Before we get into the best muscle building exercises, let’s discuss what creates a good exercise. Compound movements are those that include more than one joint and muscle whereas isolation movements are those that focus on one target muscle and are single jointed exercise. To give an example, a overhead barbell shoulder press uses two joints (elbow and shoulder) and activates more than one muscle (deltoid, tricep, and trapezius) making it a compound exercise.
- Squat: Yep, you guessed it. This is number one. Why? It involves every muscle in the legs, core, and lower back making it one of the best muscle building exercises of all time. This is great exercise for building lower body strength and mass. Don’t be tempted to go ‘ass to grass’ on this one as many ‘hardcore’ lifters will tell you to. Going lower than parallel shifts the focus away from the target muscles (quadriceps and hamstrings) and places unnecessary strain on the knee joint. Constant tension on the target muscle is what we want and going too low shifts the tension to other areas. If you are not comfortable with squats, try a 90 degree leg press instead.
- Pull-Up: This is a hard one but if you can master this move, expect your back to grow! This move targets the core, biceps, latissimus dorsi (lats), trapezius (traps), and deltoids. This move will give you an amazing v taper and your strength will explode. Try using a lateral pulldown machine instead to work up to doing a pull-up.
- Push-Up: This is often neglected by many lifts due to it being a bodyweight exercise and people prefer to push more weight. If you can’t do push ups non-stop for 60 seconds then you have no business getting under a bar loaded with weights. Work your core, shoulders, legs, triceps, and chest muscles with this power move. If you can already smash out push-ups, try adding a clap to each push-up to really turn up the heat. For theses reasons, the push-up is one of the best muscle building exercises.
- Military Press aka Shoulder Press: This move is killer for creating boulder shoulders and a killer physique. Using almost every muscle in the upper body, the shoulder press makes the cut for one of the best muscle building exercises. Use dumbbells or a barbell to transform your shoulders and amplify your strength. If you are a new and wish to increase your confidence first, use a machine shoulder press.
- Clean and Press: This is one of the best muscle building exercises yet hardly anybody does this exercise as it is considered more of an Olympic lift rather than a bodybuilding lift. Any bodybuilder that does clean and presses is one that is focused on results. This move uses almost every muscle in the body. Picking a heavy barbell up off the ground and launching it above your head is hard but effective. Another benefit from this move is its effect on your metabolism. Studies show when training the entire body in one workout, fat burning is increased dramatically for the next 24 hours.