There's a time for moving big barbells and chasing personal bests. But there's also a time to just get in the weight room, get some blood flowing, and get out. Jackson Bliton, a pro bodybuilder and online gamer better known by his Twitch and YouTube handle "Bajheera," says he has a special fondness for that second kind of workout.
"You're pushing blood around. You're pushing nutrients around," he said on the Bodybuilding.com Podcast. "You're putting yourself in just a better mindset when your head hits the pillow instead of like, 'I worked for 12 hours, I couldn't even go the gym.'"
In this workout, he advises you to really focus on feeling the mind-muscle connection during each and every rep and set. If you do it right, you'll feel a special kind of burn. Bajheera utilizes both dumbbells and machines, with short rest times and supersets, to keep the volume high and the pump higher.
Embrace Your Inner Machine
Even if you're a diehard fan of free weights, it's worth using some machines for a workout like this one.
"Machines allow you to control the weight a lot differently than when you're using a barbell," Bajheera says. "I'm engaging a different part of my chest that I wouldn't normally be able to do as slowly or as focused if I was trying to manage a barbell."
On the warm-up, keep your weights lighter with the intention of just getting your body prepped—no exhausting sets to failure here! Then, move into your workout mentally ready to focus.
"It takes a lot of practice to learn how to do the mind-muscle connection, and these are the workouts that allow you to do that. When it's not quite so heavy, you can actually focus on contracting the muscles that you want, rather than just hammering the weight and trying to get it to move," he says.
This can be a great introductory workout for beginning lifters, but it can be just as helpful for more experienced ones on days where you don't want to push it too hard, or don't have much time in your schedule to sling around some heavy weights and take longer rest periods.
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Machine Incline Chest Press
Sit back with your shoulder blades pressed firmly into the pad and feet on the ground. Engage your core and keep your elbows tucked as you press the handles straight out. Keep your lats engaged throughout, because using your back will help take undue stress off your front delts. This is where Bajheera suggests taking things nice and slow to really feel the targeted muscles working.
Facing the machine, keep your torso tall and start with your arms straight out in front of you. Engage your rhomboids and pull your shoulder blades together and down before you initiate the rowing motion. Row the handles in toward your ribs and drive your elbows behind you, really focusing on pulling the weight with your lats more than your arms—although it's inevitable that your arms will get worked, too.
Start seated with your arms fully extended. Engage your upper back, pull your shoulder blades together and down, then use your lats to pull the attachment toward your upper chest. Bajheera points out that different angles will target your back muscles differently, so you can choose according to what area you may be trying to build up.
"Sometimes I'll try to pull a little farther back, and I feel like that engages the mid-upper back differently than if I allow my elbows to come forward a little bit," he explains.
Regardless of what you choose, remember to drive your elbows down and inward toward your torso.
Triceps Rope Push-Down
Facing the cable tower with hips slightly pushed back, hold the cable attachment where your elbows are just above a 90-degree angle and keep them close to your body. Hold them stationary as you press the weight down, extending your elbows and contracting your triceps.
Bajheera's tip: "You want to flare your lat a little bit to brace your triceps against it, so when you're doing the pull-down, the triceps is isolated."
Start with your hands underneath your shoulders and arms straight in a plank position. With your abs and quads engaged, bend your elbows and lower your chest close to the floor, keeping your elbows tucked fairly close to your body to keep the tension off your anterior delts. Make sure your elbows come to a full 90-degree bend—that's what a full rep looks like!
Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Stand tall with both dumbbells at shoulder height and your elbows bent at 90 degrees. Press the weights straight up until your arms are fully extended, keeping your biceps in line with your ears. Make sure your shoulder blades are pulled together and down throughout the movement to keep the traps from taking over.
Begin with your arms straight down at your sides. Hold the dumbbells with palms facing inward and elevate your shoulders up toward your ears. Do not bend your elbows; you are trying to isolate the traps. Hold the contraction for a second before lowering to the start position.
If you're looking to get that upper-body pump beyond a single workout, check out Jacked in 3, only in Bodybuilding.com All Access.