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  1. #1
    Registered User EiFit91's Avatar
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    Are the big 3 necessary for optimal gains?

    While one can certainly achieve hypertrophy with many different movements, sometimes fans of the big 3 barbell lifts will argue that these lifts are special compared to other movements (e.g. the back squat is inherently superior for hypertrophy compared to single leg training)

    Curious to see what the forum consensus is on the topic!
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  2. #2
    Moderator SuffolkPunch's Avatar
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    Necessary? No, IMO, I'm not doing any of them at the moment...

    I would normally do back squats or front squats but have some issue with both knee and hip - so doing lunges, sissy squat and hip abduction + leg curl machine

    I prefer RDL over conventional deadlift most of the time. Have messed with SLDL and GM too

    Currently doing DB bench on a slight incline + close grip BB bench on a different day.
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  3. #3
    Han shot first! TolerantLactose's Avatar
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    I do the big 3 lifts to get good at the big 3 lifts. If hypertrophy was my primary goal, I'd do other things.
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    Nope.

    For squatting I stick to hack squats and safety bar more. But did a lot of squatting when I was younger, same for all of the big 3 tbh.

    I’ll do deadlifts sometimes but I’ll usually use chains to overload the top. And prefer RDL in general

    And I prefer dumbbells
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    Registered User Darkius's Avatar
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    A benefit of the big 3 is you build coordination with a movement that is functional. You also can exercise more groups faster and be out of the gym sooner. And using all that muscle at once gives a feel good high.


    But you can work each muscle indivudually. I don't know if that counts as lower intensity for HGH purposes, but you can alternate muscle groups without rests and get intense enough. You just have to be careful to balance the workout so strength stays proportional. And clearly those of us with injuries must avoid making them worse. I currently can't do squats.
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    Unregistered User MyEgoProblem's Avatar
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    Specific lifts?
    No.

    Movement patterns?
    Almost Yes.

    Almost a necessity.
    Squat pattern
    Hinge pattern
    Multiple upper body pushes
    Multiple upper body pulls

    Very useful..
    Unilateral Lunge pattern
    Loaded carry
    Knee flexion & extention
    Elbow flexion & extention
    Core work
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  7. #7
    Registered User BeginnerGainz's Avatar
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    No. There not even that great for optimal gains (whatever that means lol) unless your meaning of optimal gains is getting better at those 3 lifts

    Upper push
    Upper pull
    Lower push (squat/leg press)
    Lower pull (hinge)
    Knee flexion (absolutely necessary in my book)
    Elbow flexion (not just biceps) and extensions

    Get as strong as you can at a variety of exercises for those movement patterns and you will be set though

    Some prehab type work wouldn’t hurt either for the shoulders, pecs and lower body

    MyEgoProblem beat me to it for the most part

    Originally Posted by SmashinYoungVag View Post
    Nope.

    For squatting I stick to hack squats and safety bar more. But did a lot of squatting when I was younger, same for all of the big 3 tbh.

    I’ll do deadlifts sometimes but I’ll usually use chains to overload the top. And prefer RDL in general

    And I prefer dumbbells
    This is eerily similar to how I train too…

    I never squat with a straight bar, always with the SSB since my shoulders can’t get comfortably under a straight bar because I simply can’t adduct my shoulders that much

    I also prefer RDLs (and SLDLs) to deadlifts because the greater range of motion and eccentric component.

    When I deadlift it is usually up to a max single in the 85-95ish range (405-455/75) but that is once in a blue moon, just to keep the technique nailed down.

    If I’m trying to overload the glutes/hams/erectors/upper traps nowadays I’ll use a hex bar. Up until about 8 months ago I used to shun the hex bar as a cop out until I gave it an honest try and I have to say I feel like an idiot. It is one of the best training tools out there IMO.

    And I too prefer dumbbells over barbells
    Last edited by BeginnerGainz; 10-06-2021 at 09:41 AM.
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  8. #8
    Unregistered User MyEgoProblem's Avatar
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    Biggest problem I see is.

    Everyone seems to only associate the comp variations with squat, bench, deadlift.. When they actually encompass all variations.

    We need to be more descriprive than just... Deadlift, cos that can be an dozen+ lifts in one category

    Originally Posted by BeginnerGainz View Post
    No. There not even that great for optimal gains (whatever that means lol)

    Upper push
    Upper pull
    Lower push (squat/leg press)
    Lower pull (hinge)
    Knee flexion (absolutely necessary in my book)
    Elbow flexion (not just biceps) and extensions

    Get as strong as you can at a variety of exercises for those movement patterns and you will be set though

    Some prehab type work wouldn’t hurt either for the shoulders, pecs and lower body

    MyEgoProblem beat me to it for the most part
    Pretty much this..



    Although we know what we mean..
    I hate the way the term 'prehab' is thrown around now (and I've done this my self too) it's a very specific thing that doesn't actually mean what we think.

    But like most things, it's another bs term that we misuse commonly now like intensity
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  9. #9
    Registered User air2fakie's Avatar
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    Forum consensus & personal anecdotes have no value, I need a study by well-respected PHDs who've never worked out before to tell me what my answer is.
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    Registered User BeginnerGainz's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by MyEgoProblem View Post
    Pretty much this



    Although we know what we mean..
    I hate the way the term 'prehab' is thrown around now (and I've done this my self too) it's a very specific thing that doesn't actually mean what we think.

    But like most things, it's another bs term that we misuse commonly now like intensity
    Prehab to me is working in ROMs I normally don’t

    Hip adduction, abductions, single leg stuff, hip thrust, rear delt cable flys, L-laterals, front raises, Bradford presses, incline flys… that sort of stuff

    Usually on an off day

    I’ve also become a big fan of DC style extreme stretching
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    Unregistered User MyEgoProblem's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by BeginnerGainz View Post
    Prehab to me is working in ROMs I normally don’t

    Hip adduction, abductions, single leg stuff, hip thrust, rear delt cable flys, L-laterals, front raises, Bradford presses, incline flys… that sort of stuff

    Usually on an off day

    I’ve also become a big fan of DC style extreme stretching
    Aye.
    Pretty common usage now, similar to have I use(d) it 😂
    Still winds me up when I say it.

    That's what I generally call Gpp now. And I too love mini workouts done westside style on off days 🤙
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  12. #12
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    Hip thrusts are the only necessary lift if we are going to be honest here…



    Jk

    I despise them. I know they can be beneficial but to me they seem silly and a lift too many girls waste too much time on at the gym.


    Squat and deadlifts are great because not only are you hitting legs, but also core. At the same time, learning and strengthening the ability for stabilization. By no means do you have to do them fit maximum gains. When I’ve contest prepped, I find it just uses too much damn energy to push heavy with these lifts and do lifts with less full body range of motion. Bench really builds chest and lats move than bis and tris so it’s not needed for size or even what’s best

    For muscle gains, the best thing is generally a mix of different movements but volume often trumps strengh. If power lifting is your goal, we’ll ya bench, squat and deadlift are the best, but still assisted lifts are very helpful in making your 3 main lifts go up.
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  13. #13
    Registered User EliKoehn's Avatar
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    Proficiency in the major compound lifts has immense carryover to the rest of resistance training, while the inverse is not necessarily true. My honest opinion is that those who dispute this are in denial and probably running the argument to justify avoiding them or to cope with not being strong with them in the first place, despite whatever else they do, to "re/undefine" rather than climb the fence so as not to be found on an undesirable side of it.

    The barbell is simply an efficient way of objectively loading the movement pattern. If you are doing functionally the same thing with dumbbells or cables, it shouldn't be much different anyway; but that's no knock against barbells themselves accomplishing this in lieu of any of that. Things that change leverages and loadings and aren't even often consistent with one another like machines, for whatever use they have for isolation and hypertrophy, are no substitute as an objective measure of strength, for whatever that's worth to someone's personal goals.
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    Nope. Although they're great lifts for hypertrophy, they're still just free weight compound lifts. I will say that these lifts (and variations of them) gave me a quality foundation of strength and hypertrophy when I was cutting my teeth in the gym.
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    They help but not necessary. I swapped flat bench for incline (and flat db press). RDL replaced deadlifts. Still squat.
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    Originally Posted by MyEgoProblem View Post
    Aye.
    Pretty common usage now, similar to have I use(d) it 😂
    Still winds me up when I say it.

    That's what I generally call Gpp now. And I too love mini workouts done westside style on off days 🤙
    Now that’s funny, I say prehab because I hate saying GPP lol
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    No time to read the whole thread but heres the truth the way I see it…

    Flat bench flyes and incline flyes will build a better pec than bench alone….but zero
    People
    Ask “how much ya flye?”

    And my guess is that leg press
    And front squats with leg ext will build better quads than squats alone but again nobody with a man card skips squats

    Certainly we can agree that many great backs have been built without deadlift but nobody who wants to demonstrate strength would be using a trap bar
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    ^^ Well-put and agreed completely.

    For the sake of this thread, I thought a quick anecdotal experiment might be worthwhile.

    The "Big 6" make up about 80-85% of my training and have for well over the past two years, and I use the conventional barbell exercises excepting pullups for obvious reasons. Dips, calf-raises, curls and lateral raises make up most of everything else. Occasionally I do dumbbell variations but that is somewhat rare.

    However, my back training has comprised nothing at all besides deadlifts, rows, and pullups/lat pulldowns to any degree of consistency or seriousness, over the past two years.

    Regarding hypertrophy with this approach, here is a link to a recent photo of my back: https://forum.bodybuilding.com/attac...3&d=1632751781

    So, in response to the question whether such an approach yields any significant, immediate carryover to separate exercises, I decided to use the chest-supported T-Bar row for a random heavy set. The last time I used this machine was several months ago and I was working out with someone else and following his lead intentionally, and I haven't even rowed with the bar in a few weeks at this point from self-isolation from a recent covid exposure, meaning I should have had no movement-specific acclimation to this. I am also in a moderate caloric deficit currently, weighing 238 pounds today.

    I don't even know if this was good or not, but with no greasing of the groove I got 5 with 4 plates added in one try. Unless this is a relatively novice weight for this machine, I think deadlifting, rowing and doing pullups/pulldowns did the trick to make this easy without any specific adaptations being necessary.

    Last edited by EliKoehn; 10-06-2021 at 06:35 PM.
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  19. #19
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    Originally Posted by EliKoehn View Post
    ^^ Well-put and agreed completely.

    For the sake of this thread, I thought a quick anecdotal experiment might be worthwhile.

    The "Big 6" make up about 80-85% of my training and have for well over the past two years, and I use the conventional barbell exercises excepting pullups for obvious reasons. Dips, calf-raises, curls and lateral raises make up most of everything else. Occasionally I do dumbbell variations but that is somewhat rare.

    However, my back training has comprised nothing at all besides deadlifts, rows, and pullups/lat pulldowns to any degree of consistency or seriousness, over the past two years.

    Regarding hypertrophy with this approach, here is a link to a recent photo of my back: https://forum.bodybuilding.com/attac...3&d=1632751781

    So, in response to the question whether such an approach yields any significant, immediate carryover to separate exercises, I decided to use the chest-supported T-Bar row for a random heavy set. The last time I used this machine was several months ago and I was working out with someone else and following his lead intentionally, and I haven't even rowed with the bar in a few weeks at this point from self-isolation from a recent covid exposure, meaning I should have had no movement-specific acclimation to this. I am also in a moderate caloric deficit currently, weighing 238 pounds today.

    I don't even know if this was good or not, but with no greasing of the groove I got 5 with 4 plates added in one try. Unless this is a relatively novice weight for this machine, I think deadlifting, rowing and doing pullups/pulldowns did the trick to make this easy without any specific adaptations being necessary.

    You could add two 45s and still get 5
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    Two people can look very different when squatting (depth, torso angle, the distance the knees travel over the toes, etc) based on their own anthropometrics. Should it be considered the same lift for both? It generally would be, but that does not mean it will have the same musculoskeletal effect for both. One person's front squat may be more similar to another person's high-bar back squat.

    So it makes more sense to me to think of it in terms of movement patterns.

    I do think working on heavy free weight compounds will have some overall benefits that machine lifts will not have (unless your goal is solely hypertrophy) so I do recommend doing them regularly at least to the point of diminishing returns where progress starts to slow considerably. But that is more of a free weight vs machine argument.
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    Originally Posted by EliKoehn View Post
    Regarding hypertrophy with this approach, here is a link to a recent photo of my back: https://forum.bodybuilding.com/attac...3&d=1632751781
    The question was if 3 main lifts (not movements, lifts) are necessary for hypertrophy.
    And they aren't.

    Now, some people here debate if they are the best exercises for hypertrophy. And maybe they aren't
    Some would agree that dumbbell bench press > barbell, hack squat > conv squat or SLDL > DL.

    You have a big back, but this is not an argument to prove that the big 3 (or 6) are the best lifts. No offense, but I know guys who have a similar back who do bro splits and train back once a week, with cable pullovers, cable rows, pulldowns, dumbell rows and so on... it doesn't mean their method is as good as yours since they have a similar back.

    So, you only did deadlifts, barbell rows and pullups/pulldowns. And you got a big back.
    Let's assume you would have done SLDL, chest supported rows and pulldowns. Training hard, eating well and all that... do you think your back would have been much smaller, smaller, the same or bigger?
    Probably you don't have an answer because it is difficult (or quite impossible) to tell.

    Or let's assume you would have done SLDL and chest supported rows for several years, you got a big back, pulling a lot of weight. And now, you want to try barbell rows. No carryover? Do you think you would have stumble on one plate barbell rows?

    Originally Posted by coachcalande View Post
    No time to read the whole thread but heres the truth the way I see it…

    Flat bench flyes and incline flyes will build a better pec than bench alone….but zero
    People
    Ask “how much ya flye?”

    And my guess is that leg press
    And front squats with leg ext will build better quads than squats alone but again nobody with a man card skips squats

    Certainly we can agree that many great backs have been built without deadlift but nobody who wants to demonstrate strength would be using a trap bar
    Probably because press is the main driver for hypertrophy when it comes to pecs (bb, dumbell, machine)
    I don't know how many built a good chest only with flyes (pec deck, cable, db)

    About the front squats, yes, but it is known that front squats are better for quads.
    Trap bar and front squats are less popular because they are not weightlifting exercises. They can work as good (or better, or worse, who knows) as the conventional ones, when it comes to muscle building.
    Last edited by jaxqen; 10-07-2021 at 05:33 AM.
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    Originally Posted by EiFit91 View Post
    While one can certainly achieve hypertrophy with many different movements, sometimes fans of the big 3 barbell lifts will argue that these lifts are special compared to other movements (e.g. the back squat is inherently superior for hypertrophy compared to single leg training)

    Curious to see what the forum consensus is on the topic!
    Those exercises are only necessary if you power lift. Dips done properly are far superior to the BP for chest development, for example. The squat, hinge, push, pull, lunge and loaded carry movements are essential from a total fitness perspective, but so are crawling movements and loooong deadhangs and jumping and sprinting. Do you want a pretty mirror reflection or gym fitness or do you want to be fit for life?
    Now there are short and simple exercises which tire the body rapidly, and so save our time; and time is something of which we ought to keep strict account. These exercises are running, brandishing weights, and jumping…. Select for practice any one of these, and you will find it plain and easy. But whatever you do, come back soon from body to mind.

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    To some up this entire thread? Movements themselves don’t really matter, just the movement patterns.

    And similar patterns will carryover to other similar patterns.

    Pretty basic sh!t…
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    Originally Posted by jaxqen View Post
    The question was if 3 main lifts (not movements, lifts) are necessary for hypertrophy.
    And they aren't.

    Now, some people here debate if they are the best exercises for hypertrophy. And maybe they aren't
    Some would agree that dumbbell bench press > barbell, hack squat > conv squat or SLDL > DL.

    You have a big back, but this is not an argument to prove that the big 3 (or 6) are the best lifts. No offense, but I know guys who have a similar back who do bro splits and train back once a week, with cable pullovers, cable rows, pulldowns, dumbell rows and so on... it doesn't mean their method is as good as yours since they have a similar back.

    So, you only did deadlifts, barbell rows and pullups/pulldowns. And you got a big back.
    Let's assume you would have done SLDL, chest supported rows and pulldowns. Training hard, eating well and all that... do you think your back would have been much smaller, smaller, the same or bigger?
    Probably you don't have an answer because it is difficult (or quite impossible) to tell.

    Or let's assume you would have done SLDL and chest supported rows for several years, you got a big back, pulling a lot of weight. And now, you want to try barbell rows. No carryover? Do you think you would have stumble on one plate barbell rows?
    No offense taken at all. Good rebuttal, but I think you misunderstood me.

    The purpose of my post was to provide an anecdotal example of someone whose recent long-term training has consisted almost entirely of the six major compounds and to show the results of that for what they are. Consider that OP himself said "While one can certainly achieve hypertrophy with many different movements, sometimes fans of the big 3 barbell lifts will argue that these lifts are special compared to other movements ..." which is somewhat at odds with the title, but note if you will that I never disagreed with this. My last sentence in post #13 also mentioned the utility of other exercises for hypertrophy itself. So in addition to being an important aspect of results in a question of approach to long-term back training by this example, referencing hypertrophy in my own case would contend that barbell lifts are sufficient for this same end, not necessary per se, which I did not argue.

    Concerning the question of your second point, you're right, it's impossible to say for sure whether avoiding barbell lifts mostly and doing a bunch of variations instead would yield the same backwards strength compatibility; but bear in mind, warrant for these claims that I am making in the first place was the purpose of the post you're quoting. I didn't want to be talking into the air baselessly, so I wanted to put evidence behind my claims. You're taking it once again into hypothetical territory by postulating that it could have been exactly the same if I didn't take this approach, but what of a response to how or why this one clearly seems to be successful?

    And to answer the question, while no form of resistance training makes one weaker, I suspect that the carryover to be much greater with compound freeweights towards everything else, than vice versa, yeah. I did machine variations for reps at relatively high weight on the available stacks for years before seriously starting barbell training, and it felt like starting all over it was such a leap backwards in perceived ability. Loose anecdotal evidence from personal and observed experience is worth something, so how about someone who holds the opposite position tries something similar and lifts what they think to be a comparable strength level barbell lift with zero acclimation, and test it?

    To conclude, I:
    - don't aim to define anyone's goals in the gym, and maximum strength is far from the only aspect of well-rounded fitness and athleticism
    - agree (and never disagreed) that impressive hypertrophy is attainable with machines, isolations, variations, etc., even though I contend that barbell compound lifts function efficiently for this same purpose
    - do contend that "universal carryover" strength attained from high performance in "The Big 6" (3 of which are flagships for brevity) is considerable, and not inversely compatible with other, miscellaneous lifts to a comparable degree
    - do find that people who insist that the above is false, are avoiding them because either they are not especially interested in strength as a goal and so aren't that invested in the question, or because they are really demanding and challenging, and don't want to look weak or bad having to struggle with them, perhaps for a long time.
    - find it important that whether or not they're "ideal" or even the closest to it, these lifts are standardized benchmarks for strength at each major movement pattern. As a means of assessing progress and relative strength, such a gradient is very important, and variable miscellaneous alternatives, are awkward and needlessly complicated for this purpose.
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    Originally Posted by BeginnerGainz View Post
    To some up this entire thread? Movements themselves don’t really matter, just the movement patterns.

    And similar patterns will carryover to other similar patterns.

    Pretty basic sh!t…
    Oh really? That's not what you said here.

    Originally Posted by BeginnerGainz View Post
    Being stronger at squatting, benching, and deadlifting is just being stronger at…….squatting, benching and deadlifting.
    Not being stronger “in general” (whatever the hell that means).
    Originally Posted by BeginnerGainz View Post
    Strength is specific to movements. End of story.

    https://sandcresearch.medium.com/whe...c-deee7e3a6e18

    Hence why lifting for “general strength” is straight up cope on the highest levels. Not sure why you’re so triggered over something that has been kinesiology/training 101 for decades.
    Emphasis mine.

    https://forum.bodybuilding.com/showt...post1641232943
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    Originally Posted by EliKoehn View Post
    Loose anecdotal evidence from personal and observed experience is worth something, so how about someone who holds the opposite position tries something similar and lifts what they think to be a comparable strength level barbell lift with zero acclimation, and test it?
    This is actually a very interesting suggestion.

    I can think of at least one example where I have seen considerable carryover onto the barbell lifts: competitive gymnasts who mostly do bodyweight training (on rings) are often able to move serious weight when trying at least 2 of the big 3, the bench and deadlift. Here’s one example that popped up on youtube the other day:



    That they are not used to the lift seems evident from their form and therefore seems interesting in light of your proposed experiment.
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    Originally Posted by EliKoehn View Post
    Oh really? That's not what you said here.





    Emphasis mine.

    https://forum.bodybuilding.com/showt...post1641232943
    I was referring to the skill component and neural adaptions when it comes to maximal lifts, which are really specific to that movement. Nominally in the 1-3 rep range.

    Take your 1rm bench for example, now take your hands either farther apart, or bring them in closer and see how it works out.
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    Originally Posted by EiFit91 View Post
    This is actually a very interesting suggestion.

    I can think of at least one example where I have seen considerable carryover onto the barbell lifts: competitive gymnasts who mostly do bodyweight training (on rings) are often able to move serious weight when trying at least 2 of the big 3, the bench and deadlift. Here’s one example that popped up on youtube the other day:



    That they are not used to the lift seems evident from their form and therefore seems interesting in light of your proposed experiment.
    I can attest to that.

    Before quarantine I trained for 6 months and had a 285 bench, 455 deadlift, 275 SSB squat.

    After I came off of quarantine after 6 months of bodyweight training I hit 475 deadlift, 500 trap bar deadlift, 375 SSB squat, stiff leg deadlift over 400 lbs for reps and I can press 80 lbs dumbbells, and do chest supported rows with over 200 lbs.

    So I absolutely make it a point to include bodyweight work in all my training and all the training I prescribe. It is absolutely necessary in my book.

    I can also attest that ring work is f***ing hard.
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    Originally Posted by BeginnerGainz View Post
    Now that’s funny, I say prehab because I hate saying GPP lol
    Heh. XD

    Originally Posted by BeginnerGainz View Post
    To some up this entire thread? Movements themselves don’t really matter, just the movement patterns.

    And similar patterns will carryover to other similar patterns.

    Pretty basic sh!t…
    Head shot!

    (additional. So long as there is sone heavy axial loading for your bone density and v health and something that requires you to control your body through space for any semblance of athleticism. Everyone is golden!)
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    Originally Posted by EiFit91 View Post
    This is actually a very interesting suggestion.

    I can think of at least one example where I have seen considerable carryover onto the barbell lifts: competitive gymnasts who mostly do bodyweight training (on rings) are often able to move serious weight when trying at least 2 of the big 3, the bench and deadlift. Here’s one example that popped up on youtube the other day:



    That they are not used to the lift seems evident from their form and therefore seems interesting in light of your proposed experiment.
    Good reference, thanks. However, where did it say that they never routinely benched? They identified themselves as gymnasts, but then went on to explain why a strong bench was important to them, so presumably (but not certainly) it was already part of their training. So are you just going off of the fact that they're gymnasts and had a clear grind on a maximum effort lift?

    Also, those benches were pretty good for lighter weight athletes with their credentials in other areas, but they still did fail a lot of those attempts, and it wasn't especially heavy overall. I think Wilks would be better than a bodyweight percentage since it compromises the advantage to lighter guys of bodyweight percentage, and that of absolute numbers to fat people. (For the record, for this reason I don't consider my own bench to be especially "good" even though I am proud of the progress I've made so far.)

    Entirely possible that I'm wrong about the carryover benefit not being one-for-one both ways, but that's still my impression. Does anyone here want to volunteer and try? I'll even do another attempt of something else and upload if someone wants me to. If you are actually curious, this is something that can be at least loosely tested with some kind of control.
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