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The Fit 5: Building Blocks

Building upper body mass, breaking plateaus to make new gains and developing your core.

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For all of our fans who shoot us questions on our Facebook page, this one is for you. Each week, we will tap into our pool of editors and experts to help with any questions or challenges you are having with your fitness regimen.

This week, Sean Hyson C.S.C.S., Group Training Director for Muscle & Fitness and Men's Fitness magazines, answers questions about building muscle.

Be sure to read up on all of Sean’s articles here on MensFitness.com or in Men’s Fitness and Muscle & Fitness magazines each month.

You can also catch Sean on Twitter

1) Chest Development — asked by Jae Storer

What's the best chest-building exercise?

“I would say the bench press if you have access to only basic gym equipment and building strength is also a priority. If you purely want to isolate the chest and make the pecs grow, get a TRX, Jungle Gym, or gymnastics rings and do flyes on them. Open your arms just like you’re doing a dumbbell fly and then pull the handles back in front of your chest. It works the pecs harder than any machine or isolation exercise and hits your core hard.”

2) Mass Plateaus — asked by Bret Dolan

I set a goal to gain 15 pounds in two months. I have gained 10 in 35 days but have hit a brick wall. What do I need to change to gain the extra five I have to go?

"It’s very hard to tell with so little information, but you may try cycling your calories. Eat more on training days and less on off days and have one or two other days per week where you eat somewhere in between. Be aware also that 10 pounds is a lot to gain in a little over a month and it isn’t all muscle. You might want to focus on gaining more slowly while staying lean."

3) Compound or Isolation — asked by Prateek Aggarwal

What builds muscle more effectively? Compound exercises three times a week or isolated exercises five-to-six times a week?

"Both styles will work. If you haven’t been training long or are very thin, stick with the compound exercises. If you’re an experienced lifter with a lot of muscle and strength already, experiment with isolation exercises. Most people should use primarily compound lifts with some isolation ones thrown in toward the end of the workout."

4) Upper Body Size and Strength — asked by Andrew Mckenna

What are good exercises to build muscle and strength on the shoulders/neck/upper back?

"The deadlift, shrug, power clean and various neck isolation moves. Buy a neck harness (available at elitefts.com) and work neck extension, flexion and side flexion."

5) Rock Solid Core — asked by Nexus Ooi

What's the optimal way to build core muscles and get toned abs?

“Train core directly three times a week and focus your workouts around compound exercises that let you use heavy weights. Do as many exercises standing as you can. To see your abs, cut out most of your starchy carbs and replace them with green vegetables."

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