When I train, I’m looking to maximize my results. I’m not going to the gym just to say I’m there and if you’re like minded in this regard, then you too want to ensure you’re getting the best workout possible.
With that said, you’ll want to consider the 15 best muscle building exercises. These exercises are going to help to boost your muscle mass and give you that strong, toned appearance you’re looking for.
As you’re looking at the top 15 muscle building exercises, keep it real and consider what you are truly able to do physically. Instead of worrying about maximum weight and number of reps, do what you comfortably can and work into the routine. Over time, you’ll be able to increase the reps and weight you can handle, to continue improving your muscle mass.
Note: My advanced clients & friends often lift exclusively to failure (success) and their gains and physiques are ridiculous because of this. However, they are usually eating a helluva lot more than your average gym rat and get much more sleep… Just some food for though.
Compound, multi-joint free weight exercises that allow you to use the greatest amount of weight will build size and strength faster than anything else because they incorporate the largest amounts of muscle mass.
Unless you’re an advanced weight lifter, I wouldn’t waste my time strictly utilizing isolation exercises.
15 Best Muscle Building Exercises
There’s no shortage of debate over the squat vs deadlift in regards to muscle building superiority. I am a big fan of both exercises as they are great for mass, strength and power. However, the deadlift literally engages more muscles than the squat therefore it is superior in that sense – in my book. Case closed.
Deadlifts are going to help you to build your overall muscle mass and greatly stimulate your cns (central nervous system). Look for gains in your upper legs, quads, core, back, arms & shoulders. Deadlifts are elite!
Naturally squats are up next. As I said, many will argue that squats are king and in some respects they are! I definitely dig squats and encourage my clients and friends to hit them on the regular. These are perfect for really building up the quads, glutes and core.
Cleans / Clean & Press
Personally, I get a great deal of satisfaction out of a gnarly set of cleans. There are a couple of slightly different variations of the clean (see hang clean & log clean). When you perform the clean and press you’re working on improving your core, front delts, upper chest, traps, triceps, and ultimately building upper body density and power.
Overhead / Military Press
These help to boost your traps, delts, triceps and core! I prefer to do these standing as I feel that I’m able to engage more muscle tissue.
Bench pressing activates a large number of muscle fibers in your upper body. This routine will help to improve your chest, deltoids, triceps, and forearms. Remember to squeeze!
Pullups are a great way to build upper body strength in a hurry. Not only do they increase arm, back, abdominal strength and muscle tone, but hand and finger strength are significantly increased as well.
Pull-ups are one of the most convenient exercises that you can do and they can be done in many places in addition to the gym.
I’ve also noticed that I tend to not slouch when pullups are a consistent part of my regime. I’m fully aware that pullups are difficult for many to do initially. If this is your case, try getting your muscles acclamated to cable or machine pulldowns first.
Sled Pushing or Pulling
Sleds are badass and certainly pack on muscle, especially in the legs! You’ll notice that you really dont have an eccentric phase so you can truly spend some time under tension.
Another awesome benefit to point out is the huge boost in cardio you’re going to receive from sled training!
Want to improve your grip strength? Farmers walk.
These are one of, if not the best grip exercise you can do. Realistically you’re entire body will benefit from this exercise but look for exceptional gains in the traps, glutes, hamstrings and center of the back. In other words the entire posterior chain is going to reap the benefits of the sweat and tears you shed with the farmers walk.
I don’t need to say much about sprinting. Works your entire body including your lungs and will release a significant amount of growth hormone. It really is that simple. Run!
Snatch Grip High Pull
I was originally introduced to snatch grip high pulls by Jason Ferruggia. I had always incorporated high pulls into either my back or shoulder training but never did I get as much out of them as I do now by holding a snatch grip.
A word to the wise in regard to the snatch grip high pull… DO NOT ENGAGE AN ECCENTRIC PHASE.
This is one of the few times I will tell you this. The fact of the matter is, YOU WILL WRECK your shoulders if you try to incorporate the eccentric component.
Some of my more seasoned readers may argue that SGHP’s flat out lack an eccentric component, but I’ve seen many a meat-head attempt to really emphasize the “negative” reps with these and get owned. That’s not training smart.
The incline press packs the lean muscle mass on your upper chest and front delts. Your triceps also get a great deal of work as they do with all other pressing exercises.
Utilizing the incline press really focuses the stress on your upper chest and front delts. Be extrememly aware and find your “groove” as Arnold would say, or you may find the bar drifting too far forward which is begging for an injury.
Single Arm DB Row Not only will you improve your shoulders and shoulder joints, but over time, it can help to protect them from injury also. These are also great for targeting the upper back and despite popular belief not so much the lats.
If you want to target your lats than I highly recommend barbell rows, pullups, tbar rows, and pulldowns. If you’re feeling exceptionally saucy, try the front lever exercise.
Your adductors, glutes and quads get worked to the max with lunges! Your lunge (step) should be long enough so that the trailing leg is nearly straight. Push yourself back up with one strong decisive movement.
A great full body exercise to build some lean & explosive muscle mass. You can do these two-handed or using one arm at time, the kettlebell is swung from between the knees to anywhere between eye level to fully overhead. If you do crossfit you’ll be utilizing the latter.
Your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, lower back, shoulders, arms and core muscles are all effectively worked during kettlebell swings. If you’re consistent with these, you’ll notice significant increases in power and endurance!
If your AC joint are in anything but perfect condition they’re not going to like dips very much. With that said, dips are awesome because they allow you to simultaneously work opposing muscle groups while lifting and lowering. Dips primarily work your triceps but also significantly engage your biceps, forearms, shoulders, chest and lower back.
These are the 15 best exercises to effectively enhance the muscle mass on your body. Always keep in mind that a healthy diet will go a long way towards maximizing your results!