The best muscle building exercises are the exercises that give you the most bang for your buck.
In other words, you want exercises that work the largest amount of muscle mass.
When you choose the best muscle building exercises…
You build more muscle in the same amount of time.
A Comparison of Two Weight Lifting Exercises
For example, compare squats to leg extensions for the quadriceps.
With squats, you use much heavier weight than leg extensions. This means you are using a greater amount of muscle mass to lift the weight during the squat movement.
During squats, your entire body has to stabilize the weight. Every muscle throughout your body is working to lift that heavy weight under control without falling forward or backward.
You aren't only using your quadriceps — you are using your entire body along with your huge quadriceps muscle to lift the weight.
Leg extensions are an isolation exercise that focuses only on the quadriceps. Why waste valuable time doing leg extensions when you build more muscle doing squats?
Leg extensions require no stabilization or balance. Every muscle in your body isn't required for this isolation exercise. You just aren't working as hard, and you definitely aren't stimulating as much muscle mass as you were during squats.
The only people who might want to choose leg extensions over squats are elite level bodybuilders who are trying to improve their quadriceps without building muscle in other areas of the body.
Elite level bodybuilders need to do this sometimes due to a weakness in a muscle group. Exact symmetry between body parts is huge in the world of bodybuilding.
You don't have to worry about exact symmetry unless you have already spent years and years building muscle mass and are looking to compete in a bodybuilding competition.
Don't worry about leg extensions until you are at that level — if you don't want to be at that level, you will never need to worry about leg extensions and many other isolation exercises.
Now, let's get back on topic…
Compound Weight Lifting Exercises Are the Best
Compound weightlifting exercises are the best muscle building exercises because they build a greater amount of muscle mass in the same amount of time. You will know the difference between a compound exercise and an isolation exercise by the amount of weight you can lift.
In general, heavier weight means that an exercise is more compound and uses a greater amount of muscle throughout the body.
For example, let's take barbell curls versus concentration curls for the biceps. You will be able to lift much more weight with barbell curls than you will with concentration curls.
This means that the barbell curl is a more compound weight lifting exercise compared to concentration curls.
With this program, you will always choose the better compound weight lifting exercises for each major muscle group. I'm going to give you a list of all the best exercises, so you'll never have to worry about choosing a good compound exercise.
More weight will overload each muscle group to a much greater extent. This is what you want. For example, close grip chin ups with your palms facing you will overload the biceps to a much greater extent that concentration curls.
With my weight lifting programs, you will always get the better compound weight lifting exercises for each major muscle group. I’m going to give you a list of all the best exercises, so you’ll never have to worry about choosing a good compound exercise.
You can always substitute weight lifting exercises shown in case a certain exercise doesn’t fit you very well. For example, an exercise may give you shoulder pain so you switch to an approved substitute.
I’ll start with the 7 core weight lifting exercises that form the basis of every weight lifting program you’ll find at Weight Lifting Complete: (1) Squat, (2) Deadlift, (3) Bench Press, (4) Row, (5) Overhead Press, (6) Chin-Up, (7) Dip.
With just those 7 movements, you can build an amazing body that is balanced, strong, and powerful. Within the next sections of the manual, I am going to give you all the exercises that can be substituted for these 7 movements in any of the weight lifting programs you’ll find at Weight Lifting Complete.
The squat is said to be the KING of all exercises and that might very well be true. I personally consider the squat and deadlift to be on equal ground as some versions of the deadlift will rival some versions of the squat. If you aren’t doing squats of any type, you must have a very good reason as you’ll be missing out on spectacular results.
The deadlift works better for some people than squats. If you want a full body exercise that is sure to work all muscle groups throughout your body, the deadlift should be your exercise of choice. There are all types of deadlifts, but the trap bar deadlift is the version I recommend to most people. You’ll probably be able to lift more weight with the trap bar deadlift than any other exercise.
3. Bench Press
The bench press does not need an introduction as it’s probably the most popular weight lifting exercise in existence. Most people have no idea how to do this exercise properly.
The row is an amazing full body exercise that targets the overall back muscles very well. There are many different versions of the row but the bent over barbell row uses the most musculature throughout the body.
5. Overhead Press
I absolutely love the overhead press exercise. It just feels good to stand up tall and straight with your chest out as lift really heavy weight over your head. The overhead press can be argued as the best overall upper body exercise.
The chin up is an exercise that may be very difficult for many people who are new to weight lifting. I can guarantee, though, that you will get much better at chin ups and will even be able to add weight around your waist in the future.
The dip is another amazing upper body exercise. Sometimes the dip is referred to as the upper body squat, and you’ll see why. It really works the chest, shoulders, and triceps along with the back and arms.
You will soon know all of the approved weight lifting exercises for the WLC System.
Over the next several sections, you’ll find all of the approved exercises that can be used to satisfy each of the 7 core exercise requirements for every weight lifting program at WLC. Use these exercises to provide variety to all of your workouts.
You never want to continue using the same exercises for years. You should always change the movements you are doing as this adds more balance, power, and strength to your body. Different exercises are great for your development.
What's Makes a Good Weight Lifting Exercise?
Now that you've seen the best weight lifting exercises, you might be wondering what makes an exercise a good exercise. Here are some characteristics of good muscle building exercises:
- Compound exercises that use more muscle groups
- Free weight exercises are better than machines
- Exercises that use heavier weights
- Exercises that give a good stretch in the target muscle group
The best exercises listed above also include many variations. Most variations of the listed exercises are also good exercises.
For example, most variations of the Squat movement are good exercises.
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 WLC Program cycles
- 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
Changing exercises can bring some excitement and new gains so it's always a good idea to change exercises from cycle to cycle. Certain exercises can also help to make you stronger on the big exercises like the squat, deadlift, and bench press.
And did you know that the exercises that are harder for you will most likely give you the best gains? You know … the ones you don't like to do?
Those are the best muscle building exercises that give great results because they are harder for you.
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