Bodybuilding legend Phil Heath reached the top of the sport with grit, determination, and calculated training. In a recent YouTube video with Chris Williamson, “The Gift” named and justified the only ten exercises needed for maximum muscle growth.
In the 2000s, Phil Heath dominated the Men’s Open with a mind-blowing physique. His combination of detail and muscle fullness led to him winning seven Mr. Olympia titles (2011-2017). During his successful reign, he faced several fan favorites such as Jay Cutler, Dexter Jackson, and the late Shawn Rhoden. Heath also shared a fierce rivalry with Kai Greene, where he denied “The Predator” the Sandow trophy a number of times.
Heath’s final Mr. Olympia participation saw him take third place in 2020. While he hasn’t competed since that night, Heath remains committed to physical excellence. He’s shown as much while away from the stage with countless physique updates. The 43-year-old has teased a comeback recently but knows his worth. Heath says it would take a $1 million price tag to prompt his return.
In his last discussion with Chris Williamson, Heath opened up honestly about his use of performance-enhancing drugs. When asked if he was ever worried about his health, Heath brushed off the concerns and mentioned that he used less than his peers. Switching gears, the two sat down to discuss his top ten exercises for muscle growth.
Phil Heath Names & Justifies The Only 10 Exercises Needed for Muscle Growth
Find Phil Heath’s list of exercises below, where he detailed why he chose each one:
- Dumbbell incline press
- Dumbbell side lateral raises
- One-arm preacher curls
- Hack squats
- Face pulls with rope
- Triceps extensions
- Incline dumbbell flye
- Bent-over underhand barbell rows
- Pull-ups overhand wide grip
Dumbbell Incline Presses
“Incline presses, no question about it. Dumbbell more likely because you can do a lot with dumbbells over the barbell right? I always want that shelf up here, it looks great in t-shirts. Yeah, if you’re hitting a side shot, you want the upper pec development to exist,” said Phil Heath. “You don’t feel as much in danger in my opinion. Even when you’re doing flyes you know, you can – it just feels so good. That would be one of them.”
Dumbbell Side lateral raises
“Side laterals for sure, dumbbell lateral raise, standing for sure,” added Heath. “From the side [lifting], to the side. More just I guess that would just be with arms right? But as you did that, your traps moved. I don’t need that. I don’t want that. Lower trap, now that’s no, I just need to get it. If I’m working this I understand it’s a secondary muscle, but you end up doing this [moving the body too much]. You see it. Why is that moving? Can I deactivate it? Sure, right here [from the side using arms].”
One-arm preacher curls (machine or dumbbells)
“Definitely a preacher curl. Because I can concentrate on more with one arm than two. I can also isolate and understand, why is one arm stronger than the other. Am I performing the rep the same on either arm? Now, if I’m in a fixed position I can’t tell so I need to see… I need to feel, and I need to physically see this.”
“Oh yeah, I’m going to do that [supinated]. But I also have to recognize am I having any biceps tendon stuff and shit like that, which I actually have right now.”
“For sure, hack squats. Oh my gosh. It just feels incredibly strong to be in that position, I love it. Yeah… I did a lot of damage on that machine. Well, you know, the platform — I can go wide, I can go at the top, I can go at the bottom, I can go narrow. I like to go a little narrow.”
Face pulls with rope
“Rear delts but face pulls with the rope. I love that. Yeah [eye height].”
“Since we’re using that rope, triceps extensions.”
Incline dumbbell flye
“I’m actually getting a good stretch and I’m able to contract differently as well [versus incline dumbbell presses] working that same plane.”
Bent-over Underhand barbell rows
“Because I’ve noticed that overhand I’m getting more – initially, you’re going to feel it more in your forearms, and I’m only going to get so much and I feel like there’s more margin for error I believe whereas if you’re coming here I don’t feel it as much. And it’s simulating what I’m doing on stage, pulling the elbows back.”
Pull-ups overhand wide grip
“Overhand wide,” said Heath.
“Because I can carve out the legs. I can do glutes with that. Yeah, actually I did. I wore a weight vest for… what show was that it was earlier in my career I would wear like weight vests and ankle weights. I did something that no one else ever did. I was using e-stim units while I was doing cardio. I used Compex on stepmill.”
Picking only ten exercises for life has become a popular topic among those in the fitness and bodybuilding industries. Aside from Heath, four-time Classic Physique Olympia Chris Bumstead revealed his choices, and 2023 Mr. Olympia contender Nick Walker also followed suit with his selections.
ATHLEAN-X’s Jeff Cavaliere responded to Cbum’s list with his ‘alterations’ recently. Overall, Jeff agreed with nine out of ten of Bumstead’s exercises. However, he disagreed with Bumstead’s close grip flat bench press choice. Instead, Cavaliere advocated for lying triceps extensions.
Exercise selection is critical in a sport such as bodybuilding where so many factors are tallied on stage. Even though Heath’s list differs greatly from Bumstead’s and Walker’s; he proved himself as one of the best ever using these methods.