The Best Bodybuilding Exercises You Can Do

Bodybuilding has a ton of exercises. Expand that out into weight and powerlifting, cardio, and sport training and you have more movements than you can think of. Narrowing it down to the favorites of bodybuilders can give you a solid foundation of compound and isolation movements that you can pull from for your workouts. Below you’ll find 10 of the best bodybuilding exercises you can do in the gym.

Back & Shoulders

  1. The Olympic Squat

An Olympic squat puts the bar on top of the trap muscles for a more upright torso. They typically ask the lifter to squat as low as possible, putting the hip below the knee. It targets the quads, glutes, and part of the hamstring. Because you’re dipping lower than a powerlifting squat, the Olympic squat targets the quads the most.

2. Deadlift

A deadlift is great to target the back and leg muscles, including the lower back, traps, hamstrings, glutes, and glutes. It’s known for building muscle mass and building overall strength. Traditional deadlifts keep the feet shoulder width apart.

3. Overhead Press

An overhead press works primarily the shoulders. It can be done with a barbell, dumbbells, or a machine, in a sitting or standing position. Using dumbbells allows you to activate the front delts more than a barbell or machine.

4. Bent Over Row

A favorite of Mr. Olympia, Ronnie Coleman, the bent over row works the back and shoulders. Muscles worked include the upper and middle back, including the traps and delts, as well as the chest, upper arm, and shoulders. Because this movement works so many muscles, this is a compound exercise that should be done after you’re comfortable with basic weight training moves. It can be done with a barbell or with dumbbells. Your back should be straight throughout this exercise.

Chest & Arms

5. Bench Press

Bench pressing works the muscles of the chest, triceps, and delts. Traditional bench presses use the bar, but you can also do a modified version with dumbbells. It’s a compound exercise that both builds strength and encourages muscle growth.

6. Wide Grip Pull Up

The wide-grip pull up works the whole upper body, including the lats, traps, obliques, and chest. The wide grip works the upper body in a way that you can complete more repetitions than a close grip pull up that works the biceps more. Beginners to the pull up can use an exercise band to support their body weight.   

7. Barbell Curl

Using an underhanded grip, this move works your biceps, delts, and traps. Barbell curls keep your hands shoulder width apart. Barbell curls are an isolation exercise that primarily work the biceps. Switching it up by using dumbbells instead of barbells can keep things interesting while still working the right muscles.

8. Skullcrushers

Skullcrushers, also known as triceps extensions, are an isolation exercise that works the triceps. It’s performed lying flat using dumbbells or a barbell. The weight passes behind your head – pulling the weight down towards your face is dangerous and where this exercise got its name.


9. Straight Leg Deadlift

A variation of the traditional deadlift, the straight leg deadlift clearly targets the hamstrings. This variation can be performed on leg days, although it does work the full body. Your back should stay straight, pushing your hips forward and through.

10. Standing Calf Raise

Standing calf raises work your calves, which are often overlooked. Calf muscles are essential for running, jumping, and supporting the ankles. Beginners can definitely do this exercise without weights, but for bodybuilding, holding a weighted barbell or dumbbells can make this exercise more difficult.

From these 10 bodybuilding exercises, you can mix and match with other favorites to create complex workout routines. Bodybuilding movements can be difficult, but pushing yourself to complete these exercises can take your physique to the next level.

Heather Rider
Writer at STSFit | + posts

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