In your quest to put on muscle, all exercises are not created equally. If you want to make the most efficient use of your time in the gym and get your dream body as soon as naturally possible, you need to perform free-range, compound exercises and the best of the best for each muscle group are listed below. So forget the “machines”, man up, and hit the REAL weights.
Calves – Standing Calf Raises
You can use your body weight for these or if you have a machine at your gym, that will work too. This movement is easy, lift up and down on your toes to emphasize the calf muscles.
Quads – Barbell Squats
For squats, deadlifts, and stiff-legged deads, you should search for a video on YouTube for the proper form. It’s better to see them than to read about these three.
Hamstrings – Stiff-Legged Deadlifts
Lower Back – Deadlifts
Back – Dumbbell Rows
With your left knee/leg on a flat bench, and the other on the floor behind you, grab a dumbbell with your right arm and your palm facing toward your body. Pull it straight up almost into your armpit. Your left arm is out in front of you grabbing on the bench for balance. Your back should be straight, not curved when doing this lift.
Traps – Shrugs (Dumbbell or Barbell)
It’s best to use lifting straps for these. Grab a barbell about shoulder-width apart or so, and let the bar hang while standing straight up. This is your starting position. From here, pull your shoulders up with the emphasis focusing on your trapezius muscles. Just go straight up and down in line with gravity. Do not go at an angle or roll your shoulders once you get to the top. Straight up and down is all you need for shrugs. It’s a great exercise.
Shoulders – Seated Dumbbell Military Press
Sit down on a bench that has a back to it. Grab the dumbbells with an overhand grip and hold them above your shoulders with palms forward making a 90-degree angle with your arms. Press upwards over your head until arms are nearly locked and then lower back down to starting position. Don’t touch the dumbbells together at the top. Stop just short of that.
Chest – Flat Bench Press
Lay back on a bench press bench face up, and grab the bar off the rack with an overhand grip that is slightly wider than your shoulders. Lower the bar to the around your nipples and then push back up until your arms are almost locked out at the top. It’s not necessary to come all the way down where the bar actually hits your chest. Leave a few inches of space and then push back up. Spotters are good here when you are going for your max or lifting a weight that you haven’t done before. For the most part, you can go without a spotter since you will know your limits and you should be able to judge when your last rep is and you should not try to push it beyond that. That’s a good way to get pinned underneath the bar!
Biceps – Barbell Curl
Stand straight up with your feet shoulder-width apart and grab a barbell with your palms facing out and about shoulder width. Start at the bottom with your elbows fully extended by your side and curl the bar up. It’s best to keep your elbows pointed towards the floor and your back as straight as possible, but it’s OK to move them a little to get the last couple reps in.
Triceps – Cable Tricep Extensions
Get a rope extension and attach it to the top of a cable machine. Grab the rope on both sides with your palms facing towards each other and start at the top. Your fists should be out in front of your shoulders now. Extend all the way down and lockout your elbows. Smoothly raise your fists back up to the starting position.
Forearms – Seated Barbell Wrist Curls
Get a small weighted barbell, and sit at the end of a bench. With your wrists resting on your knees and palms facing up, extend the barbell out towards your fingers, and curl it back with your wrists. You should feel a good flex in your forearms.
To avoid injury, be sure to use perfect form and lighter weight at the beginning of your routine until you get the hang of it. Then gradually increase the weight as long as you can maintain your form. If you’re out of the gym with an injury, you can’t keep building your dream body, so make sure you can lift the weight while using good technique.