4 Overrated Exercises For Hypertrophy

4 Overrated Exercises For Hypertrophy

With an endless stream of exercises to choose from, there’s bound to be some crappy exercises. Unfortunately, sometimes these exercises are popular ones, but popular doesn’t necessarily mean effective, particularly for hypertrophy.

No exercise can do it all and for the goal of getting jacked, some are beyond overrated.

And this is relevant because most people train to look as aesthetic as possible. They want to take their shirt off and have the opposite sex gawk over them like a group of college girls seeing Chris Hemsworth shirtless.

So your exercise selection to make this a reality is vital, not only in what you choose, but you don’t choose.

Here are 4 exercises you should probably stop doing if the goal is maximum hypertrophy.

1 – Barbell Deadlifts

Yes, we’re starting this list off with the most controversial choice and not for the sakes of being controversial. It’s simple biomechanics and common sense.

Hypertrophic mechanical tension is generated when muscles contract across a range of motion as they change lengths.

The only muscles that produce force while changing lengths during deadlifts are the glutes, hamstrings, and quads.

The glutes and hamstrings don’t have their full range of motion while the quads have a piss poor range of motion on this exercise. The load of deadlifts also force other muscles like the back to stabilize which increases fatigue.

This is why deadlifts shouldn’t be considered a back exercise. Your back is stabilizing the movement not producing force to move the load.

But to make a long story short, you accumulate lots of fatigue with minimal stimulus. So for anyone with their lifting straps and chalk in a bunch, I’m not saying deadlifts produce no hypertrophy, but the cost to benefit ratio is awful.

The deadlifts trains so many muscles that nothing truly gets stimulated well. This goes for both conventional and sumo.

A better exercise would be the RDL which fully stretches the hamstrings while loading the glutes well. For the quads, any knee dominant movement would be better because relying on a hinge exercise like deadlifts for quad development is like relying on a match to keep you warm during a blizzard.

2 – Barbell Back Squats

If you’re already getting triggered by this list, you should assess your bias with gym culture. Gym culture is filled with powerlifters who influence common exercise selection, but remember, everybody’s got different goals.

Powerlifters have to barbell deadlift and barbell back squat to train those movements. If you’re maximizing hypertrophy, neither of these exercises are necessary or optimal despite their popularity.

The back squat has many of the same of pitfalls of deadlifts. In addition, the back squat is loaded on your back so it has to stay over your center of mass. This means that based on your limb length, your mechanics have to bend a certain way or else you’d tip over and become a viral video.

In other words, the exercise doesn’t cater to your mechanics. Your mechanics have to be molded to the exercise. Not a good thing.

This means many lifters will find the barbell back squat not sufficiently stimulating for their quads, glutes, or either like it should.

Low back and core fatigue is also high in this exercise which can limit the targeted muscles reaching high levels of tension.

Think about a set of barbell back squats for 10. By the time you get to rep 8 or 9, your low back might fatigue sooner than your quads and glutes. And last I checked, you’re trying to grow primarily your quads and glutes with squatting exercises.

To fix this issue, a good leg press or hack squat machine are better alternatives. So the sooner, you can give up the ego stroking barbell squat 1-RM that you like bragging about, the sooner you can actually grow your quads and glutes.

3 – Combination Exercises

Combo exercises make me want facepalm myself so hard that my prefrontal cortex gets bruised. These are exercises where you do 2 movements patterns in alternating fashion within the same set.

So think of a lunge combined with a curl or a squat with a press.

These exercises are piss poor for hypertrophy. The stimulation between movement patterns will always be uneven because one exercise will limit the other.

For example the most weight you can curl will not be sufficient to stimulate your lunge. Not to mention, by doing 2 movement patterns, you’re accumulating more unnecessary fatigue especially within the cardiovascular system.

Ever do barbell thrusters? They simply get you tired, but they don’t stimulate your lower body as well as squats and they don’t stimulate your upper body as well as overhead presses.

By attempting to do 2 things at once, you end up doing neither well. Recovery resources are simply being wasted.

4 – Farmers Carry

Farmers carry are a deeply popular exercise. The idea is that they build real world strength because you’re lugging around heavy weights. For starters, what the heck is real world strength? Does that mean every other exercise builds fake world strength?

To be fair, farmers carry like every other exercise on this list has it’s uses, but it is not a hypertrophy exercise.

Many people call this a trap dominant back exercise. That’s laughable because the traps don’t change length during this exercise. They hold the weight isometrically in the lengthened position.

In addition, your forearms, spine, core, and cardiovascular system are being challenged which accumulates massive amounts of fatigue.

Are you starting to see a theme with every exercise on this list? They provide a suboptimal stimulus while charging disproportionate fatigue. It’s like paying $11 for small soda at Disneyland when you can get the same soda for a fraction of that elsewhere.

For better trap exercises, do different shrug variations. Be sure to use various angles to hit all the trap regions sufficiently.

Pick the Right Tool for the Job

All of these exercises have their own uses. I’m not saying they’re bad exercises, well maybe combo exercises are, but back squats, barbell deadlifts, and farmers carry have plenty of uses and benefits, but they are still overrated for hypertrophy.

When transforming your body and maximizing muscle growth, you should limit the volume of these exercises or simply find better alternatives.

Everything on this list simply has a highly unfavorable cost to benefit ratio when it comes building muscle. It may be hard to believe, but I encourage you to be extremely selective about your exercise selection because if you don’t, you’ll simply do popular exercises that might not be the right tool for the job.

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Calvin Huynh
Calvin Huynh is a trainer, online coach, writer, and joyful ruler behind AwesomeFitnessScience.com. His content has reached various top sites and he has worked with a variety of clients ranging from top CEOs, hardcore lifters, everyday desk workers, and stay at home moms. When he’s not working, he spends his time going to church, dreaming of unicorns, and eating whole pints of ice cream on a comfortable couch somewhere in Southern California.