Discover 8 Most Effective Muscle Building Exercises for Fast Muscle Gains

You been crushing the weights in the gym, screaming and pumping weights like crazy. But have you been doing the best exercises? Are you getting the Highest return for exercises you perform?

Remember, Its not enough to do the best. You need to know what is the best and then do the best.

In this training section you will find 8 of the best exercises you will ever need to build sexy, muscular body you will be proud of.

Its time to Turn off skinny body switch, and turn on Your Muscle Body Switch.

Inside this article:

Why you need ONLY The Best Muscle Building Exercises

Best exercises give fastest results. Bad/worse exercises give little results, pain and frustration. So choose exercises carefully.

There are two way to build muscle - the slow and hard way or the fast and smart way. Training effectively ensures you build muscle the right way.

When it comes to building muscle mass, Exercise is the most potent stimulus. {1}

You might eat a perfect diet, recover completely but without proper muscle training in the first place, your efforts will be a big waste.

Even steroids do not help if training is lacking. Did you know that research has shown that without effective exercises even hormones like testosterone, growth hormone & Insulin and high protein diets fail to create ANY muscle growth?

Yes in the absence of exercise stimulus, all others simply don’t act.

And not all exercises work. I should know. I have tried and failed for 3 years. But there is one group of exercises that work like crazy for building muscle mass. They are called “high threshold muscle building exercises”.

High threshold exercises are the most potent stimulus for muscle growth. They target the type II muscle fibers which have highest growth potential. and when you train them for quality reps, you create high level metabolic stress. {2}

Type II fiber activation + Metabolic Stress = Unbeatable Muscle Gains

The best exercises target type II Fibers and create unmatched metabolic stress. Meaning: Insane Muscle Gains!

But how do you select the best exercises for building muscle mass? Read on.

5 Rules to Select the Best Muscle Building Exercises

Tell me my friend, which exercise is best for triceps muscle: triceps kickbacks, bench dips or parallel bar dips?

You might tell your favourite among these to be the best, but what is the rationale of your selection?

Is it feel, is it tradition or is it because you read it in a muscle magazine that your favourite bodybuilders does it?

But don’t worry. There is a better way to find the best exercise for each muscle group.

Its called LOADING. This brings me to the first selection rule for any exercise.

Section Rule One : 

"The more effort it requires to perform an exercise, the better muscle builder it is". 

That is why in the above example parallel bar dips outperform bench dips and kickbacks every single time.

But why people select easier ones?

Because they are easy. Squats are tough. Deadlifts are tough. They require every ounce of your strength, but leg extensions and leg presses are easy.

Squats and dips are tough as they allow heavier loading. 

And intensity comes into play. High Intensity is the most potent training stimulus. {3}

Selection rule Two: 

"Multi-joint, compound exercises are greatest muscle builders"

Multi-joint Squats are BETTER than single joint Leg Press for building Leg Muscles

Squats and deadlifts work 200 muscles in your body and work on two of the biggest joints in your body - hip and knee. They add mass like no two other { or even 20 other} exercise can.

Also research has proven that multi-joint exercises releases more anabolic hormones than single joint ones. And more hormones means maximum muscle building. {4}

Selection Rule Three: 

"Exercises performed standing are better than sitting to lying ones".

Although incline biceps curl stimulates biceps, standing biceps curls build bigger arm muscles

If there is an exercise for a muscle group that you can perform standing, then choose it for best gains.

For example: Standing shoulder press is better than sitting variant.

Why? Because standing exercises requires more muscle groups than sitting.

Selection Rule Four: 

"Functional Exercises beat non-functional ones every time".

Bend and pick is the comments thing you do. So squats are more functional than leg press or extensions

Although you can leg press more than squats, squats provide real life strength and uses dozens of more muscle than leg press or extensions.

Here is a comparison of the muscle groups used in 3 exercises - Leg extension, leg press and squats.

As you can see Squats hits the biggest muscles in the strongest way and deserves the name The King of All Exercises.

Selection Rule Five: 

"Free Weights are better than machines for Muscle Gain".

Free weights allow natural movement of the muscles and joints. They create no muscle imbalances. 

For example: Leg extensions which is a machine exercise completely isolates quadriceps. It leaves glue muscles and hamstrings which are biggest lower body muscles untouched. 

This creates muscle imbalance between the muscles in the front and backside of the body.

Overtime they create strength imbalance and make you injury prone.

8 Best Muscle Building Exercises of All Time

Exercise selection can be the fundamental difference between fast gains and mediocre gains.

I realised it late and ditched the muscle shaping exercises {as my bodybuilder friend would call them} and started performing what I call 8 best Skeletal Loading muscle building exercises

You see in my early training days I was pretty strong for a skinny guy. I quickly made friends with a muscular bodybuilder hoping that I would follow his steps to his body.

Big mistake. 

My bodybuilder friend's exercise selection was NOT meant for me. He was already big and muscular and was concentrating on filling the muscle gaps in his physique.

Copying him I failed to bring drastic changes I hoped for. Then I turned to 8 best moves and concentrated in training the hell out of them. Soon I was bigger and stronger in a matter of weeks. My eating skills also took off, it was like I was on the fast lane to muscle growth.

Another reason for selecting total body muscle building exercises are two quotes below.

In order to gain an inch on your arms, you have to gain ten pounds of muscle mass on your body. 

"The most effective way to build a big, strong body is with systemic overload, not localized training. If your weight training program isn’t built around heavy, compound training, you’re only making a fraction of the gains possible.”

And with the best moves you make big changes, not fractional. Here are the 8 best muscle building moves and 8 best alternative exercises in case you cannot perform any of the first choice ones.

Deadlifts, Squats, Chin Ups, Bench Press, Shoulder Press, Barbell Curls, Dips PLUS forearm curls and calf raises

1. Deadlifts: They are the king of all Exercises. 

No other exercises targets more muscles than deadlifts {along with squats}. They target your legs, back, arms, trapezius and core muscles better than any other exercise.

If you think otherwise, just deadlift 1-1.5 times your bodyweight. You will see every muscle of your body crushed. That’s the power of Deadlift. If your muscle building results are dead, revive them with The Deads {famous short form of deadlifts}.

I cover how to do deadlifts for building muscle here.

Alternative exercise: Romanian or Sumo deadlifts

2. Squats: The king of all Lower body exercises needs no introduction. 

Squats are the best functional muscle builders. Squats target 200 muscles in your body and along with deadlifts, provide mind boggling muscle stimulation.

Again heavy loading is the key. If you are not performing heavy squats and increasing loads to meet your bodyweight, you are robbing yourself of fast muscle gains. {5}

Alternative: None actually, but you can try hack squats.

3. Pull Ups: They are the squats of the upper body.

Pull Ups target upper back, arms, shoulders and trunk stabilisers. They are great as they are functional muscle builders and help build a strong upper body. 

They allow extra loading too, so can be used by advanced bodybuilders too. Pullups have dozen variations which I cover here.

Alternative: None actually. You can do chin ups or you can try Lat Pulldowns with far less results.

4. Barbell Rows: The Best Upper Back Builder

Heavy bent over rows target middle and upper back muscles and create perfect balance between back, chest and shoulder muscles.

They are especially important because bench press and shoulder press create strong anterior musculature. Without strong back, you are prone to muscle imbalances, postural problems and injury.

And of course big, muscular back adds to your muscular, sexy frame.

Alternative: Seated Rows or T-bar rows

5. Bench Press: The Best Chest and Shoulder Muscle Builder

How much do ya bench? is the commonest question you get. And its true for a reason. Bench press is not just a chest exercise, its a shoulder girdle exercise targeting chest muscles, anterior shoulders and triceps all in one simple move.

As a muscle builder your goal is to press 1.5 to 2 times your bodyweight before adding other chest exercises.

Alternative: Push ups or flyers {poor alternative}

6. Shoulder Press: The Ultimate Shoulder/Deltoid Exercise

They build muscular shoulders, they selling point of any weight trainer. The first result expected of muscle training is bigger shoulder and standing shoulder press doesn’t disappoint.

It targets anterior and middle deltoids, upper part of chest muscles and upper back muscles.

A bodybuilders goal should be to press his own bodyweight. The only exercise that matches shoulder press is the handstand press. Its the ultimate bomb.

Alternative: Handstand press, you can try Arnold Press.

7. Barbell/dumbbell Curls: The Ultimate Arm Builder

This biceps curls muscle builder is the only exercise you need for big guns. Forget preacher curls, concentration curls etc. They are for filling the gaps but if your whole biceps itself is missing, you should fill the biceps gaps first before anything else.

I prefer dumbbell curls too as they force you to stabilise more {remember more muscle worked = more muscle built}, and helps target brachialis muscle.

Alternative: None actually, but you can try Machine curls.

8. Parallel Bar Dips: The triceps Muscle Builder

Most muscle builder ditch parallel bar dips because they are TOUGH.

But they are the best muscle builders for chest and triceps. Electromyographic studies confirm this.

You should do them even if you cannot do them. yes, you read that correctly. I will show you how to do perfect dips in few weeks even you cannot do a single rep.

Alternative: None actually, but you can try Bench Dips.

Two assistance exercises to help you build a complete body.

9. Forearm CurlsBuild strong grip with curls

Sexy forearms is a muscle builders dream. Who doesn’t want to look great in t-shirts and half sleeves?

Although forearms receive plenty of stimulation during deadlifts and presses, you should perform wrist curls as hardgainers have real small forearms and need targeted training.

Alternative: A good alternative is to do the behind the neck forearm curls.

10. Calf Raises: Build sexy, beach calves

The first thing a muscle builder wants to do with his new physique is to show off at the beach. And that means sexy calves will be on display.

Donkey calf raises are the best calf muscle builders.

Alternative: Standing calf raises/seated calf raises.

Abdominal Crunches: Build Strong Abs and Core

I have kept Abdominal Crunches for separate days or home training because your abs will receive of stimulation during heavy lifts. They should be performed separately preferably along with twice a week cardio.

Strong ab or core muscles are the key to big lifts. Haven't you seen powerlifters use weight belts? Weight belts make their core region stronger externally and help them lift more.

But with a strong core, you will have internal ability to lift big weights. And big weights mean big muscles!

Thats it! These exercises:

  • Are the best exercises for all major & minor muscle groups
  • Provide most muscle overload
  • Release maximum anabolic hormones
  • Target type II fibers with maximum hypertrophy potential and 
  • Should from the base of ANY Muscle building program

Key Point: When training for first 6 to 12 months put your blinders on. Stay focussed on the best 8 exercises and train the hell out of them. Use the principle of kaizen or Continuous and Never Ending Improvement. Add weights to the bar consistently on these 8 exercises and get hellish strong on them.

This also ensures that you crack the Hebbain Rule which says that by consistently practicing few moves you create amazing mind-muscle connection. You will see loads go up consistently and so will your weight on the weighing scale.

Bodybuilders confession: Arnold Schwarzenneger is famous for bring isolation training to the bodybuilding world. But do you know that in his books he writes how he built his big body with olympic moves. Yes, he trained the hell out of the big olympic compound moves to build his big, muscular body. ONLY THEN he turned to isolation training with 20 sets!

So focus on big compound moves first and always take advice from Natural Bodybuilders ONLY {Arnold also confessed of taking steroids} or you will be disappointed.

Advanced Body Part Specialisation Exercises

I shared my 24 lb muscle gain story but did you know that after that I gained 38 lbs of muscle mass in under 2 years? 

My big muscles got bigger and stronger. Delta got bigger, chest and back got bigger and legs too. How?

I continued the basic 8 moves, but added more exercises to build even bigger muscles. The new exercises targeted muscles from different angles and stimulated almost all muscle fibers in all muscle origins and insertions.

Beware, I never replaced the basic 8, but reduced the number of sets to accommodate more exercises. I was still killing weights on my big moves.

So here are 3 best exercises for each body part for total muscle development, targeting total muscle without leaving out any head or angle of any muscle {muscles have different origin points called heads}.

Click here to find the absolute best exercises for each muscle group for total muscular development.

How to get the Best out of Every Exercise, Every Time you Train

Want to get the best out of every exercise, every time you hit the gym? Find out 5 strategies to gain instant strength to lift more weight today.

Related Articles:

The Science of Muscle Building Reps

› Muscle Building Exercises


1. Vandenburgh, HH. Motion into mass: How does tension stimulate muscle growth? Med Sci Sport Exerc 19(5 Suppl.): S142–S149, 1987. 

2. Schott, J, McCully, K, and Rutherford, OM. The role of metabolites in strength training. II. Short versus long isometric contractions. Eur J Appl Physiol 71: 337–341, 1995. 

3. Fry, AC. The role of resistance exercise intensity on muscle fibre adaptations. Sport Med 34: 663–679, 2004. 

4. Hansen, S, Kvorning, T, Kjaer, M, and Sjøgaard, G. The effect of short-term strength training on human skeletal muscle: The importance of physiologically elevated hormone levels. Scan J Med Sci Sport 11: 347–354, 2001.

5. Craig, B and Kang, H. Growth hormone release following single versus multiple sets of back squats: Total work versus power. J Strength Cond Res 8: 270–275, 1994. 

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