Best Muscle Building Exercises
Seven Super Exercises to Build Muscle
We exercise and train for various reasons. Some aspire to lose weight, while others look to improving their cardiovascular health. However, the vast majority of those of us who workout, vigorously strive to build muscle.
We may want muscles to improve our appearance or to make our daily lives easier. If we train properly, building muscle is an inherent result of doing certain exercises. But, which exercises are the best to build muscle? Let’s talk about why muscle is important and then discuss a few solid exercises that can help you build muscle.
Why Muscle is Important
Building muscle serves multiple purposes. Increasing your muscle mass does more than just give us shapely and carved bodies. Our muscles are essential in moving our bodies. We have more than 600 muscles in our body.
Nearly all of our muscles come in bilateral pairs. Each muscle is composed of thousands of muscle fibers. The majority of the movements that we use in our daily lives, many unconsciously, are generated by individual muscle contractions.
Without muscles, we would be little more than manikins, albeit stationary, breathing organisms. Muscles are further broken down into groups and types of muscles depending on their function. Beyond their necessity for movement, muscles serve other vital functions.
Many of our organs work in conjunction with muscle movements. Muscles are also a critical part of our metabolism. They require energy to function and to grow. This is not a theory, but a biological fact. Muscle feeds 24 hours a day.
That is the biology behind many weight loss programs that rightfully advocate a sustainable method for successful weight loss is through adding muscle. Good muscle balance also has other important benefits.
- Muscle protects and stabilizes your joints to help prevent injuries.
- Good muscle balance can act as an anti-aging mechanism for various body organs.
- Healthy muscle mass helps preserve bone density as you age.
- The biological structure of muscle helps enhance your immune system and improves disease recovery.
- Good muscle balance helps improve your physical balance.
- Muscle can help reduce the chances of diabetes.
- Healthy muscle balance helps to lower blood pressure.
- Muscle also helps to build self-confidence and improve moods.
Now you can appreciate how vital muscle is to human function. But, what types of exercises can you do to effectively and efficiently build more of this vital tissue that makes up more than 40 percent of your bodyweight?
The Seven Best Exercises to Build Muscle
Our bodies have five major muscle groups. Our leg muscles are the largest of these five major groups. We build muscle by tearing down the muscle fibers in these groups. The idea of tearing something down, and damaging its fibers to build more, may seem counterproductive.
Nevertheless, that is the biology of building muscle in the human body. When building muscle is your objective, you need to target exercises that cause your muscles to overexert themselves.
Each time you tear down a muscle fiber, it repairs itself and adds more muscle. The process is slow and gradual, but with time it works. There are exercise models that implement fat burning strategies with muscle building exercises.
One successful way to build muscle and burn fat is referred to as High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). There are also circuit training strategies, workouts which aspire to accomplish similar goals.
Crossfit Training blends gymnastic types of exercises with power lifting. Regardless of the theory you ascribe to, your training will benefit from some traditional exercises that effectively build muscle. Let’s explore seven of the best muscle building exercises.
The standard pushup is like the natural version of the bench press. You’d be correct in assessing that pushups help to build the same muscles targeted with the traditional bench press exercise.
The pectorals and triceps muscles provide the force behind the pushup motion. However, you’re not comfortably lying back on a bench. The pushup requires back and core stabilization, plus brings your hip flexors and legs into play.
There are also pushup variations that can help add target different primary muscles. The triceps and chest are the two biggest beneficiaries of pushups. Your deltoid muscles are also minor contributors to help with balance.
Pushups also activate the Serratus Anterior muscles just under your Pectorals. To maintain proper pushup posture, your abdominal muscle is important. There is also a muscle under your arm and adjacent to your biceps called the Coracobrachialis.
Considering this array of muscles used in a standard pushup, you can appreciate why the pushup is one of the best exercises to build muscle. Now, you can also add some variations to the traditional pushup to expand its potential even more.
The degree of gap between your hands changes the target pressure on your pectoral muscles. Wide grip puts more stress on the Coracobrachialis as well. Closing your hands together shifts the focus to your lower and middle pectorals.
Each of these different hand positions continues to use the abdominal and leg muscles for stability. Through all its simplicity and reference as the traditional test of military fitness, the pushup targets an array of muscles is a solid choice for one of our best muscle building exercises.
Keeping with our efforts to target multiple muscles with a single exercise, our second exercise is deadlifts. The pushup is a traditional fitness staple because of the simplicity and no need for equipment.
However, there are physical fitness experts who contend that the deadlift is the greatest exercise of all time. The deadlift a single exercise that works muscle groups from literally your head to your toes.
Another reason deadlifts are popular with fitness professionals is that they are one of the best exercises to improve build overall body strength. The deadlift motion targets an endless array of muscles.
Three lower body muscles are the primary targets, but the muscle benefits of the deadlift motion don’t stop there. Each deadlift repetition uses your Quadriceps, Glutes and Abductor Magnus muscles.
Frequently, deadlifts are referred to as butt busters, and for good reason. While much of the power in the deadlift comes from these three lower body muscles, your hamstrings are also vital.
Although your glutes and quads are the primary movers, the hamstrings contact to lock out your hips. The intensity in which you use a trio of back muscles is almost as intense as the force required from your butt and leg muscles.
Your Latissimus, Trapezoids and Rhomboids are critical for balance and stabilization as you complete a deadlift to stand erect. The deadlift also incorporates a series of muscles called the erectors.
Your erectors keep you back from rounding and then provide the final force to straighten your body erect to close the lift. Throughout the entire deadlift motion, your abdominal and oblique muscles are necessary to maintain core stability.
When considering how vast the array of muscles required for a deadlift, it’s difficult to argue against it as one of the greatest overall muscle builders of all time. We have it right behind the pushup as one the best exercises you can perform to build muscle.
Bent Over Rows
The next exercise we feel you should include in your regular exercise cycle isn’t quite as all-encompassing, but close. Bent over rows don’t push certain lower body muscles like deadlifts do, but your legs and glutes are used to provide balance and stability.
The key muscles in the bent over row motion are in your back and arms. When it comes to building muscle in these areas, it ranks as one of the most effective and efficient strength building exercises.
Bent over rows can be done using a straight bar or dumbbells. Bent over rows require all of your major back muscles. Your Trapezius and Infraspinatus are two key back muscles with your Rhomboids and Latissimus Dorsi also taxed to complete the full rowing motion.
Both your Teres major and minor are used to bring the bar upward as well. By using proper technique, your core and lower back muscles are necessary to keep you still and stable.
The rowing motion also kicks in your arm muscles and Posterior Deltoid. Your Brachialis and Biceps are triggered to create the bend at your elbow.
Forearm muscles are taxed to stabilize the bar as assistors bending the elbow to bring the bar upward towards your chest. Bent over rows help build an array of muscles that you will use for other exercises as well, which earns it a spot on our list.
The Farmer’s Walk
The next exercise may have an unconventional name, but it’s an excellent way to add some diversity to your exercise routine. The Farmer’s Walk is another pretty simple exercise that targets multiple muscles in one exercise.
Clearly the walk reference in the name indicates it is going to require you to use your leg muscles. However, you’re also going to be lugging around heavy weights, so your shoulder and arm muscles are going to be taxed as well.
You can use dumbbells for the Farmer’s Walk, but kettlebells are the go-to piece of equipment if you have access to them. You’re going to grab a weight total between your two arms that’s close to your maximum deadlift total weight.
With one kettlebell or dumbbell in each arm, you simply pick a distance and walk to that spot. To finish one circuit, you pivot and return to your original starting point. Logically, carrying a massive amount of weight is going to work your entire group of leg muscles.
You will need to maintain a tight core to keep good balance. Your arms won’t be quite as important, but your deltoid muscles will be necessary to keep the weights steady. If you bend at the knee every step, you take this exercise to an advanced level of difficulty.
Since you’re walking a short distance lugging weights, the Farmer’s Walk also blends in as a mild form of cardio. There are other versions of this exercise that can make it even more challenging. Using the basic Farmer’s Walk technique, you’ll have another muscle builder.
Traditional fitness enthusiasts will know this exercise by the short name, dips. It is an exercise that does require a fairly advanced level of upper body strength. There are methods that can be employed; however, that allows beginners to do assisted triceps dips.
Most gyms have designated stations for this exercise. These stations usually double for front leg raises. Hardcore fitness fanatics can make a stairwell with rails on both sides work. However, the distance between the bars is key for safety.
The triceps dip is exactly as it sounds. You elevate yourself up onto the station, placing each hand across the top of two padded handles. By raising your body straight and locking out your elbows, you are in the starting position.
You then bend at the elbow, allowing your body to sink as far as you can. As you reach a bottom point, usually when your chest is parallel with the handlebars, you force your body back upwards to the straight position.
Triceps dips are key to building strong muscles in the back of your arm. Dips are also a staple to sculpt your chest muscles. The lower can you can safely allow your chest to fall during the downward motion, the more intense the exercise will be on your Pectorals.
There is a slight core benefit from your legs dangling free as well. Of course, this additional muscle benefit is negated if you require a support of some form to assist you until your strength is sufficient to do a free-falling triceps dip.
Clean and Jerk
Our next exercise to help you build muscle is another that applies a more full-body theory. The clean and jerk motion is one of the most taxing exercises you can perform. It helps improve total body strength and is one of the best exercises to build power.
This is a common exercise for athletes that are looking to build raw explosive power. Like certain muscle building exercises we have mentioned, the clean and jerk improves your core stability. Proper technique for the clean and jerk is critical to prevent injury.
Clean and jerk movements ignite different muscle groups at each of the eight stages. Once you establish a firm base, feet shoulder width apart, you initiate the first pull. This motion brings the barbell up even with your knees.
Your motion for the clean and jerk needs to be fluid. Beginners should start by doing repetitions with no weight, plus an experienced spotter. Once you get the technique down, throwing the third pullover move is where the real challenge begins.
This single motion uses the majority of your back muscles, your deltoid muscles, and virtually all the muscles in your arms. This sets you up in what is called the receiving position. The bar is under your chin and resting across the front of your shoulders.
Next, you ascend to a quarter squat position to prepare for the final jerk. In a continuous motion, you thrust the barbell towards the ceiling, using a thrusting scissor motion with your legs.
Balancing a weighted barbell over your head will require you to work multiple muscles just to stabilize your body and maintain your balance. The clean and jerk has endless benefits for balance and core stability, plus it’s outstanding for building muscle.
Our final exercise to build muscle is the squat. Squats use the body’s largest muscle groups, your legs. Your glutes also exert a great deal of force when doing a proper squat. When doing a three-quarter or full squat properly it requires complete body tension.
Bracing the bar requires you to use your Latissimus, deltoids, and especially your core for body stability. However, the key muscles you’ll build are your quads and your glutes. Squats are a strength building exercise that is also excellent for weight loss.
Depending on the weight used and the total reps attained, squats can double as an excellent cardio exercise. Squats can be particularly challenging for individuals with knee issues. For this reason, there are versions designated by how far down you go.
Quarter squats are recommended for beginners. Those who train at an advanced level are able to perform a full squat. This is a tremendously challenging exercise. However, even quarter and half squats are an excellent exercise for you to build muscle.
These are seven exercises that you can incorporate into your fitness routine to help you build muscle. Most target an array of muscle groups in one exercise. You can blend each of these exercises into a single, full-body workout as well.
Building muscle takes patience. However, it helps to know which exercises will do the job most effectively. We all strive to make efficient use of our workout time. Use these seven exercises to help you improve your strength and build more muscle.