I also wanted to list out all of the weight lifting exercises by major muscle group in case you’re interested in developing a weakness of yours. For example, my calves were always a weak point so I have always included an array of different calf exercises in my workout programs.
You just need to be careful to not do too much volume in your workouts and overtrain. Never start adding exercises until you know your body can handle the increased volume. I will teach you how to do this later on within the WLC System.
Quad Exercises. Squats alone will cover your quadriceps but I wanted to include some other “weaker” options as they can sometimes serve a good purpose.
– Squats. The KING of lower body exercises. The squat doesn’t only target the quadriceps but the entire body. If other muscle groups grow too quickly when squatting and your quads do not, you might need another exercise for your quadriceps to balance things out.
– Leg Extension. The leg extension can be used to target only the quadriceps if needed. I don’t recommend using only this exercise for your legs unless you have a really good reason. If quads are a weakness for you and other compound weight lifting exercises don’t help, the leg extension just might be the exercise for you.
– Lunges. Lunges are an amazing exercise all around and there are so many different versions of them. Great exercise for the quadriceps but also gets your hamstrings and glutes very well too.
– Leg Press. The leg press can work the quads very well but I would rather you choose an exercise that uses free weights.
– Terminal Knee Extension. If you’re having knee issues, this exercise can really help you out. A cable system is required for this exercise. You’ll really be able to target the quads and strengthen them greatly.
Hamstring Exercises. If your hamstrings are not getting the work they need, you should first try changing your core exercise selection to one of the alternates that work the hamstrings better. For example, choose the sumo deadlift instead of the barbell deadlift.
– Glute Ham Raise. Special equipment is required in this case for full range of motion or a home made setup can work as well. This is a great exercise for the glutes and hamstrings and definitely a good choice if you have a place to do this exercise safely.
– Stiff Legged Deadlifts. A sign of a good weight lifting exercise is one that gives a great stretch under a heavy load. The stiff legged deadlift is a perfect example of this type of exercise.
– Cable Pull Thru. This exercise provides a much different feel. You may feel a little silly when doing this exercise but who cares if you’re getting amazing results.
– Leg Curls. Leg curls are more of an isolation exercise that I really don’t recommend too much. There are much better exercise options that use your entire body as a unit.
– Good Morning. I am not saying good morning to you. This is an actual exercise and a very good one for the hamstrings. Highly recommended for the hamstrings.
Calf Exercises. The calves are a very strong muscle group with lots of endurance. In order to build the calves, you need to hit them from all angles with a large variety of weightlifting exercises. Full range of motion is a requirement for all of these weight lifting exercises.
– Standing Calf Raise. This calf exercise works the entire calf region from top to bottom and is a must for building your calves and stronger lower legs.
– Donkey Calf Raise. If you want an amazing calf exercise that gives a full stretch under a heavy load, the donkey calf raise is what you want. Find ways to add weight safely and you’ll have an exercise that works great.
– Seated Calf Raise. In order to work the soleus calf muscle, you need to have your knees bent and that will target the soleus. Seated calf raises are very important for this reason.
– Squat Raise. This is an unknown calf exercise and maybe the best of all. Squat raises will work the entire lower leg very well. If you haven’t used this calf exercise before, you’re missing out.
– Reverse Calf Raise. In order to build a better set of lower legs, you need to work the tibialis anterior muscle which engulfs the front part of your lower leg. This muscle makes up a huge part of your lower leg and most people never target this muscle.
Back Exercises. The back is a huge muscle group that needs to be worked with a large variety of weight lifting exercises. Horizontal rowing and vertical pulling works the back very well as you’ll find with these back exercises.
– Rows. The best overall back exercises that build both back width and back depth are rows. A rowing exercise must be included in your weight lifting program.
– Pull Ups. Pull ups or chin ups are a must for every weight lifting workout program. You will find that I always include some form of pull ups in every weight lifting program you’ll find here at WLC.
– Deadlifts. If you want to be strong and powerful, the deadlift is a requirement. Picking up heavy things is very important in life and the deadlift trains you for these difficult tasks in life.
– Pullovers. A great stretch is provided under heavy weights when you do pullovers. Getting a good stretch under a weighted load builds muscle easily and is one of the best ways to know you’ve got a great exercise.
– Pulldowns. Not a huge fan of some forms of pulldowns. The 1-arm pull down is actually a great exercise due to the constant tension from the cable system and the quality of the stretch you get when this weight lifting exercise is done properly.
Chest Exercises. The chest is a very popular muscle group for both men and women, but especially for men. The bench press, as you know, is a very popular exercise and one that works well for the chest. There are many other weight lifting exercises that work the chest well besides the bench press.
– Bench Press. The most well known weight lifting exercise known throughout this planet. A good chest exercise and good overall upper body exercise.
– Push Ups Probably a much better overall exercise than the bench press since your body is moving through space. One issue is wrist stress and another is safely adding weight incrementally.
– Dips. This is an amazing upper body exercise and one that I like better than the bench press or push ups. You can add weight around your waist with the help of a hip belt to make this exercise even tougher.
Shoulder Exercises. The shoulders can be worked with a good variety of different weight lifting exercises such as the overhead press, side laterals, and rear laterals. The shoulders are a very complex muscle group.
– Overhead Press. Best overall shoulder exercise by far as this works all 3 muscles of the shoulder very well when done properly. Learning how to do this exercise properly will skyrocket your strength on this exercise and your shoulders will explode.
– Lateral Raises. I personally really like side lateral raises when not done strictly. Rear lateral raises are also a great exercise for the rear deltoids when done properly.
Triceps Exercises. The triceps make up approximately 2/3 of the upper arm, and that fact is one most people never learn. Curls are always done to build bigger arms but those only focus on the biceps. The triceps are where muscular arms are made.
– Dips. You really can’t beat dips when you’re trying to build the triceps. You’ll get so much more overload with this exercise than any triceps isolation exercise.
– Bench Press. The bench press can be modified to put more stress on the triceps. Close grip, reverse grip, wide grip, narrow grips. All types of modifications can be made to target your triceps.
– Push Downs. This is more of a isolation exercise but a pretty good one at that. I don’t recommend being extremely strict on this exercise. You’ll find that I like exercises to be more functional so if you want to use the rest of your body to help you do this exercise, have at it.
– Kick Backs. Kickbacks are actually a good triceps exercise when you get a little swinging motion to help overload the triceps. Again, I am not a big fan of extremely strict form on isolation exercises like this.
– Push Ups. You can modify this exercise by placing your hands closer together and keeping your elbows tight to your body. This will place much more emphasis on your triceps. Other modifications can be made as well.
Biceps Exercises. Curls, curls, and more curls make up most of the biceps exercises. Did you know, though, that pull ups with palms facing you can be a much better exercise for the biceps?
– Curls. There are many different versions of curls to target the biceps. There are actually a huge number of different curls you can use.
– Pull Ups. All versions of chin ups and pull ups will work the biceps very well and overload them quite nicely. Some modifications can be made that will place even more emphasis on the biceps.
Forearm Exercises. The forearms are an extremely important muscle group and one that is constantly in view. A nice set of forearms will give you a great grip. A good handshake is very important, but please don’t break someone’s hand when doing so.
– Curls. Different versions of curls will really place emphasis on the entire forearm region. There are some curl exercises that can use very heavy weights and these will not only work the biceps but also the forearms.
– Wrist Curls. Wrist curls are definitely an isolation exercise for the forearms and many different type of wrist curls can be done. From behind the back barbell wrist curls to seated reverse wrist curls, there are tons of different exercises here.
– Holding Weight. Holding heavy weights can be great for your forearms and can really teach you how to take some good pain during weight lifting when your forearms are burning and screaming at you to stop.
– Grippers. Your forearms were made to help you grip things and carry things. Increasing your grip strength through the use of grippers can really build muscle and strength in your forearms.
Ab Exercises. The abs are are not a very popular muscle group. Just kidding. I didn’t want to leave out the abs as I know you will be interested. The abs may be one of the most over worked muscle groups in existence. Compound weight lifting exercises work the abs and core very well.
– Crunches. There are a huge number of different crunches you do for your abdominal muscles. I will go over a large number of them here.
– Ab Roller. The ab roller is one of the few pieces of ab equipment you’ll see on TV that I actually recommend. This is a great full body exercise that works the abs very well.
– Leg Raises. Raising your legs from a vertical or horizontal position works your abs very well and something you should work on improving. Your abs will benefit greatly.
– Knee Raises. Raising your knees from a hanging vertical position is another great way to work your abs and gives a different feel than leg raises.
Trapezius Exercises. The trapezius muscle is the huge diamond shaped muscle in the middle to upper back and surrounds your neck. If you want to target the traps more due to a weakness in the muscle group, you’ll want to see these trap exercises.
– Deadlifts. You will work your traps very hard when doing any form of deadlifts. If deadlifts aren’t doing it for you, see shrugs as this will definitely hit them hard for you.
– Shrugs. There are many different forms of shrugs that can be done to improve your trapezius muscle. The traps are a huge muscle group and one that should not be forgotten if you have a weakness there and deadlifts just aren’t helping.
This should give you a good overview of the weight lifting exercises available to you…
Hopefully this overview of exercises organized by major muscle group gives you a better top down view of what’s available to you. I have included many of these weight lifting exercises within the weight lifting programs I have designed for you.
Once you learn more and more about your body and the exercises described here, you can begin making substitutions to improve your body. Only you will know your weaknesses and what you need to work on to balance your body.
This exercise guide should help you now and in the future as you begin to develop your body into the one you truly deserve.
Now that you’ve seen the best exercises for each major muscle group, you might be wondering what makes an exercise a good exercise. Here are some characteristics of good muscle building exercises:
– Compound exercises that use several muscle groups
– Free weight exercises
– Exercises that use heavier weights
– Exercises that give a good stretch in the target muscle group
You can use barbells, dumbbells, different bars, different positions (incline, decline, inverted), cables, kettlebells, and anything else to create a variation of the best exercises.
There are several reasons why you need different exercises and variations of those exercises at your disposal:
– Changing exercises from cycle to cycle keeps your workouts interesting
– You’ve hit a plateau on strength gains from any given exercise after using that exercise for several consecutive months
– You may not have the weight lifting equipment available to do that exercise
– You may have an injury that prevents you from doing a certain exercise
– Your lower back may not be able to take too many exercises that stress the lower back
– Build a stronger and more balanced body that is more functional
You now have a HUGE number of weight lifting exercises that I’ve listed out for you in the WLC System. When you need a new weight lifting exercise, you know where to find them. Just come back to this section, and you’ll find what you need.
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