When you go to the gym, it is very likely you see people performing a vast array of lifting and exercising techniques, and while these "exotic" techniques do work for certain muscle groups and specific desired outcomes, but for pure strength and mass building, the same basic lifting techniques people have always done are simply the most effective. Bench press, military press, squats, pull-ups and dips are still the most effective way to efficiently build mass and increase strength.

I won't go into complex rep sets and particular lifts; this is more of a general guide to productive lifting. It is directed by a simple concept: lift as much weight as possible. Sounds simple right, it is, but it's maybe not what you're thinking. A simple mathematic equation explains this concept: pounds x reps x sets = total lbs. lifted. If you lift 100lbs. in weight for 10 repetitions for 3 sets, the equation looks like this: 100lbs x 10reps x 3sets = 3000lbs. total. Now if your goal is strength and mass, you should increase your weight approx. 35-45%, reduce your repetitions to 5, but increase your sets to 5, then the equation looks like this: 140lbs. x 5reps x 5sets = 3500lbs. giving you an extra 500lbs. lifted (or a 17% increase) per set group, thus building mass and strength faster than traditional 10rep 3set lifts. This mainly only applies to the more basic core exercises such as bench press, pull ups, military press, and squats.

The second basic principle of effective mass and strength building is to remember that resting your muscles is JUST AS important as the workout itself. Muscle doesn't build while you're working out, it builds during the rest periods in between workouts (mainly at night while you sleep) . Therefore, if you are going to work out back to back days you need to make sure you don't use the same muscle group(s) as you did the day before. I like to think of it as having main muscle "groups". They are not technically grouped muscles, but you'll understand what I mean in a second. When you do a bench press the two major muscles involved are your chest muscles and triceps. So we'll call that muscle group 1. When you do a pull-up, the two major muscles involved are your latissimus dorsi (we'll refer to as Lats) and your biceps. So we'll call that muscle group 2. The last major muscles on your upper body are your shoulder muscles, and when you do a military press you use your shoulder muscles and triceps. So we'll call this muscle group 3. Now you'll notice that your triceps are involved in two different muscle groups. Therefore a typical workout week would go something like this:

Day 1:
Bench press -2 different exercises such as regular bench & incline bench, or regular bench and dumbbell press or some variation (works: chest, triceps)

Butterflies- Using a machine or dumbbells (3 sets of 8 or 10 is sufficient) (works: chest)

Dips/Tricep Extensions- 2 different exercises (works: triceps)

Day 2:
Pull ups/Lat Pulls- 2 different exercises such as pull-ups and lat pulls, or lat pulls and bent over rows (works: lats, biceps)

Curls- 2 different exercises such as barbell and dumbbell curls, or barbell and cable curls (works: biceps)

(Would be a good day to throw in your trap and forearm workouts if wanted)

Day 3:
Military Press (standing or seated)- 2 different exercises such as barbell dumbbell, standing barbell & seated dumbbell, seated dumbbell & machine or some variation (works: shoulders, triceps)

Lateral raise/Front raise- 3 sets of 10 is sufficient (works: shoulders)

Dips/Tricep Extensions- 2 different exercises (works: triceps)

Now the main part of all this is to split up the days you work your triceps. Since they are used in two core muscle groups, to get the most strength building for your chest and shoulders you will want your triceps fully rested, so as I said you can, "lift as much weight as possible", to get maximum gains.

Lastly, if you've been to your local GNC you've seen the plethora of pills and liquids and powders and just about anything else you can think of promising to bulk you up fast. In the end, the most productive and cost effective way to supplement your workout is good old fashioned protein. Fish, chicken, eggs, peanuts (peanut butter), and milk are all excellent sources of protein. And as for a supplement, protein drinks are the probably the best way to go. Since I'm not too fond of the thick protein "shakes", I personally like the clear liquid protein drinks, they taste kind of like Kool-Aid. One I use regularly is IsoPure. They are about \$3-4 bucks a piece, but they do contain 40 grams of pure protein, and you can drink them down a whole lot easier if you are have trouble stomaching a blender full of chocolate shake.

Like I said this is a basic strategy for anyone unfamiliar with fundamental strength and mass building workout regimens. It is by no means a strict guideline that must be followed to the letter. One of the biggest parts of keeping a regular workout program is not getting burnt out. If you don't feel like doing a certain exercise a certain day, don't force yourself to do it. People will disagree, but they are the same people that work out as hard as they absolutely can for 6 weeks then get burnt out for a year, which achieves nothing. Slow and steady wins the race. But if you follow these simple steps, keep it fun and stay persistent, you'll soon see you're achieving your ultimate goal, which is results.

Author's Bio:

John Chilton is co-founder of Platypus PC Inc.