The Only 10 Exercises You Need for Optimal Muscle Growth According to 7x Mr. Olympia Phil Heath

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Phil Heath is undoubtedly one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time. During his reign as Mr. Olympia from 2011 to 2017, he showcased one of the most complete and aesthetically pleasing physiques the sport has ever seen. 

His structural balance, flowing muscle bellies, and crisp conditioning rightfully earned him the nickname “The Gift”.

So when Phil Heath names the 10 best exercises for building an impressive physique, you better listen up. 

In a recent video with bodybuilding coach Chris Williamson, Phil Heath broke down his ultimate exercise selections for sculpting the perfect body. 

From sculpted shoulders to mountainous quads, Phil Heath explains how these movements helped him consistently deliver one of the best builds in bodybuilding history.

Let’s take a closer look at Phil Heath’s list and see why each exercise earned a spot in his training hall of fame.

phil heath 7x mr olympia
via phil heath instagram

Dumbbell Incline Press

Phil Heath kicks off the list with an inclination towards the incline press. Using dumbbells allows him to better isolate each side and identify any muscular imbalances between his left and right pecs. 

The incline angle also puts more emphasis on the upper chest compared to a standard flat bench press. Phil Heath loves the way a well-developed upper pec looks in t-shirts and from the side chest pose. 

The stretch at the bottom of the movement followed by a strong contraction targeting the upper chest fibers helps build an impressive pec shelf that pops on stage.

Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise

Next up is an exercise that zeros in on Phil Heath’s full, rounded deltoids. By eliminating other movements and lifting straight out to the sides, Phil Heath can isolate his medial delts without involving the traps. 

Keeping perfect side lateral form puts constant tension right where he wants it most for building those eye-popping cannonball delts.

One-Arm Preacher Curl

Phil Heath shifts his focus down to the biceps with this next move. Going one arm at a time with preacher curls allows him to give each bicep his undivided attention. 

He can pinpoint any imbalance between arms and also get a better mind-muscle connection. The preacher bench takes stabilization out of the equation and keeps tension directly on the biceps where it should be. 

Whether training with dumbbells or a curl machine, this exercise is Phil Heath’s go-to for sculpted bicep peaks.

Hack Squat

Moving down to the lower half of the physique, Phil Heath selects hack squats to build his formidable quadriceps. The angled-back support of the machine allows him to isolate his quads without involving other muscle groups. 

He can adjust his foot positioning to target all areas of the quads from top to bottom. The supported squatting movement also allows him to use very heavy weights with perfect form for maximal quad growth.

Face Pull with Rope

No surprise here as Phil Heath targets the rear delts next. Face pulls with a rope provide constant tension on the rear delts by pulling horizontally back across the face. 

The rope attachment adds an extra challenging stimulus as the ropes spread apart during the pull. 

This creates even greater rear delt activation as he has to work to keep the ropes together. Face pulls help build Heath’s dominant back double biceps pose by capping the back with thick, rounded rear delts.

Triceps Extension

phil heath triceps workout
via phil heath instagram

After blasting rear delts, Phil Heath keeps the ropes in play to sculpt horseshoe triceps with extensions. 

The rope attachment forces the triceps to fully extend his elbows while preventing other muscles from assisting. 

As with biceps, Phil Heath gets better isolation and contraction focusing on one arm at a time with perfect form. 

Triceps extensions build the sweeping outer triceps head for that signature side triceps shot.

Incline Dumbbell Flye

Incline flies make the list as Phil Heath doubles up on the upper pecs. The flye peaks contraction in the stretched position rather than a press, giving a greater chest pump. 

Phil Heath squeezes his pecs forcefully together at the top to maximize muscle fiber activation. 

Flyes complement the incline press by training the chest through a fuller range of motion with both stretch and peak contraction emphasis.

Underhand Bent-Over Row

phil heath workout routine
via phil heath instagram

Phil Heath opts for underhand grip rows to really isolate the lats. An overhand grip involves the forearms and biceps too much for Phil Heath’s liking. 

The underhand grip takes the biceps out of the movement and stresses the lats through a stronger contraction. 

Phil Heath also mimics his mandatory back poses by pulling straight back to best match that rear double bicep position. 

Underhand bent-over rows give Phil Heath the detailed lower lat development his physique is recognized for.

Wide Grip Pull-up

What lat-focused back workout would be complete without pull-ups? Phil Heath goes wide grip for maximum lat emphasis throughout the entire range of motion.

pull-ups also force greater core engagement to avoid swinging or using momentum. Training his lats while stabilizing with his core helps Phil Heath build a complete back worthy of a 7x champion.

Step Mill Cardio

An often overlooked aspect of Phil Heath’s phenomenal physique is his carefully planned cardio regimen. 

Phil Heath turns to the stepmill for fast-paced, low-impact cardio that carves out his legs without catabolizing muscle. 

He goes for lengthy sessions on the stepmill while wearing a weight vest to take his calorie burn over the top. 

The constant motion also provides a superior conditioning benefit compared to steady-state cardio alternatives.

The Unique Approach of a 7x Champion

phil heath abs
via phil heath instagram

Looking over Phil Heath’s list provides keen insight into the unique approach that carved one of bodybuilding’s most memorable physiques. Several signature Heath training principles stand out:

  • Isolation for continuous tension and contraction
  • Unilateral movements to identify and address imbalances
  • Extended sets and intensive techniques for deep muscle stimulation
  • Multi-plane, multi-angle approach covering all muscle divisions
  • Cardio selection to complement weight training goals

Phil Heath structured his training to fix any weak points while maximizing his natural genetic gifts. 

A small adjustment in hand position or angle made a huge difference in targeting the exact muscle fibers he wanted to improve. His exercise selections reveal why his physique flowed together seamlessly without any glaring holes.

The Key Takeaway

While Phil Heath’s list provides a roadmap for sculpting the ideal body, he doesn’t intend it a cookie-cutter routine for everyone. Phil Heath structured his training specifically to his strengths and weaknesses. 

His advice would be to analyze your physique closely and select exercises that address your limitations. Play to your natural muscular advantages and bring up any areas that need more work.

For example, someone with overpowering quads should back off squats and focus more on chest and back development. 

A guy with flat shoulders should prioritize side laterals and rear delt work to maximize their rounded appeal. The best routine for you features the exercises that will take your current physique to the next level.

Phil Heath carved perhaps the greatest physique in bodybuilding history by keeping a watchful eye out for any muscle group falling behind. 

phil heath arm size
via phil heath instagram

He constantly challenged himself with new exercises, training angles, intensities, and techniques. 

Phil Heath welcomed discomfort in the gym because he knew that’s where trophies are earned well before stepping on stage.

There’s no one perfect program that works for everybody. Take Phil Heath’s exercise selections as inspiration to think critically about your training. Evaluate your physique with an honest, analytical eye. 

Then construct your routine around the movements that directly target your weak points and optimize your standout muscle groups. 

By borrowing from Heath’s exercise philosophies while catering your training to your unique proportions, you’ll be on your way to carving your best-ever physique.

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