Knowing the major muscle groups and the weight lifting exercises that work each of these basic muscle groups is very important to improving your body.
As you'll find out, our weight training programs focus on every prominent muscle group within your body. There are a huge number of weight lifting exercises by major muscle group that you can choose from no matter what weight lifting equipment you have available.
You MUST focus on building a balanced body for several reasons:
- Prevents injuries
- Looks much better
- Better posture
- No muscle imbalances
- No aches and pains
- Get stronger faster
- Builds muscle faster
And that's ONLY 7 benefits of working the major muscle groups equally. There are tons more… If you want to look your best and feel your best, you will concentrate on all 11 of the basic muscle groups.
Running or ANY Other Cardiovascular Activity Does ‘NOT' Build Your Legs… You Need to Do REAL Leg Exercises
Some people refuse to work their lower body. They believe that running or some other aerobic exercise is enough work for the lower body. That is NOT true.
*** Your lower body needs the same attention as your upper body and vice versa. ***
Sure, the upper body includes most of the ‘show off' major muscle groups like the abs, chest, and biceps. You don't want to have a huge upper body and small legs.
It looks ridiculous. It really does.
Wouldn't you rather have a balanced body that looks great everywhere?
Yes, the legs take hard work to develop for many people… BUT it's worth the trouble. Remember, those legs of yours are going to carry you around for the rest of your life.
Treat them well by working them just as hard as your upper body.
Now, let's take a look at each of the major muscle groups in detail:
Here are the Major Muscle Groups You Need to Work On…
Simply match the number below to the number in the body images you see to the right for the muscle group.
And here's a summary of each of those 11 major muscle groups. If you have any questions about any of these, let me know.
There are 4 huge muscles that comprise the front of your thigh… that's why this muscle group is called the ‘QUADS' or quadriceps.
The Quadriceps are worked through exercises such as Squats, Lunges, Barbell Hack Squats, and any other Squat variations.
We don't recommend leg extensions or other isolation exercises. You need to be doing some form of Squats unless you can't do them for some reason.
The hamstrings are an often overlooked muscle group for some reason… maybe it's because you can't see them unless you use a mirror.
The hamstrings are the huge muscle group on the back of your thighs. They are the biceps of the lower body yet many people never work them.
They are used during squats, but you should give them more attention with romanian deadlifts, stiff legged deadlifts, and pull thrus. If you really want to prevent injury and build a nice set of legs…
You can't forget the hamstrings.
The calves are probably the most ignored of the major muscle groups in the entire body. I've seen HUGE bodybuilders walking around with tiny calves and they look absolutely ridiculous.
The calves are a very stubborn muscle group and can be very tough to build if you were born with bad calf genetics. If you were, good news… I've revealed all of my calf building secrets here: Bigger Calves.
One of the keys to building calves is to work each major muscle group in the calf area: the gastrocs, the soleus, and the tibialis anterior. The link above explains everything.
The chest is one of those ‘show off' major muscle groups for men and women.
Many men spend their entire time at the gym working their chest several times per week. They struggle year after year because all they do is bench press over and over.
The chest is important BUT you should only work it as much as you do the other major muscle groups.
There are many different variations of the bench press that are great exercises. Dips are my personal favorite chest exercise and one that you should be doing most of the time.
The back is a HUGE major muscle group — one of the biggest.
There are tons and tons of muscles in your back that need attention. In most of the weight lifting programs I design… I include exercises for back depth and back width.
Weight training exercises like Deadlifts develop thickness in your back while Rows work on both width and thickness. Pull Up and Chin Up variations work on making your back wider.
I hear so many people (including doctors who have no idea) say that deadlifts are dangerous for your back… it's simply not true. Use proper form and technique and your back will grow strong and powerful. And then aches and pains will never bother you.
I guarantee that deadlifts will do much more good than harm. And the doctor that tells you deadlifts are dangerous is doing more harm than good because he/she is preventing you from doing one of the best exercises in existence.
What happens when you need to pick something up and you injure your back because it's weak… because you never did deadlifts or learned how to lift things with proper form and technique? That's right…
Deadlifts are a great exercise and you should include them in your weight lifting program.
The shoulders are one of my favorite major muscle groups. You've got front deltiods, side deltoids, and rear deltoids that make up the shoulder muscle.
The overhead press is the best overall exercise for the shoulders. It works all 3 heads of the shoulder muscle well when the exercise is done with proper form and technique.
Many people have trouble with shoulder pain so it's very important to build strong shoulders and learn how to lift with proper form and technique… very important.
The triceps are also an often overlooked muscle group. Many men contact me about getting bigger arms. Women ask me questions about firming up their arms because their starting to get saggy…
Well, the triceps make up about 2/3 of the upper arm yet most people want to work the biceps which only makes up about 1/3 of the upper arm.
My most highly recommended triceps exercises include reverse grip bench press, close grip bench press, and dips. I choose compound exercises over isolation exercises such as pushdowns.
Heavy weight equals better results. Compound exercises allow you to lift heavier weights and that's why I recommend compound exercises over isolation exercises for every muscle group.
The biceps… what can I say? Everyone knows where the biceps are located.
The best compound exercise for the biceps is the close grip pull up with palms facing towards your body. Alternate dumbbell curls also allows you to lift heavy weights — probably the most of any type of curl exercise.
For example, I've used the 75 pound dumbbells for alternate curls before.
The biceps get worked very hard during back exercises like rows, chin ups, and pull ups. So, you don't have to do a ton of biceps exercises like most people do… it's a waste of time.
The forearms get worked during many exercises. Simply holding onto and gripping barbells and dumbbells during exercises help to increase forearm size and strength.
But still, I recommend pinwheel curls, hammer curls, and different types of wrist curls for your forearms. The forearms are a very important muscle group that can limit your strength in other exercises.
Wrist straps can be used to help your grip strength, but I recommend you work on improving grip strength so you don't need to use wrist straps… but never let your forearms limit you on other exercises. Use straps but work on forearm strength too.
The trapezius or ‘traps' for short is the huge upper back muscle that makes a triangle shape with the point in the middle of your upper back.
The traps get worked very hard during deadlifts but the best and only exercise you need for the traps is the power shrug. I don't even include a specific trap exercise in most programs because deadlifts work them so well.
The abs are a muscle group that doesn't need very much specific work at all unless you have a weakness. You only know if you have a weakness in your abs when your body fat % is low enough.
Most people have very nice abs under the layers of body fat. When your body fat is low enough to see your abs, then you'll see that six pack… But ab exercises are pretty useless for getting a six pack.
Ab exercises do not burn fat around the abs… that's a myth. So I don't even bother with adding ab exercises to many of my weight training programs. They are a waste of time.
If you're using compound weight lifting exercises like squats, deadlifts, overhead press, rows, and pull ups, your core strength will increase. Your abs will be plenty strong.
Eating healthy and being consistent with your cardio workouts will get you a six pack — ab exercises won't.