It seems like every year, self-proclaimed fitness gurus and infomercial trainers are coming up with some sort of fancy gadget or new workout to “help you lose weight and look great!” While there are certainly some knowledgeable folks out there with innovative ideas, keeping it old school is the best way of attaining your goals. We are going to go over some of the best exercises for each muscle.
Make sure to incorporate these exercises into your workouts because they are the foundation of any great workout routine. If you have experience, these may be boring to you – but they are essential. If you’re a newbie, then you’ve come to the right place to learn about the most essential exercises for awesome fitness.
#1 Pushups – athletes have been doing pushups forever. Why? Well, because they are awesome. There are many different variations you can do with the pushup, to increase the intensity, and pushups can be done virtually anywhere. It may seem like pushups are too easy for the advanced lifter, but like I said, there is lots of different variations of the pushup, not to mention the constant increase in reps when your chest gets stronger.
#2 Bench Press – this is a no brainer. The king of chest exercises, and just upper body muscle building in general.
#3 Incline Bench Press – the bench press at an incline. This exercises targets the upper chest more, and also puts additional strain on the front shoulder.
#4 Dips – most people think dips are a triceps exercises, and they are. But done with elbows flared out and leaning forward slightly, the dip will absolutely obliterate your pecs, in a good way!
#5 Barbell Pullover – a great exercise to get good shape to the chest. Lay flat on a bench and hold a barbell over your head with your arms slightly bent. Raise the bar so that it is in front of your chest, and lower it back down so that your arms are basically parallel to the floor, with your arms bent and in the same position throughout the movement.
#6 Dumbbell Flys – dumbbell flyes are great for making your chest wider and broader, and have that rounded shape. Make sure and get your form down properly, and you will build not only a strong chest, but a great looking one too.
#1 Pullups – in my opinion, the king of back exercises. Pullups also have different variations, as well as different grip positions (hands facing you / hands facing away from you / neutral grip).
#2 Deadlifts – my oh my! Few exercises build a beefy back and traps like the deadlift. Besides the entire movement, simply holding a heavy barbell puts extreme strain on the lats, and in turn, they get beefier!
#3 Barbell Row – rowing is to back as gasoline is to a car. What I mean is, you have to do it. Heavy rowing for the back builds up back strength and cosmetic appeal, and also builds up your arms.
#4 Dumbbell Row – same concept as the barbell row, except you usually do this while leaning on a bench, and with one arm. This is a great isolation exercise for the upper back and the outer lats. Make sure and do it often!
#5 Vertical Row – cable rows are another great back builder. The cables provided an added resistance on the negative portion of the movement, so your back is under constant strain, and that is a good thing for packing on some muscle.
#6 Good Mornings – the lower back is often neglected. Working the lower back is essential for a complete looking back, as well as a balanced core. The good morning is a tremendous lower back builder (hamstrings also), but should be done mindfully, as it can be dangerous and the injury risk is quite high if not done properly.
#1 Squats – arguably the king of all exercises. The squat is just THE exercise to do if you want to be jacked. No more needs to be said.
#2 Lunges – a quality leg building exercises, as well as a stability enhancing exercise as well. Lunges will make your legs strong, and help greatly with balance, which is great for sports.
#3 Leg Press -a few sets of leg press after some squats will really make your legs feel like noodles.
#4 Hack Squats – a terrific exercise for the quads. Can be tricky to master, but definitely give it a go. Basically, put a loaded bar down on the ground and stand in front of it, squat down and pick it up (similar to a deadlift, except the bar is behind you), and the bar will come up to your ass, lower back to the ground and repeat. Make sure and keep your back straight, cause it’s really easy to arch your back with these, and when the weights get heavier, that’s a no-no.
#5 Nordic Hamstring Curls – simply one of the best for size, strength, and balance. These are not the hamstring curls you are thinking of where you lay on the machine and put your calves under a pad and curl your legs. Difficult to explain by writing, so click here
#1 Military Press – a staple of shoulder workouts. Don’t not do it on shoulder day!
#2 Behind The Neck Press – same as military press, except you lower the bar behind your neck, carefully!
#3 Arnold Press – a full shoulder blaster. Hits the anterior, side, and posterior delts, and hits them good! You can do these standing or seated, the choice is yours…
#4 Lateral Raises – grab some dumbbells and hold them at your sides. Slowly and controlled, lift your arms up to the side til your forearms are parallel to the floor, and again, slowly and controlled bring your arms back down to your sides.
#5 Upright Rows – the upright rows could also be considered an exercise for the traps, but with a closer grip and a slower execution, with emphasis on utilizing the shoulders more, it will really blast the shoulder into some serious growth.
#1 Barbell Curls – this is the king of bicep exercises. Builds mass, strength, and stability, especially in the wrists.
#2 Preacher Curl – great for having a controlled bicep movement. Pretty hard to mess up the form with preacher curls, so in my opinion, they also should be a staple to a bicep workout.
#3 Seated Dumbbell Curl – either with your back straight, or slightly on an incline, just sit down on a bench and start curlin them dumbbells.
#4 Hammer Curls – holding the dumbbells with a neutral grip, curl the dumbbells straight up. If you’re standing, just curl them straight up – don’t go cross body, since in my opinion it limits the range of motion and is just plain unnecessary.
#5 Reverse Curls – Grab a barbell, or an EZ bar, or some dumbells, and hold them with a pronated grip (palms facing away from you) when doing your curls. Keep the movement controlled and pay close attention to form, not allowing your elbows to flare out or leave the side of your body. The reverse curl is an excellent movement not only for the meatiness of your biceps, but it also hits your forearms, as well as the neglected brachioradialis, which is the small muscle on the side of your bicep between your bi’s and your tri’s, and it turns into a nice looking lump in your arm when it’s developed, adding to the shape and the beefiness of your bi’s. These are great for strengthening your grip too.
#1 Close Grip Bench Press – this is a bench press with a very close grip. It makes it so that your elbows are close to your body in the negative portion of the movement, so it uses your triceps to push the weight back up. You won’t be using the same weight you do for regular bench press, since the weight is now transferred over to the much smaller triceps muscle instead of the chest.
#2 Dips – here they are again. Dips are a fantastic triceps builder. Try to keep your body more erect than you would for chest dips, and try to keep your elbows as close to your body as you can.
#3 Skull Crushers – grab either a loaded barbell or some dumbbells, and lay down on a bench (flat or decline) and slowly bring the weight down to your forehead (skull), making sure to keep your elbows pointed up in the air and stationary. Try as hard as you can to keep your elbows in the same position throughout, and just use your triceps to bring the weight from your head back up to starting postion.
#4 Cable Pulldowns – self-explanatory, and always good for triceps building.