Building the body you’ve always wanted means putting in some serious work. You need exercises to target all the different muscle groups in order to develop a well-balanced body.
We want to make things a bit easier for you, so you can master each muscle group and optimize your workouts. This article will help you figure out what works for each body part and you will find out what exercises you should really be focusing on.
We are talking about building up your upper arms – biceps and triceps, as well as your forearms. Very often, those who want to build bigger arms focus on their biceps and triceps, while giving minimal attention to their forearms and wrists. The thing is your forearms and wrists are the ones who allow you to perform the exercises that develop and maximize the strength of your biceps, triceps, deltoids, chest and back. So it’s imperative that you not only train your biceps and triceps, but work your entire arms.
Here’s a list of the best exercises for your biceps, triceps and forearms:
- Cable rope hammer curl – hold both hands of a rope attached to the low pulley of a cable machine. Keep your elbows into your sides, feet shoulder-width apart, torso upright, and knees slightly bent. Keeping your arms stable throughout the move, curl the rope toward your shoulders, pause and return to the starting position.
- Chin-ups - grab a bar using a shoulder-width underhand grip and hang at arm’s length. Squeeze your shoulder blades down and back, bend your elbows, and pull the top of your chest to the bar. Pause and slowly lower your body back to the starting position.
- Seated cable row – at a cable row station keep your feet on the platform and knees slightly bent. With your palms facing each other, hold a V-bar. Keeping your back flat, pull your shoulders back as you pull the bar towards your torso.
- Bent-over barbell row - hold a barbell with a grip just beyond shoulder-width and at arm’s length. Bend your knees and tighten your abs. Pull the bar to your ribcage and lower back to the starting position.
- Dumbbell triceps extension – keep elbows over your head and lower forearm behind upper arm by flexing elbows. Raise the dumbbell over head by extending your elbows while hyperextending wrists.
- Weighted triceps dip – place a weight around your weight and get on a shoulder width dip bar keeping your arms straight with shoulders above hands. Keep your hips straight and lower your body until stretch is felt in your shoulders. Push your body up until your arms are straight and go back slowly.
- Barbell close grip bench press – lie on the bench and grasp the barbell from rack with a shoulder width grip. Lower the weight to your chest with elbows close to the body. Push the barbell up until your arms are straight and slowly lower back.
- Rope pushdowns – facing the high pulley, grasp the cable attachment with a narrow overhand grip. Position your elbows to the side and extend arms down. Return until your forearm is close to the upper arm and repeat.
- Seated wrist hammer curls – in a seated position with your back straight, place your forearm on your thighs with your thumbs pointed upward. Use a 10lb weight in a hammer position and lift it back and forth slowly.
- Farmer’s walk – take the heaviest dumbbells that you can handle and walk with your chest up and arms at your sides. Go 40-50 yards or walk in a figure-eight pattern if you don’t have the space. At the end of the distance stop and continue to hold the weights as long as possible.
- Finger curls – sitting down, hold a 5-, 10-, or 15lb in weight your hand. Turn your hand with the palm upward with the back of your wrist on your thigh. Allow the weight to roll down your fingers, and now curl your fingers back holding the weight securely.
- Towel pullup – hang a towel over a pullup bar and grasp an end with each hand. Hanging from the towel, pull yourself up until your chin is above your hands.
The shoulders are the most used muscle in the upper body. They function in almost every action you’re doing. To work your shoulder muscles you need to hit your deltoids, upper trapezius, serratus anterior, rotator cuff muscles, and levator scapulae.
Here are the best exercises that hit all the muscle groups in your shoulders:
- Barbell military press – with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder width, grab a barbell from the rack or a clean barbell from the floor and position it in front of your neck. Press the bar up until your arms are extended overhead.
- Standing dumbbell fly – hold a dumbbell in each hand by your sides. Use your upper body to swing the weights up a few inches. Your arms and torso will form an upside down V shape. Think of it as a lateral raise with momentum but without full range of motion.
- Face pull - attach a rope handle to the top pulley of a cable station. Grasp an end in each hand with palms facing each other. Step back to place tension on the cable. Pull the handles to your forehead so your palms face your ears and your upper back is fully contracted.
- Trap raise – sit on a bench at a low incline chest-down with a dumbbell in each hand and your palms facing each other. Retract your shoulder blades, then raise the weights straight out so your arms are parallel to the floor.
The chest area is made up of two muscles – pectoralis majoris and pectoralis minoris. These chest muscles start at the clavicle and go to the sternum and the armpit area. The best way to work your chest is to break the muscle in three parts – the upper, the middle and the lower portions of the chest. All these different portions are stimulated by changing the angle of the execution for an exercise.
The upper and the lower portions of the chest are stimulated by exercises done on a 30-45 degrees incline bench such as dumbbell bench press, decline barbell, or incline dumbbell flyes. The middle portion of the chest is best worked when doing exercises on a flat bench such as flat barbell and dumbbell bench press.
Let’s see a list of exercises that best work the chest muscles:
- Bench press – lie on the bench and take the barbell from the rack over your upper chest using a wide oblique overhand grip. Lower the weight to your chest, then press the bar upward until arms are extended
- Decline bench press - lie on a decline bench with your feet under leg brace and dumbbells resting on your thighs. Position dumbbells to the sides of your chest with the arms bent under each dumbbell. Press the dumbbells up with elbows to the sides until your arms are fully extended. Lower weight to the sides of your chest until a slight stretch is felt in chest or shoulder.
- Decline fly - with two dumbbells lie supine on a decline bench. Support dumbbells above upper abdomen with arms fixed in slightly bent position. Internally rotate shoulders so your elbows are to the sides and lower the dumbbells to the sides until chest muscles are stretched with elbows fixed. Bring dumbbells together in wide hugging motion until they are nearly together.
- Dumbbell pullover - lie on your upper back perpendicular to bench and slightly flex your hips. Grasp one dumbbell from behind or from side with both hands under inner plate of dumbbell. Position the dumbbell over the chest with your elbows slightly bent. Keeping your elbows slightly bent throughout the movement, lower the dumbbell over and beyond head until your upper arms are in-line with your torso. Pull the dumbbell up and over the chest.
Sculpting a bigger stronger back takes work but it comes with a long list of benefits. For example, you will stand taller because training your back means targeting the weak points that lead to poor posture.
The strategy for working your back is simple enough:
- focus on lifting heavy weights – and focus on the 4 to 6 or 5 to 7 rep change
- focus on the back exercises that safely allow for progressive overload – number one rule of natural muscle building is progressive overload, which means adding weight to the bar over time
If you want a wide, thick and strong back, these are the exercises you’ll want to do:
- Barbell deadlift – keeping your feet beneath the bar, squat down and grab it with a shoulder width or slightly wider overhand or mixed grip. Lift the bar by extending your hips and knees to full extension. Pull your shoulders back at the top of the lift and slowly go to the starting position.
- Lever T-bar row – bend your knees slightly and bend over the lever handles with your back straight. Grab the handles with a shoulder width to wide overhand grip. Pull the lever up to your torso and return until your arms are extended and your shoulders are stretched downwards.
- Wide-grip seated cable row - sit slightly forward on the platform in order to grasp the cable attachment. With a wider than shoulder width grip, slide hips back positioning your slightly bent knees. Pull the cable attachment to your waist while pulling your torso upright. Pull your shoulders back and push chest forward while arching back. Return until arms are extended, shoulders are stretched forward, and lower back is flexed forward.
- Wide-grip pull-ups – grab a bar with a wide overhand grip and pull your body up until your neck reaches the height of the hands. Lower your body until your arms and shoulders are fully extended.
Six-pack or whatever you want to call it, the core is the central piece of any muscular physique and nothing says fit like a washboard stomach. A muscular and well-defined core shows strength and health.
To sculpt a stronger and more chiseled core, you need the best abs exercises to work the muscles that define your mid-section. Here are a few of the best exercises that can help you:
- Cable crunch – kneel bellow a high pulley and grab the cable row attachment with both hands. Place wrists against your head, position your hips back and flex your hips allowing resistance on the cable pulley to lift your torso upward. Without moving your hips, flex the waist so that your elbows can travel towards the middle of your thighs.
- Barbell side bend – hold a barbell on your shoulders slightly below the neck and stand with your feet at shoulder width apart. Keep your back straight, head up and bend at the waist to the right as far a possible. Hold there for a second and then go for the left side.
- Crunches – lie on a mat with your legs on a bench and hands behind your neck. Flex your waist to raise your upper torso from the mat keeping your low back on the mat. Return to the position where your shoulders touch the mat.
- Russian twist - grab a medicine ball, a dumbbell, or a weight plate and sit on the floor with your hips and knees bent at 90 degrees. Hold the weight straight out in front of you and keep your back straight. Explosively twist your torso as far as you can to the left and then reverse the motion, twisting as far as you can to the right.
If you want to build a set of strong legs, you need to think about the symmetry and work all the muscle groups in your legs: quads, hamstrings and calves.
Here’s a list of the best exercises for all three muscle groups:
- Barbell squats – with the barbell on the rack, position it on the back of your shoulders and grasp it on the sides. Dismount bar from the rack and squat down by bending hips back and allowing your knees to bend forward. Keep your back straight and descend until thighs are parallel to the floor, then extend knees and hips until legs are straight.
- Leg press – sit on the machine with your back on the padded support and your feet on the platform. Extend your hips and knees and release dock level grasping the handles by the sides. Lower the sled by flexing your hips and knees.
- Sled hack squat – Lie supine on back pad with your shoulders under the shoulder pad. Place your feet on platform slightly higher than the base of sled. Extend your hips and knees and release dock levers. To lower sled, bend hips and knees until your knees are just short of complete flexion. Raise sled by extending knees and hips.
- Barbell step-ups – face a bench on the side and position a bar on the back of your shoulders grasping it to sides. Place your foot on the bench and stand on it by extending hip and knee of your first leg and placing the second one on the bench. Step down with your second leg by flexing hip and knee of first leg. Return to original standing position by placing foot of first leg to floor.
- Clean deadlift – with your feet under your hips, grab the bar with a hook grip about shoulder width apart. Your spine should be in full extension, with a back angle that places your shoulders in front of the bar and your back as vertical as possible. Go to the floor through the front of your heels and as the bar goes upward, maintain a constant back angle. Flare your knees out to the side to help keep them out of the bar's path. After the bar crosses the knees, complete the lift by driving the hips into the bar until your hips and knees are extended.
- Kettlebell one-legged deadlift – hold a kettlebell by the handle in one hand and stand on one leg, on the same side that you hold the kettlebell. Keeping that knee slightly bent, perform a stiff legged deadlift by bending at the hip, extending your free leg behind you for balance. Continue lowering the kettlebell until you are parallel to the ground, and then return to the upright position.
- Power snatch – begin as you would for the snatch. Once you have extended completely to accelerate and elevate the bar, pull under quickly and aggressively and fix the bar overhead in a partial squat position. The bar must be locked out overhead and all downward movement stopped with the lifter’s thighs above horizontal. The power snatch is simply a snatch without a full-depth squat to receive it.
- Lever lying leg curls – facing the bench, stand between it and lever pads. Lie on the bench you’re your knees just beyond the edge of the bench and lower legs under lever pads. Grasp handles and raise lever pad to the back of your thighs by flexing your knees. Lower lever pads until your knees are straight.
- Seated calf raise – sit facing the lever and reach forward to pull the hand lever towards your body. Place your forefeet on the platform with the heels extending off. Position lower thighs under the lever pads. Release the hand lever by pushing it away from your body. Place your hands on top of the thigh pads. Raise heels by extending your ankles as high as possible. Lower heels by bending ankles until your calves are stretched.
- Leg press calf raise – sit on the seat with your back on the padded support and place your feet on the platform. Grab the handles to your sides and extend hips and knees. Place your toes and balls of feet on the lower portion of the platform with your heels and arches extending off and push the sled by extending ankles as far as possible. Return by bending your ankles until calves are stretched.
- Lever donkey calf raises – position your lower back and hips under the padded lever. Place your forearms on the supports. Position your toes on the calf block with arches and heels extending off. Straighten knees and raise heels by extending ankles as high as possible. Lower heels by bending ankles until calves are stretched.
- Standing calf raise – Position your toes on the calf block with your arches and heels extending off. Place your hand on the support for balance. Raise your heels by extending ankles as high as possible. Lower your heels by bending ankles until calves are stretched.
So there you go, a list of exercises for each muscle group that will help you build those wanted muscles and reduce any muscle imbalances. It takes hard work and dedication to improve your physique, but knowing what works for each body part, will definitely help you make a difference.
Use what you’ve learned and go build that perfect body you’ve always wanted!