Subject: The Top 10 Exercises for building muscle.
There are thousands of exercises that will build, sculpt and tone your body.
But, out of the many movements out there, these 10 lifts soar above the rest.
No lifts can rival their ability to build muscle size, strength, and definition.
It doesn’t matter if you’re new to weight lifting or a seasoned gym veteran, these exercises are all you need to get chiseled.
You may be surprised at some of the lifts listed below as they are all barbell and bodyweight exercises.
Why Are Barbell and Bodyweight Exercises So Effective?
“The Rule is: The Basics are the Basics and you can’t beat the Basics” – Charles Poliquin, The Strength Sensei
“The Basics” are good, old fashioned barbell and bodyweight exercises. Both are a must for the beginner and veteran trainers.
This article takes us back to basics, because you can’t beat the basics.
Barbell and bodyweight exercises are the best lifts to build muscle mass as well as a create a lean, balanced, and proportional physique that looks good from all angles.
Barbell and bodyweight exercises are like blocking and tackling is to football. If you can’t block you get sacked, and if you can’t tackle you get ran over. No plays can develop for the offense without blockers, which means no points and no wins. And your a hopeless defender without tackling skills.
Barbells and bodyweight training lays the foundation you can build upon indefinitely. But without that foundation, you get nowhere. With a strong foundation, the sky’s the limit.
Barbell and bodyweight exercises require you to use your entire body as a unit to move the weight. Your body is one big ‘kinetic chain’ that works together to provide balance, support and transfer of energy when lifting heavy weight.
Thus, all muscle groups (or at least a majority of them) are being trained with one lift.
This mean more potential muscle mass to be gained since the number of muscle fibers trained is maximized.
The Top 10 Best Lifts for Build Muscle Mass
You could perform just these 10 lifts for the rest of your life and build a great body and look better than 95% of the population.
These exercises are the Gold Standard for weight and resistance training:
The squat is the reigning King of Gym. The Supreme Ruler of Weight Training.
The squat is both merciless and generous. Heavy squat training will make you want to cry and quit. But conquer set after set of heavy squats and the rewards are glorious for that’s that stick it out to the end.
Squats train primarily your two largest muscle groups: Legs and Glutes (butt muscles). However, every muscle will grow stronger from squatting.
Your core, back, and shoulders, even your chest and arms will grow from squats. Your back and core must remain tight as to not buckle under the bar. The arms and shoulders must support the heavy weight and keep it in place.
You’re built from the ground up. Squats work your body from the ground up. Think of your body as a pyramid, you can only build up if you have a strong foundation. Building strong foundations is a squat specialty.
Squats are the best lift for overall strength and fitness. There’s not an elite athlete on the face of this planet that doesn’t squat in some way, shape or form.
Squats have an anabolic effect that when performed, cause you to gain muscle and strength in every other muscle group.
when muscles reach a certain point os stimulation they release growth hormones. the more muscle fibers that reach this point, the more growth hormone that gets released. Hence the reason why old school trainers would squat hard.
“Hail to the King, Baby.”
(You 80’s babies know what I’m talking about)
I effing love deadlifts.
They’re a lot of fun, make for a killer workout, and are one of the best muscle building movements you can perform.
I gained 10 pounds of muscle in 8 weeks when I started taking deadlifts seriously. My bodyweight went from 200 to 210 pounds. Most of the muscle was added my legs and back and shoulders and arms got bigger as a bonus.
Deadlifts are a natural body movement that works all your muscles from the ground up.
Your legs, core, back, traps, shoulders, and arms are all trained with deadlifts. Deadlifts are excellent for adding mass to your back muscles. If you want a wide back to achieve a “V” shaped torso, deadlifts are a must.
Deadlifts also increase your grip strength which allows you to train heavier for other lifts. If your grip gives out before your target muscle, then it’s a wasted effort.
And don’t cheat by using lift straps, if you can’t grip the weight and hold it, you have no business lifting it. Strengthen your grip, it’s important.
I recommend doing Deadlifts at least once a week for maximum benefit.
#3) Floor Clean and Press
Old school bodybuilders would work powerlifting exercises, like the clean and press, into their routines.
The floor clean and press is an excellent full-body exercise. It works your body right down to the core and builds all those little muscle fibers required for balance and stability. There are millions of these stabilizer muscle fibers so it’s important they get some action. This is how you build a full, dense physique that flows together nicely.
Clean and press is like combining a light deadlift with standing military press. It hits every muscle, especially your arms, shoulders and back.
Use a weight you can handle using strict form, you don’t need to use an extreme amount of weight to benefit from this exercise.
#4) Bench Press
The Bench Press is usually the first lift people do when learning to weight train. A proud chest is synonymous with masculinity and strength. Bench press is critical to building a great looking torso.
A well developed chest will make your body look phenomenal. The Bench press develops your chest better than any other exercise. Bench Press will also build your shoulders and triceps. It also engages your lats and core to stabilize and push the heavy weight during the bench press.
When you bench properly you will feel it in your legs and glutes. You press off the floor with your feet to transfer energy to core and back to press the weight off your chest.
Bench press done correctly is one of the best muscle builders out there for upper body. Make sure you pack your shoulders tight. Bring your shoulder blades back and down. Flex your lats hard and puff out your chest.
You want to breath deep, lower the weight and stretch your pecs as the weight descends. Then drive your feet into the ground, force your upper back into the bench. Pretend your pushing yourself away from the bar rather than pushing the bar away from you. This will help you generate more power and drive through the bench.
Perform the bench press from all angles for full and complete chest development. Mix in some incline and decline presses to stimulate even more muscle growth. Incorporate dumbbell chest presses into your routine as well to add more width to your chest.
#5) Pull Up
Chins / Pull ups build your upper back, middle back, shoulders, and biceps better than anything else.
Pull ups are a versital exercise capable of training your back arms and shoulders differently based on your hand position.
Wide grip pull ups with palms facing away from you will help you build a V-Shape torso. Pull ups with Palms facing you will work your biceps.
Both pull up variations train your upper back and shoulders. Pull ups balance out the effect of bench press. Make sure you’re doing pull ups to keep your shoulders healthy and prevent them from rounding forward.
If you do too much bench press and not enough pull ups, you’ll get a tight chest and rounded shoulders. You might even start to hunch forward.
This looks bad and is not healthy. Do your pull-ups to keep a good posture.
Bonus – Once you can rep out 10-15 clean pull ups add some weight. I like to do heavy weighted sets of 3 reps to build up my arms and upper back.
Dips are like the squat for your upper body. They are one of the best ways to build a full, complete chest and shoulders that flow together.
Dips blast your shoulders, triceps, and chest. Start doing dips once or twice a week and you will build thick upper arms and nice round shoulders.
Dips allow you to vary your body position to target your triceps or chest.
Mix it up by grabbing the bar with your knuckles facing your waist and your elbows flared out and feet forward past your face. This is an old school technique to build a wide, sweeping chest with a defined line across the bottom and side. Use an assisted dip machine to get used to this motion down and gain flexibility. This dip variation is awesome for building big wide shoulders and pecs. It’s awkward at first so take your time and start slow.
#7) Bent Over Barbell Row
I can’t say enough good things about the barbell row.
I used barbell rows to cure my shoulder impingement and improve my posture. Years of focusing on my chest development, and ignoring back work, lead to rolled shoulders and shoulder pain. My shoulders would ‘click’ when ever I moved them across my chest. I started doing heavy rows and after a few weeks my shoulder pain was gone. My chest was more open and my poster was better.
If you want a nice upper body, you need to have a nice back. Your back contains 70% of your torsos muscle mass.
Back workouts should be done more often than chest workouts for this reason.
The Bent Over Row is great for adding thickness to your back. This lift primarily works your middle back and lats, as well as your traps, shoulders, and biceps. Holding the weight in position works your core and lower back, and legs.
Barbell rows are your secret weapon if you’re a beginner trying to master the pull up. If you can’t do a pull up, do rows. you’ll strengthen your back and eventually be able to do pull ups with ease.
For added benefit, perform barbell rows while standing on a bench. This allows you to lower the bar all the way to your feet without the weight plates hitting the ground. This give you a nice stretch in your lats. Great for training through the full range of motion and getting wide lats that show from the front.
#8) Military Press (Standing Barbell Shoulder Press)
Being able to lift heavy weight above your head is the ultimate measure of manliness. (for proof, please direct your attention to the old-timey strong man photo provided).
The Military press builds your shoulders, upper back, arms and core.
This lift can be performed sitting on a flat bench or standing. Your core will get some work to keep yourself balanced upright.
I prefer to do the standing military press. It works you core more and incorporates your legs into the lift. You can also push your self beyond failure by using your legs for momentum. These are called ‘forced reps’ and they help you achieve hypertrophy to build more muscle.
Use a barbell or dumbbells to perform this lift. Either way, this is hands down the best exercise to build broad, full shoulders.
#9) Farmer Carries
A.K.K Farmer Walks are often overlooked which is too bad because they are a total body lift that pumps up your arms beyond belief.
Farmer carries are simple:
You grab a heavy weight in each hand and walk around. You walk around until you can’t hold the weight anymore. Use a weight that you can walk about 40 steps with before your grip gives out.
Your whole body is engaged while performing Farmer Carries because you bare the weight from the neck down as you walk upright.
Try this: After your next arm workout grab some 100 pound dumbbells or heavy kettlebells and do two or three laps around your gym floor while keeping a tight grip and good posture. Walk until you can’t hold onto the weight. Your arms will feel like a flame ignited under your skin and your forearms will be harder than concrete.
#10) Push Up
The old fashion Push Up rounds out the top 10.
The push up is primarily a chest builder but it’s actually a total body exercises.
Imagine doing bench press while planking. That’s the pushup.
Sure, it’s primarily hits the chest but it also hits your shoulders, triceps, abs, even your lats and legs are flexed hard as you grind out reps.
If you want to add more muscle and strength, put a plate on your back while doing Push ups. Or prop yourself up between two benches, a hand on each with your feet on a box, and do some push ups and deep as you can to really stretch your chest.
So there you have it, the best muscle building exercises and are without a doubt the best way to build muscle. Now go to the gym and get to work!
Quick workout tip:
Select 3-4 of these lifts and do 4 sets of each for 8-12 reps.
Two days later, pick 3-4 different lifts and do 4 sets of each. Repeat this again two days later. Now repeat the whole thing each week for 8 weeks and watch your muscle grow.