NutraBio-sponsored athlete Hunter Delfa may be young, but he knows how to build muscle. Already a seasoned NPC physique competitor, this 19-year-old shares his top five movements every young lifter should know to build serious strength and size.
"I use each of these five movements in my training," says Delfa, "and I recommend everyone try them out."
1. Dumbbell Pull-over
The aim here is to expand your ribcage, and since it works both the front and back halves of your body, this versatile exercise works equally well on chest or back day.
"Personally, I like to hit this movement on chest day," Delfa says.
Expanding the ribcage creates the illusion of a smaller, waspish waist, giving you the V-taper look that everyone covets, from competitor to novice.
Pull-overs require flexibility and focus. Delfa keeps his feet and knees together, dropping his hips as he lowers the weight. Get a full stretch in your abdominals to fully open your ribcage, simultaneously stretching your pectoral muscles. With all that stretching, remember to squeeze your chest at the top when bringing back up the weight.
2. Stomach Vacuum
This is a great isometric exercise for tightening your waist. To perform it, exhale as much air as you can from your lungs and then suck in your stomach. This compresses everything together, tightening your waist.
"I perform this exercise at least 2-3 times per week," says Delfa, "Each time, I try to hold it for as long as I can for about 2-3 sets."
This is another great exercise to help narrow the waist and build a better V-taper.
3. Cable Pull
Cable pulls are a great way to target and bring out all the details in your upper back. Delfa recommends leaning back to get into the right angle to target specific muscle groups.
Another insider tip from Delfa is to let the handles "hang" in your hands, meaning, don't grip them too hard. Pull from your elbows and focus on using your back instead of your arms.
"This is one of my favorite exercises," says Delfa. "I do it every time I train back, often as part of a triset or giant set with other exercises."
4. Upright Row
Another staple in Delfa's training program, upright rows are great for building round, full shoulder muscles. As with his other exercises, how you grip the bar is key to targeting the different areas in the muscles.
"There are multiple grips you can do on an upright row," explains Delfa "I like to hit all three—a very wide grip, a neutral grip, and very narrow grip—to hit all parts of the shoulder."
As with the cable pulls, Delfa lets the bar hang in his fingertips.
"This allows you to pull more with your elbows," he explains, "and better activate your delts."
5. Back Extension
A staple exercise for any serious lifter, back extensions are a must when you are first starting out because they help build a foundation of strength.
"This is one of my favorites out of the five," Delfa says. "Back extensions are key to training because they help prevent injury, help keep your core strong, and help you progress faster in other movements."
Delfa uses a glute-ham raise machine for his extensions, but if your gym doesn't have one, any back extension machine will work. Regardless of the apparatus, focus on the negative when performing this exercise.
"Going too fast is going to take away half of the rep, and you're not going to get the benefits out of it that you should," explains Delfa.
For building muscle, back extensions can help bring out the lower-back details, often referred to as the "Christmas tree" among lifting cognoscenti. Depending on how he feels, Delfa sometimes uses a 5- or 10-pound weight.
"This exercise is not one you should be going heavy on," Delfa cautions. "The lighter you go and the more reps you do, the more detail you'll bring out in your lower back, and the stronger you'll make your core."