a high building will cause you to fall off.
  7. Use a BAR and not machines. What I just said. Do not disobey.

The video…

Leave your thoughts in the comments.


If you are still struggling with your muscle building goals, then it could be down to factor no.1… DIET!!

If so, it probably means you need a good muscle building diet to follow. The only person I know who ‘solely’ focuses on this is Muscle building expert Kyle Leon.


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