You have reached the weight lifting exercises section of Weight Lifting Complete.
This is the most comprehensive weight lifting exercise guide in existence so congratulations on making it here.
If you're looking for the best exercises for your weight training workouts, this is the page you need.
I'll also answer popular questions like these:
- What are the basic exercises for weight lifting?
- What are the five best strength training exercises?
- What type of exercises are best for beginners?
The 7 core exercises that should form the basis of all weight lifting workouts will be discussed here, but that's only the beginning.
I'll answer all your questions here, and if I don't, leave your questions in the comments section at the bottom of the page and I'll answer quickly.
The 7 Core Weight Lifting Exercises
Here at Weight Lifting Complete, you'll find that all of our weight training workouts and programs are centered around the 7 core weight lifting exercises.
These are the best exercises for building a strong and balanced body.
The goal is to focus on getting really strong on these 7 exercises. Doing so will build a functional body that looks great and feels great too.
Because these weight lifting exercises are so important, we'll go into great detail on each of these.
1. Squat Weight Lifting Exercises
The squat is not just one of the best 7 weight lifting exercises, but one of the top two. The squat and deadlift are the top 2 exercises.
Most of your focus should be on the squat and deadlift. If you are getting stronger on these 2 exercises, you can bet that your body is improving.
Benefits of Squats
There are an absolute huge number of benefits of squats. Because this is a top weight lifting exercise, the benefits are endless.
Here's just a few of those squat benefits listed here:
Builds Muscle Throughout Your Body
Squats are an amazing weight lifting exercise for your lower body including the legs, quadriceps, hamstrings, and even the calves.
Many people neglect their lower bodies and believe running is enough while they weight train for their upper bodies. This is a huge mistake.
This top exercise improves the muscle building and strength building environment within your body by improving testosterone and growth hormone levels.
If you want 6 pack abs, a chiseled chest, and ripped biceps then you better do squats and not ab crunches, chest flyes, and curls.
Improves Body Functionality
You can feel great when doing squats because you'll know that your body is becoming more functional.
This means your life will get easier because squats are making you stronger in all the right ways to assist with your normal life activities.
Mobility and balance are required for you to stay strong and healthy your entire life. Squats provide this benefit for you.
Burns More Body Fat
Lean muscle tissue burns calories for you and the squat is one of the top 2 muscle building exercises in existence.
As you get stronger on squats, you will add lean muscle tissue to your body in all the right places.
Your appearance will greatly improve due to squats and your body will turn into a fat burning furnace.
The squat exercise movement may take some practice depending on your background while it may be very easy for others.
You should practice squatting down all the time and use this movement in your every day life.
For instance, when you need to pick something up off the ground, squat down first and don't just bend over and let your back do all the work.
Your legs are very powerful and should be used to assist you when lifting anything.
Another example in how to use the squat in everyday life is to take a rest in the squat position instead of sitting in a chair or sitting on the ground.
You will gain lots of strength, balance, and flexibility just by practicing on using the squat exercise more in every day life.
The squat is one of the top 2 weight lifting exercises for very good reasons. Use it accordingly.
In order to do heavy squats, you need the right weight lifting equipment.
You can start out with bodyweight squats, but you'll eventually need to add resistance in order to get the most benefit.
Dumbbells can be a good next step of progression, but eventually you'll need a barbell and a squat rack for heavy weights.
A squat rack (or a power rack) and a barbell set with weight plates is the most recommended method of doing heavy squats.
Keep in mind that the most important factor for improving your body is increasing the amount of weight you are lifting. Since squats are one of the top 2 weight lifting exercises, it's important to have the equipment you need to increase the weight.
There are an absolutely huge number of squat exercises. In other words, you can choose between a large number of squat variations.
I want to give you just a few of these squat variations right now.
The Low Bar Squat
The low bar squat is a squat version that I recommend you start with.
This version of the squat uses a barbell and a power rack.
The barbell is placed lower on your back in this variation. This is a great way to learn how to squat.
With this version, you will bend at the back more and use very heavy weights because you are using a huge amount of muscles throughout your body.
Most people will be able to squat the heaviest amount of weight with the low bar squat and this is the reason I recommend to start with this version.
The High Bar Squat
The high bar squat is another great squat variation and places the barbell higher on your back than the low bar squat.
You will stay more upright with this version of the squat and will use your quadriceps more than your glutes and hamstrings as in the low bar squat.
I believe the high bar squat is a great variation of the squat and one of the top 2 with the low bar squat. Because the high bar squat forces more work on the quadriceps, this is a great choice if you need to improve your quads.
Once you become very strong on the low bar squat, you can try the high bar squat and work on getting really strong on this type of squat too.
The Safety Bar Squat
This is my favorite version of the squat as it takes much of the strain off your upper back, arms, and shoulders while squatting.
And it's not only my favorite version of the squat but my favorite of all weight lifting exercises (trap bar deadlift is close too).
The safety bar squat uses a safety squat barbell. This bar is sometimes called a cambered barbell or yoke bar.
You can even let go of the handles for this exercise and the barbell stays in place on your upper back. This is great if you get into an unsafe position and need to use your arms to help you get out of that position.
The Split Squat or Bulgarian Squat
This is a single leg squat and one that I highly recommend once you have mastered or increased strength levels greatly on the low bar squat and high bar squat.
Single leg exercises will improve any issues you have with strength or size imbalances between legs.
These imbalances can happen easily and the split squat or Bulgarian squat can quickly take care of these issues.
Stretch positions in any exercise are also very important and the split squat allows an amazing stretch in the off leg during each repetition. This stretch helps to counter sitting at work all day long (shortened hip flexors).
Lunges are a fantastic weight training exercise and one that is a great subsitute for squats.
You will use a single leg at a time during lunges, which again, helps to improve strength and size imbalances between the left and right side of your body.
Barbell exercises, at times, can make imbalances between the left and right sides of your body even worse as the dominant side will usually take over and help with making a lift over the weaker side.
The lunge can also be an exercise that improves explosiveness depending on the variation of lunges that you choose.
For instance, heavy barbell lunges will force you to push explosively off one leg to return back to the starting position. These are great for sport specific training of power and explosiveness.
A barbell is highly recommended for the squat because you can easily and quickly load a barbell compared to other weight lifting methods.
Safety is also a key and the barbell squat is very safe when done inside a power rack with the safety pins set to the correct position.
You definitely don't have to train to complete failure to make progress, but if you do, heavy squats can be very dangerous. This is why a power rack is very important.
Because one day you might decide to push the intensity a little more than you should have and those safety pins on the power rack will be very important.
How To Do Squats
If you have never done squats before (you definitely did them as a child) or if it's been a long time, you may need to work on flexibility first.
But don't worry, the flexibility will come quickly if you keep working on it.
There are many steps to performing a squat properly so you must take your time learning how to do squats properly.
Foot placement and position is important for starting. Feet should stay flat on the floor at all times. Back should be flat. Head should stay down and not up throughout the squat movement.
These are just a few starting tips for the squat.
2. Deadlift Weight Lifting Exercises
As discussed, the deadlift is at the top of the exercise chain along with the squat.
Because this weight lifting exercise uses a huge number of muscles throughout your body, you will be able to lift a very heavy amount of weight.
This heavy weight does special things for improving your body.
Stiff Leg Deadlift
The stiff leg deadlift is a very popular version of the deadlift as this exercise allows you to work your hamstrings very well.
For beginners, this movement is not recommended as there are better exercises to work on as a beginner.
The normal deadlift exercise is much more recommended than the stiff leg deadlift.
Lower back fatigue is also increased greatly with the stiff leg deadlift so you must ensure you aren't overloading your lower back too much when you add this deadlift variation into your weight lifting exercises selection.
The Romanian deadlift is a very good variation of the conventional deadlift and one that I recommend over the stiff leg deadlift.
If you need to work on your posterior chain (as I have), then this version of the deadlift is a great choice.
A Romanian deadlift can also greatly help with a conventional deadlift.
The barbell deadlift is the most highly recommended version of the deadlift and one that you need to start learning how to do with proper form and technique.
Some people can lift the heaviest amount of weight with the deadlift while others are stronger on the squat.
I am a deadlift dominant person due to the way my body is built. So I do my best to get stronger on the squat and catch up with the deadlift strength that I have.
You'll find out which type you are once you get to lifting properly with a good weight lifting program.
The deadlift exercise movement is not difficult to understand but doing it correctly takes some practice.
Just setting up properly for the barbell deadlift is a little tricky but easy once you know how.
For instance, foot placement is important to start with.
The middle of your feet should be directly under the barbell and the bar will be about an inch or so from your shins.
Your foot width for a deadlift will be much closer than foot width for a squat.
Then, grip the bar just slightly wider than your leg width and grip the bar without bending your knees. Next, you would drop your shins to the bar by bending your knees.
Raise your chest next and you are in a great starting position for the deadlift.
How To Deadlift
Learning how to deadlift properly is very important to your success in weight lifting as the deadlift is one of the most important weight lifting exercises in existence.
Once you learn how to deadlift, your strength levels will skyrocket.
My personal favorite variation of the deadlift is the trap bar deadlift because it takes stress from the lower back. This is very important to an overall plan as the big compound exercises stress the lower back greatly.
The heaviest weight I have ever lifted was on the trap bar deadlift so it allows me to overload my body more than any other weight lifting exercise. This is very important!
3. Bench Press Weight Lifting Exercises
The bench press is a great exercise movement, but I prefer the push up over the actual bench press exercise.
For workout purposes, the bench press and push up are grouped into this same core exercise movement. If you are able to do weighted push ups safely, this is recommended over the bench press.
You'll need a barbell in a power rack, a weight bench to elevate your feet, and a hip belt to hang weight around your chest. This allows you to do push ups safely.
Push ups are highly recommended as a weight lifting exercise because you move your body weight through space.
You can compare this to the bench press where you are laying on a bench and moving your arms only.
The best weight lifting exercises are those that move your body through space and the push up is one of these awesome movements. You will obtain special results when choosing this exercise over the bench press.
The bench press is a great exercise, but weighted push ups take it to an even higher level.
Incline Bench Press
The incline bench press is another very popular exercise because many people want to build the upper chest.
An incline position is thought to improve activation of the upper chest muscles over the lower and middle chest.
If you go too high of an incline on the bench, though, you'll end up working your shoulders more than your chest.
A small incline (30 degrees or less) is my recommendation for the incline bench press when attempting to target the upper chest.
Bench Press Technique
The bench press has a very short kinetic chain compared to some of the other 7 core weight lifting exercises. I'll give you a few starting tips here.
Your eyes should be just on the side of the barbell closer to your feet. Choose a spot on the ceiling to look at just in front of the barbell. This is a safe starting position.
Your grip width should be where your forearms are vertical at the bottom position. This would be about a hand width from the marks on a normal Olympic barbell.
Feet should always be planted firmly on the ground. Lock your elbows to unrack the barbell. The barbell should be directly above your shoulder joints when starting (not forward or behind to create additional moment arms).
Now you're ready to start bench pressing.
Bench Press Workout
There are many bench press workouts because of the popularity of the bench press.
I will tell you right now that the bench press shouldn't be so popular. Yes, the NFL uses the bench press as a test of upper body strength but it's really not the best exercise for this as you're laying down and limiting use of your entire body.
One of the best recommendations I can make for you is to not get caught up in bench press workouts to skyrocket your bench press gains.
For instance, some people do endless sets of decline, flat, incline, and high incline with barbells and dumbbells. You don't need all of this. Stop wasting time in your workouts.
Barbell Bench Press
The barbell bench press is the recommended starting exercise if you have elected to do the bench press.
Of course, the push up is recommended over the bench press but the barbell bench press should be the choice if you're starting out with this exercise.
If you can do weighted push ups, you can forget about the bench press unless it's important for testing or other requirements you might have.
You can easily load a barbell with heavy weights and using a power rack with safety pins will make this exercise safe to do alone in your home gym.
Always put your thumbs around the barbell for safety reasons.
Dumbbell Bench Press
If you haven't heard this here at Weight Lifting Complete, I am a huge fan of dumbbells for most exercises because they provide an even more natural range of motion over barbells.
Some of the best overall weight lifting exercises will use dumbbells versus barbells.
Once you get really strong on the barbell bench press, you can switch over to the dumbbell bench press.
I also love the dumbbell bench press because you change hand positions for the exercise. For example, you can do a parallel grip dumbbell bench press.
Bench Press Exercise
The movement for the bench press exercise may look simple, but it's a little more complicated than it looks and takes practice to get it right.
This can also be a very dangerous weight lifting exercise as most accidents happen at the bench press station.
Your butt should never come off the bench during this exercise. Your feet need to stay on the ground. Do full reps and not half reps (from the top half or bottom half).
Many big benchers do all types of things to shorten the range of motion even further so even heavier weight can be lifted. To me, this is all nonsense.
4. Row Weight Lifting Exercises
The row is also called the rowing exercise and is sometimes mistaken for rowing on water and the cardio rower exercise.
The row is one of the best weight lifting exercises as it works your entire back area, but many people have issues with getting this exercise right.
I also highly recommend the inverted row over the barbell row as you are moving your body through space versus moving a weight through space.
T Bar Rows
The T Bar Row is one of the most popular versions of the row for some reason.
I would guess that reason is because you can lift heavy weight due to the shortened range of motion. This helps the ego in the typical commercial gym environment. “Hey, look at me!”
The t bar row is a good exercise, but not even close to the best version of the row. My preference is exercises that use a greater range of motion.
For instance, the one-arm dumbbell row uses an absolutely huge range of motion compared to the t bar row. The t bar row also locks you into a specific plan of motion. Other rowing movements do not.
Seated Cable Row
Cable machines are highly recommended here at Weight Lifting Complete as they provide a great type of resistance throughout an exercises range of motion.
The seated cable row is one of the best variations of the row and allows you to get an amazing stretch and contraction if done properly.
The lower lats can really be targeted as well during this version of rows.
Bent Over Row
The bent over row is the version you should start with if you're not doing inverted rows.
Many people have issues learning how to do this exercise properly so you need to take your time and learn proper form and technique.
You also need to ensure you keep that form and technique while you increase the weight. Sometimes heavy weight will cause a break down of form on this exercise especially.
The barbell is the recommended form of resistance when starting out on bent over rows.
Barbells have a huge advantage over other forms of resistance because they are easy to load and easy to use.
Rows are a very safe exercise because the weight stays close to the ground so these are very safe to do in your home gym.
The barbell row works the entire musculature in your back and is one of the top weight lifting exercises.
One-Arm Dumbbell Row
This is my personal favorite version of the row because you get a huge range of motion with this exercise when done properly.
No other version of the row provides you with this range of motion.
You are also able to work each arm independently of the other which helps with imbalances in strength and size.
Once you've became very strong on the bent over barbell row, you should try this one arm dumbbell row in your weight lifting program.
The rowing movement hits all of your back muscles and even your biceps very well.
The inverted row is the most highly recommended version of the row for beginners and weight can be added by elevating your feet on a bench and using a barbell in a power rack (use a hip belt to add weight around your chest).
Your back strength is very important in a horiztal range of motion as well as a vertical range of motion. The row is covering the horizontal motion while the chin up covers the vertical motion.
5. Overhead Press Weight Lifting Exercises
The next core weight lifting exercise is the overhead press and is one of the best strength indicators for the upper body.
An even better exercise is the handstand push up because you're moving your body through space, but it's difficult to get started and to find a place to practice these.
There are also other difficulties with the handstand push up.
In my opinion, the overhead press is a much better indicator of upper body strength than the bench press (and it's not even close).
Handstand Push Up
The handstand push up is a great exercise, but I would recommend starting with the overhead press because you can start with much less resistance with the overhead press.
Once you get really strong on the overhead press, you can start the handstand push up if you like.
The main issue I have with the handstand push up, though, is the addition of weight to the exercise. It's very difficult to load this exercise with progressive loads.
This is another reason I prefer the overhead press because adding weight to this can be very difficult and dangerous as your head is at the bottom of the movement.
A dumbbell press can be done in many different ways, and I love dumbbell exercises because they allow you to move naturally.
You can even rotate the dumbbell as you lift them above your head.
The grip can also be parallel or more natural instead of the grip forced by a barbell.
Both arms can also be worked independently and this gives you an advantage over weight lifting exercises that use a barbell.
Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Some people refer to the overhead press as the shoulder press so I wanted to make sure you know it's exactly the same exercise.
The dumbbell shoulder press is the same as the dumbbell press or dumbbell overhead press.
You can do this exercise seated, but I highly recommend the standing version of the overhead press in all circumstances.
If you have a home gym, check to make sure the ceiling height is good for 45 pound weight plates on an Olympic barbell. This will be the highest height you will need.
Loading weight is much easier with a barbell press than a dumbbell or kettlebell press.
Because weight loading is easier with this version, you will most likely be able to lift the overall heaviest amount of weight with this exercise making it the most recommended version.
All beginners should start with the barbell press if possible.
To do this weight training exercise properly, you should have a power rack, an Olympic barbell, and weight plates.
Overhead Press Exercise
This is definitely one of my favorite overall exercises as I love to lift heavy weight over my head.
Because I love this exercise, I believe you'll most likely love it too. There's something special about lifting weight over your head that feels good.
The correct grip on this exercise might be closer than you think. You want your forearms to be vertical from all directions at the start of the exercise.
You'll also need to practice proper form and technique for some time in order to get this movement right.
6. Chin Up Weight Lifting Exercises
Next, the chin up is the 6th core exercise meaning it should be one of the most important weight lifting exercises in your workout plan.
Many people shy away from this exercise because it's difficult to do with body weight for beginners and even for some people who have been lifting weights for a long time.
You can trust me when I say it's not that difficult to get strong fast on this exercise.
There are many methods you can use to get stronger, and you'll soon be adding weight around your waist and doing chin ups.
Since chin ups are one of the best weight lifting exercises, you must work on getting better with this exercise unless there are good reasons you cannot do these (injury is a good reason).
Chin Up Bar
In order to do chin ups, you must have a good spot to do this top exercise.
The vast majority of power racks will have a place to do chin ups because that bar at the top helps hold the power rack structure together.
If you don't have a power rack, a chin up station will work well and usually includes a dip station too. This is what I use for chin ups and dips.
Those doorway chin up bars work, but they sure are tough on your door ways and your trim. I like to keep my home nice so I don't use those chin up bars in the doorway. The trim was done by me so I know how much work it takes to look nice!
Chin Up Training
Chin up training is great, but again, I don't recommend training the chin up more than the other 7 core weight lifting exercises.
The chin up is a very important exercise but not more important than the other seven. I've said the same thing for the bench press too.
You need a balanced weight lifting program as a balanced exercise plan will produce a balanced body overall.
Because balance is very important to function and appearance, I would think you would agree with me. No one wants a big upper body and a very small lower body.
Pull Up vs Chin Up
Here at Weight Lifting Complete, the pull up vs chin up is just a difference in hand grip.
The grip makes a difference in the rest of the movement but they are very similar movements.
The chin up is easier because the palms of your hands are facing towards you. Pull ups are more difficult because the palms of your hands are facing away from you.
Both of these variations are great weight lifting exercises.
7. Dip Weight Lifting Exercises
The dips exercise is equivalent to an upper body squat meaning it's an amazing exercise movement.
This exercise was very difficult for me when I was playing high school baseball. I'll always remember that moment when trying to do this exercise for the first time.
You can also get much stronger on this exercise by using resistance bands to lighten your body weight or you can do negative only reps as you are much stronger on the negative.
Or, jump up with momentum to the top position and slowly lower yourself.
Before you know it, you'll be adding extra weight around your waist.
The dips exercise will do plenty for your triceps so you really don't need to worry about doing tricep dips.
In other words, you don't have to isolate your tricep when doing dips.
Sometimes people may refer to the dip exercise as tricep dips or maybe bench or chair dips are called tricep dips by some people.
I've called the dips exercise “parallel dips” too because the two bars you are using to grip are parallel to each other. This keeps confusion out of the exercise naming.
Bench dips can be done with your feet on the floor and your arms on the edge of the bench.
You then lower yourself and raise yourself back to the top position.
I am not a huge fan of this exercise as it's difficult to load the weight plates on your lap safely and effectively.
A workout partner can assist but your shoulders can also be put into a delicate position.
I've done bench dips for entire cycles before, and I will opt for parallel dips every time because loading weight plates onto a hip belt is much safer and more effective.
Your chest can be targeted with a slight variation for chest dips.
Staying more upright when doing dips will work the triceps more than a dip with a forward lean.
If you want to target your chest as much as possible due to a muscle group weakness, simply do dips with a forward lean.
This slight variation turns dips into chest dips.
Some people may refer to dip stands or a dip station as a dip machine.
Others may refer to an assisted dip machine as a dips machine. I've used assisted dip machines before as a beginner in a commercial gym, and they work pretty good.
But a better method would be resistance bands to assist you as the motion is more natural.
Or, the way I was able to start doing dips and chin ups was the jump up method. Simply jump to the top position for assistance and then slowly lower yourself to the bottom position.
All of those methods are better than an assisted dip machine.
A dips workout will usually consist of a single exercise: parallel bar dips. Or, another variation can be used.
You won't find different variations of dips in the workout plans here at Weight Lifting Complete.
Instead, we recommend choosing the best overall exercises and getting really strong on those. Then, you choose a different variation and get really strong on that one too.
How To Do Dips
Dips are not a difficult exercise to learn, but you do need to use a full range of motion.
Some people never use a full range of motion because that's more difficult. You might see people adding huge amounts of weight around their waist and doing quarter reps.
This is not a good method. Instead, start with full range of motion dips and then start adding weight slowly over time.
Before you know it, you'll be doing full range of motion dips with heavy weight. And your muscle development will be amazing compared to the person who does quarter reps with the same heavy weight.
The dips exercise requires a strong and stable dip station.
You need to ensure the bars aren't moving around on you. For instance, many experts might recommend that you do dips inside a power rack with 2 barbells.
This method can be very dangerous as the barbells can roll around while you're doing an exercise. This can easily lead to injury if you've added heavy weight around your waist.
Instead, do dips with handles that are very stable and aren't going to move around.
Weight Lifting Exercises by Major Muscle Group
All of the 7 core weight lifting exercises will work the entire body and all of the major muscle groups.
But sometimes, especially with bodybuilding, you'll need or want to address muscle groups that might have a weakness or size difference.
Knowing the right exercises to add to your workout will help you to address those weaknesses. But I first and always recommend a focus on the 7 core exercises. You can then add muscle group exercises as needed once you have more experience.
The best quadriceps exercises, as with all muscle groups, are going to be compound exercises that work more than just the quads or the 4 muscle groups in your anterior upper leg or thigh.
If you're doing squats and deadlifts, your upper thighs or quadriceps will be getting plenty of muscle stimulation.
Compound Quadriceps Exercises
Here's a list of compound exercises that work the quadriceps:
- Step Ups
- Leg Press
There are a huge number of exercise variations for squats, lunges, and deadlifts.
Isolation Quadriceps Exercises
If you have determined you have a muscle weakness in your quadriceps or you can't do the compound exercises due to an injury, you might give these isolation exercises a shot:
- Terminal Knee Extension
- Leg Extensions
I love the terminal knee extension as it can really help to strengthen the leg muscles to assist with knee issues.
Hamstring exercises are very popular to my surprise as I figured they are a forgotten muscle group because they aren't easily seen.
The best weight lifting exercises for the hamstrings will be the big compound exercises as shown below.
I believe they are so popular because they tie in very closely with the glutes.
Compound Hamstring Exercises
Compound weight lifting exercises as shown below are the absolute best for the hamstrings.
- Stiff Leg Deadlift
- Romanian Deadlift
- Step Ups
- Leg Press
- Good Mornings
You'll probably notice that many of them are the same as the quadriceps exercises.
Exercise variations are great because they allow you to target weak muscle groups. For instance, the deadlift is one of the 7 core weight lifting exercises and must be included in your workout plan.
If hamstrings are a weakness, you can use the Romanian deadlift in your plan to help improve that weakness.
Isolation Hamstring Exercises
There are some really good hamstring isolation exercises out there. Here's a good list, and you might even call some of these compound exercises.
- Glute Ham Raise
- Cable Kickbacks
- Kettlebell Swing
- Pull Thru
- Lying Leg Curls
- Seated Leg Curls
- Rverse Hyperextension
I am a big fan of cable kickbacks, and they definitely are not an easy exercise if you do them full range of motion with heavy weights.
Leg curl machines and all corresponding exercises are something I haven't done in many years, and I haven't missed them at all. You don't need them either. There are far better hamstring exercises.
Many people won't need to add any additional calves exercises because the big compound exercises will work them, strengthen them, and build them just fine.
If you're one of the unlucky ones with small calf muscles (me too), then get ready for years of hard work to bring this lagging muscle group up to match the rest of your body.
The muscles of the lower leg can be very stubborn and will take a lot of volume and very heavy weight to grow.
Compound Calves Exercises
Most of the lower body exercises you do will work the calves. Here's a list of compound exercises that work them.
- Step Ups
If you're like me and have a calf weakness, then you'll want to add isolation calf exercises to your workout plan.
Isolation Calves Exercises
Here are the absolute best isolation exercises for your calves. You may not be doing some of these, but they can really help you build a nice set of calves.
- Leg Press Calf Raises
- Standing Calf Raises
- Squat Raises
- Seated Calf Raises
- Reverse Calf Raises
Bringing up a muscle weakness in your calves will take a lot of work. I've been working on mine for years and they are now very respectable.
Chest exercises are very popular because males and females both love the chest muscle group.
My genetics gave me a nice chest so I haven't had to work as hard on my chest as I have my calves.
But many people haven't received a nice chest so they work very hard to build their chest. Some people do have a nice chest but are too worried about the question: “How much do you bench press?”
Compound Chest Exercises
Most likely, you already know about the bench press exercise as it's one of the most popular exercises in existence. But, as I have explained, the push up is a much better overall exercise.
- Push Ups
- Bench Press
Push ups and dips would be my top chest exercises. The bench press is a great exercise because heavy weights can be loaded safely, but adding heavy weight to both push ups and dips can be done safely too.
Isolation Chest Exercises
Isolation exercises for the chest are also very popular for many people. Due to my genetics, I've never had to do these exercises while some people will need them to bring up their lagging chest muscle.
- Chest Flyes
- Cable Crossovers
- Butterfly Machine
You can do all types of chest flyes at different bench angles and using different dumbbell grip positions.
Back exercises include some of the most important overall weight lifting exercises.
The back is a huge muscle group that must be worked fully.
You'll need a few different back exercises to ensure you are hitting all parts of your back.
Compound Back Exercises
Here is a list of the best back exercises:
- Chin Ups
- Pull Ups
All of the above movements (deadlift, row, chin up) should be included as a part of your weight lifting program.
Those 3 movements will build a complete back muscle. Strong and balanced.
Isolation Back Exercises
If you have a back weakness as many people do, there are many different back isolation exercises as listed below.
- Back Extension
- Straight Arm Pulldown
- Face Pulls
- Bent Arm Pullover
- Lat Pulldown
- Single Arm Pulldown
Face pulls are one of my favorite upper back exercises. Your lower back should never need additional work if you are doing squats and deadlifts.
The best shoulder exercises or deltoid exercises consist solely of the overhead press.
If the overhead press is done properly, you will work all 3 heads of the deltoid muscle (rear, side, front).
Then, back exercises and chest exercises also greatly work the deltoids.
So you will definitely get plenty of work for the shoulders when following the WLC System and use of the 7 compound weight lifting exercises.
Compound Shoulder Exercises
Truly, the only compound shoulder exercise you need is the overhead press.
- Overhead Press
- Handstand Push Up
- Single Arm Overhead Press
- High Incline Bench Press
- Push Press
If you want big and strong shoulders than stay healthy for life, the overhead press should be the center piece of your shoulder training.
Work on getting really strong on the barbell overhead press first and then look to the other weight lifting exercises like the single arm press.
Isolation Shoulder Exercises
If you have a weakness in your deltoids, you might need to add a side lateral raise for the side delts or a rear lateral raise for the rear deltoids.
Most people will never have a front deltoid weakness because they are used so much in push ups and the bench press.
- Front Raises
- Side Lateral Raises
- Rear Lateral Raise
- Upright Rows
- Face Pulls
You might notice that I have included face pulls here as they are great for the rear deltoids. Side lateral raises are great to increase deltoid width, which helps to make your waist appear smaller.
Most of the best exercises for triceps are compound weight lifting exercises.
The triceps can easily get over worked if you are doing bench presses, dips, and overhead press.
You most likely don't need to add triceps isolation exercises but everyone is different.
Compound Tricep Exercises
The best compound weight lifting exercises for the triceps are shown below:
- Bench Press
- Overhead Press
- Push Ups
Dips are the best overall triceps exercise and this is a reason you need to have dips in your weight training program.
Isolation Tricep Exercises
If the triceps are still a weakness for you, you might want to add an isolation exercise from the list below.
- Bench Dips
- Close Grip Bench Press
- Reverse Grip Bench Press
- Triceps Extension
Kickbacks are sometimes laughable because people are using little pink dumbbells to do them and this is doing nothing for flabby arms. You can do very heavy kickbacks with 2 dumbbells at the same time. Works well.
Everyone wants to know how to get bigger biceps with the best bicep exercises.
The truth is, though, squats will build bigger biceps and arms than concentration curls.
Seriously, a focus on the big compound exercises and lifting very heavy weight will get you bigger arms than curls using light weights.
Compound Bicep Exercises
The best overall exercise for the biceps are chin ups and pull ups. Curls don't even come close.
- Chin Ups
- Pull Ups
Most likely, the above 3 exercises will be plenty to grow your biceps. If not, look to the isolation exercises below.
Isolation Bicep Exercises
Even if most people don't need to add more biceps exercises, they most likely will as it's just too tempting not to include some curls to pump up those biceps.
- Barbell Curls
- Incline Curls
- Hammer Curls
- Pinwheel Curls
- Concentration Curls
- Preacher Curls
- Zottman Curls
- Cable Curls
There are a huge number of curl variations. If you really need to build your biceps because they are a weakness, you have a vast arsenal of weight lifting exercises available.
I would recommend close grip chin ups, though, with a focus on using your biceps to lift your body.
Forearm exercises are something you may or may not need to do as the forearms will be worked greatly through exercises that force you to grip heavy weights.
Deadlifts are one of the best forearm exercises because you'll have to hold very heavy weight.
The forearms are probably one of the most seen muscle groups. You can usually determine if a person is physically fit by looking at their forearms.
Compound Forearm Exercises
Just gripping heavy weights and loads will build your forearms and make them much stronger. For instance, your forearms will get plenty of stimulation with a set of weighted pull ups.
- Chin Ups
- Holding Heavy Weight
- Farmer's Walk
Many people, when doing heavy deadlifts or chin ups, will use wrist straps to assist with holding heavy weight. I have done the same because my grip can't handle the weight. It's better to not use wrist straps so you can build your forearms too.
Isolation Forearm Exercises
If your forearms are a weakness, you can use isolation exercises to build additional muscle and strength in your forearms. Here's a list of weight lifting exercises for your forearms:
- Wrist Curls
- Reverse Wrist Curls
- Standing Dumbbell Wrist Curls
- Bicep Curls
- Hammer Curls
- Pinwheel Curls
Some of my favorite forearm exercises are hammer curls and pinwheel curls because you can use very heavy weights for those exercises.
Specific abdominal exercises are something you won't find in the weight lifting programs here at Weight Lifting Complete.
Because compound weight lifting exercises work the abs so well, you won't need to do isolation exercises.
Of course, if you want to work your abs more and more with isolation exercises you'll find plenty of different ab exercises available! There are hundreds of new ab exercises and people are creating more and more every minute.
Compound Abdominal Exercises
There are no other weight lifting exercises better for the abs than the compound exercises shown below.
- Chin Ups
- Overhead Press
- Push Ups
You might notice that the list above is all of the 7 core weight lifting exercises. Your abs must work hard during heavy sets of these exercises.
Isolation Abdominal Exercises
You don't really need a huge number of abdominal exercises in your weight lifting program. If you truly have an ab weakness, see the isolation exercises below.
- Crunches (hundreds of variations)
- Ab Wheel
- Sit Ups
- Leg Raises
- Knee Raises
I've never seen so many silly exercises in my life than ab exercises. So many ridiculous ab exercises exist and huge websites full of them because that's what people want.
Because of that, I am here to tell you that you don't need all those silly abdominal exercises if you're lifting weights with the right exercises.
Your trapezius muscle is a huge muscle in your mid to upper back and is worked with good trapezius exercises like the shrug.
This muscle gets plenty of work with the 7 compound weight lifting exercises, but some people may have a continued weakness with this major muscle group.
You might want to try an entire year of heavy deadlifts to get your traps growing before moving to isolation exercises.
Compound Trapezius Exercises
You might not even need to do shrugs, though, as there are many compound weight lifting exercises that work the traps very well.
- Power Shrug
- Overhead Press
- Overhead Squat
- Farmer's Walk
- Chin Ups
- Rack Pulls
As you can see, your traps will get plenty of work from the 7 core weight lifting exercises and their variations.
Isolation Trapezius Exercises
If your trapezius muscle is a weakness, you can work on it even more with the isolation exercises below.
- Shrugs (all types)
- Side Dumbbell Raises
- Upright Rows
- Face Pulls
- Side Lateral Raise
There are a large number of weight lifting exercises that work the traps so be sure not to over work this large muscle group.
Glute or Butt Exercises
The glute muscles are worked through butt exercises like the squat and lunge.
You really shouldn't need any additional exercises.
But you have the right to do what you want. And if you want to know the best butt exercises, see below.
Compound Glute Exercises
Here at Weight Lifting Complete, I don't include the glutes or butt as a major muscle group even though this is a huge muscle group. This was a decision I made because so many exercises already work the glutes.
- Good Mornings
- Bulgarian Squat
- Single Leg Romanian Deadlifts
You can use any of the alternatives above in your weight lifting program if you need to target the glutes more. For instance, you might choose good mornings as your deadlift variation to help improve your butt.
Isolation Glute Exercises
Sometimes the glutes can be a weakness for people and may need additional work. You can add some of the isolation exercises shown below to directly target your glutes.
- Reverse Hyperextensions
- Cable Kickbacks
- Hip Thrusts
- Glute Bridges
Cable kickbacks are a favorite of mine for improving the glutes. Hip thrusts from the floor with a barbell as additional weight are also a great exercise because you can increase the weight or load as needed.
Some kettlebell exercises are different than most weight lifting exercises, but some are similar to others that use dumbbells.
For example, you can use kettlebells and dumbbells for goblet squats in the exact same way and the exercise is almost exactly the same.
But, a kettlebell overhead press is much different than a dumbbell overhead press due to the nature of the kettlebell handle.
Kettlebells are just another form of resistance much like barbells and dumbbells, but they are different and unique as they provide a different type of load to each exercise.
Isometric exercises can be very useful for athletes because they result in maximum force and contraction without the eccentric portion of conventional weight lifting reps.
Because there is no eccentric (lowering or negative) part of a rep, there is less damage to the muscles. This means the muscle groups can recover faster from this style of training.
And you actually don't move during the positive or lifting portion of a rep either so isometric exercises are really safe to do.
But if people see you trying to move a wall all the time, they may think you're a little weird!
Also, don't use a wall in your home or business with drywall as you can push right through the drywall if there isn't a stud behind that spot. Or, you can crush the drywall. Instead, use a concrete or brick wall.
You can also use weights that are much heavier than you can lift to do isometric exercises.
Bodybuilding exercises are the same set of weight lifting exercises, but bodybuilding is more about building symmetry throughout your body.
For instance, if your chest is a strength but your triceps are not, you wouldn't want to do bench press variations to improve your triceps because your chest will continue to develop more than your triceps.
Instead, you would use more bodybuilding exercises that work your triceps without hitting your chest as much.
This means you need to know the tools you have available for creating symmetry and balance throughout your body.
Here's another example.
If your biceps are a weakness, you can choose close grip chin ups as your exercise choice in your weight lifting program versus chin ups. This exercise can be your back exercise with an extra focus on your biceps.
Small changes like that make huge differences in bodybuilding and will help to balance your body.
There are a huge number of bodyweight exercises that you can do at home or at the gym.
One of the keys to bodyweight exercises, though, is to get better at doing them. The best way to do this is to increase the number of reps since you're using the same approximate load each workout.
If you have a way to add weight, this is highly recommended but then they wouldn't be body weight exercises any more!
Body weight exercises are highly recommended as these movements are some of the best movements you can do because they move your body through space.
For instance, the squat and deadlift move your body through space and not just a weight moving through space as the bench press does. With the bench press, your body lays on a bench and doesn't move much. The weight moves with your arms.
With the push up, your entire body moves through space making it a much better exercise overall.
Dumbbell exercises are some of the best exercises you can do because they allow your body to move freely through its natural range of motion.
Weight lifting exercises using dumbbells are highly recommended here at Weight Lifting Complete.
Barbells are a fantastic way of adding resistance to exercises, but dumbbells are right there with the barbell in terms of the best way to add resistance.
My preference for dumbbells are a large set with different weights as I can grab them quickly and get to working out. But, a large set of dumbbells is very costly and takes up a lot of space in your home gym.
There are now great alternatives to huge sets of dumbbells that are quick to use and don't take up much space. These are called adjustable dumbbells that you can quickly change. For instance, Bowflex SelectTech dumbbells do this. You can quickly change the weight from 10 pounds to 90 pounds by changing a dial on the dumbbells.
One of the issues with dumbbell resistances is the jump by 5 pounds for each dumbbell. This causes an increase of 10 pounds for exercises that use 2 dumbbells.
To counter this issue, you can attach smaller fractional weight plates to dumbbells. This is easy if the fractional plates are magnetic and will stick to the edges of the dumbbells.
When weight loads get really heavy, dumbbells can be difficult to get into position and this is where a barbell can really help.
Barbell exercises are great because you can use heavy weight loads as it's very easy to load and use a barbell with heavy weights.
Dumbbell exercises are more difficult to load and to use than barbell exercises. For example, try using a barbell for a 300 pound bench press and then try 150 pound dumbbells in each hand for the same bench press.
Because barbells are easier to load and to use, they are a great option for many exercises.
I also recommend a mixture of different loading with barbells, dumbbells, and even kettlebells. Different forms of resistance change an exercise just enough so you receive additional benefits (body function especially).
Barbell exercises are the most popular weight lifting exercises but always try to include at least a mixture of barbell and dumbbell exercises so you receive different benefits.
For instance, you may be very strong on the barbell bench press and never use dumbbells. Starting out with dumbbells, you are going to be shaky and much weaker because your body will use additional muscles to balance the dumbbells.
Exercise Resistance for Weight Lifting Exercises
There are a huge number of forms of exercise resistance you can use for your weight lifting exercises.
As you've seen with isometric exercises, even a concrete wall will do to provide resistance that you can't move.
No matter who you are or where you are, God provided you with your body weight as a form of resistance for exercise. So no matter what, you can get started exercising with just your body.
Barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells are my recommendation but you don't have to have this weight lifting equipment to get started. You can use anything that has some weight to it. When I've been on travel before, I have used a large pack of water bottles in my room just to add some resistance to high rep squats.
Cable machines are great for a large number of weight lifting exercises. Bowflex machines will work to add resistance.
Resistance bands can be used when you're traveling for work or vacation and can't find a gym around.
Feed bags, dog food bags, sand bags, chanins, clubbells, weighted hammers, machines, weighted sleds, weighted vests, belts, and pretty much anything you can think of can be used for exercise resistance.
You can even look to Milo of Croton as an example as he used a newborn calf that slowly grew larger and larger over a 4-year period. Milo would lift that calf over his shoulders and carry it around each day.
Before long, he was carrying a full grown bull. Your goal in weight lifting should be to slowly increase the resistance over time. Do this and your results will be amazing.
Conclusion to Weight Lifting Exercises
I hope you have enjoyed this rather amazing guide to weight lifting exercises.
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