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Ever had that moment where you’re standing in the weight room, surrounded by a sea of iron, wondering what truly are the best weightlifting exercises? The clangs of metal on metal echo around you as your fellow lifters hoist their weights while making their muscle gains. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed or lost amidst the sweat, testosterone, and occasional roar of the guy grinding out his last rep.

We’ve all been there, wandering the gym while scratching our heads and trying to put together an effective strength training workout. You want something practical yet challenging; simple but not boring or ineffective.

What should you focus on? What exercises help build muscle mass?

You’ve come to the right place. In this article, we will cut through the noise and bring clarity to your training dilemma with the best weightlifting exercises for major muscle groups, like the bench press for upper-body power, and barbell squats for lower-body strength.

Some of the best weightlifting exercises will be familiar to you while others won’t but will offer you variety and a special challenge for extra muscle gains!

The road toward becoming stronger, more muscular, and more fit isn’t always straightforward…

The warm-up is done. Time to get to work.

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Getting Started With The Best Weightlifting Exercises

When you’re talking about the best weightlifting exercises you almost always have to begin with the Barbell Squat and Deadlift,  both are often dubbed the king of all exercises depending on who you talk to. Squats and Deadlifts fall into the weight training basics and work multiple major muscle groups, giving you a lot of bang for your buck. 

Both work the entire body with squats primarily engaging your lower body, including your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. Deadlifts train the same muscle groups a little differently but with a lot more emphasis on your back and grip strength.

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Squats and Deadlifts for Lower Body Strength

The squat isn’t only about pure strength, but also about developing stability, flexibility, and overall muscle mass. To get started with squats, stand straight with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Keep your back straight while lowering yourself as if sitting on an imaginary chair or right between your legs. 

As for the Deadlift, assume a hip-width stance, grab the bar at about shoulder width apart, and with a nearly straight back, pick up the weight to an upright standing position. Simple, but not easy.

Practice makes perfect here and everyone has a different anatomy so your form will vary slightly. This is the single best resource for dissecting the Barbell Squat as well as addressing many other training hurdles that are specific to your body type.

Maintaining good technique throughout this exercise is crucial to prevent injury and ensure effectiveness. The trick? Brace your core, keep that chest high, and don’t let those heels lift off the ground.

Presses for Upper Body Power

Now we’ll shift focus to upper body powerhouses like the Bench Press or Overhead Press (also known as military press). These definitely make the list of the best weightlifting exercises. There’s a reason why the Bench Press is probably the most well-known lift out there. 

Bench Presses are great for building overall upper body mass and strength. They target your chest, arm, and shoulder muscles.

The Overhead Press, or Military Press, is very similar but you press overhead instead of from lying on a bench.

These are only some of the best weightlifting exercises. Let’s keep going.

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Compound Lifts for Full-Body Strength and Overall Muscle Mass

You’ve probably heard the term “compound lifts” thrown around the gym or online. But what are they, and why should you care? Well, these powerhouse lifts engage multiple muscle groups at once which is a winning strategy to build full-body strength and muscle mass.

Squats, Deadlifts, Overhead Press, and Bench Press, are your go-to weight lifting exercises here. They’re essential weight training exercises that get your entire body working hard. And when I say ‘entire’, I mean it – from your leg muscles right up to your shoulders and neck.

Now imagine putting up some serious iron on the Barbell Squat or feeling every muscle fiber ignite while pulling massive weights on Deadlifts. This isn’t just about appearing attractive (although that’s definitely a piece of it). It’s about making sure you lift safely and each muscle group is properly engaged so you’re getting stronger with every rep.

The key is proper form: make sure you lift heavy but safely; remember no one ever built Rome or their biceps by being sloppy or careless. Keep lifting this way consistently because building muscle and strength doesn’t happen overnight. 

It takes consistency and discipline like all good things in life.

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The Best Weightlifting Exercises Proper Form and Technique

Maintaining good form during your workout is the cornerstone of any successful strength training routine. To ensure maximum gains and minimum risk of injury, proper form should be prioritized.

Your first priority should be to ensure that your body’s alignment stays correct throughout each exercise movement. This means keeping a strict adherence to each exercise’s proper form. You’ll not only lift safer and more efficiently, but you will also be able to lift more and build more muscle.

A common mistake is overcomplicating lifts by adding too much weight before mastering the technique. As men, our ego can wreak havoc on us, particularly in the gym. Remember, building muscle isn’t about ego; it’s about progress so stay humble and leave the ego at the door. 

Don’t let heavy weights compromise your form – start light and gradually add weight as you grow stronger.

This guide will give you more insights and resources on how proper technique can improve performance for big lifts like Squats or Bench Press, which are known to recruit multiple muscles simultaneously, making them an integral part of any comprehensive strength workout plan.

Squatting Right

The Barbell Squat has earned its reputation as king among exercises because it targets several large muscle groups at once – but only if performed correctly. When executing a squat, maintain a slightly wider than shoulder-width stance with your toes turned slightly outwards. 

As you descend into the squat position keep your knees aligned over your feet without letting them cave inward – this small detail ensures safe execution while reaping all benefits from this powerhouse lift.

Open another tab to learn more about the details of proper squat form.

Bench Press Mastery

In contrast to squats targeting lower body muscles primarily, Bench Press focuses mainly on upper-body power development, especially the chest (pectoral) muscles. Failing to execute proper form during this lift can lead to shoulder problems, ask me how I know…

Keep the wrists straight above your elbows while pressing upwards maintaining control through every phase of the lift. Start with the bar directly above your eye line then lower the bar down towards your nipple line not straight down toward your face or neck. Be sure your shoulders are pinched back and downward and that your feet are firmly pressed into the floor to help you press the weight back up.

Check out proper bench press form in more detail.

Conquer the Deadlift

The deadlift is my personal favorite and is at the top of the best weightlifting exercises. To perform a Deadlift with correct form, follow these steps: 

  1. Position yourself so that the middle of your feet is directly under the barbell. 
  2. Bend over and grasp the bar with a grip that is shoulder-width apart. 
  3. Lower your body by bending your knees until your shins make contact with the bar. 
  4. Lift your chest upward and straighten out your lower back, ensuring it remains in a neutral position. 
  5. Take in a deep breath, hold it, and then proceed to lift the weight off the ground by extending through your hips and knees. 
  6. At the top of the movement, pause briefly while keeping both your hips and knees locked in place before returning the weight to its starting position on the floor. 
  7. Rest for a moment at this bottom position before repeating. 

It is crucial to maintain proper form during Deadlifts to prevent injury, particularly in regard to maintaining a neutral lower back position throughout each repetition. Rounding or arching excessively can put excessive strain on spinal discs which may lead to injury. 

To maximize strength gains and muscle development, focus on executing Deadlifts efficiently by practicing them regularly with correct technique.

Overhead Press

The Overhead Press (OHP) is an indicator of overall upper body strength. 

To perform the Overhead Press correctly: 

  1. Start by positioning the barbell on your front shoulders with your hands placed next to them. 
  2. Push the barbell upwards until it is directly above your shoulders and in line with the middle of your feet. Make sure to fully extend your elbows and raise your shoulders towards the ceiling before pausing briefly at the top. 
  3. Lower the barbell back down to your front shoulders and repeat this movement. Remember not to use any leg assistance during this exercise; keep them straight throughout otherwise it becomes a push press. 

The Overhead Press engages multiple muscle groups, making it an excellent compound exercise for developing strong and well-defined shoulders along with larger arms while also promoting overall body stability and strength.

Building Strength and Adding Weight

You might ask, “How do I build strength while adding weight to my lifts?” The secret lies in a strategy known as progressive overload. This involves increasing the amount of resistance over time to challenge your muscles and force them to adapt.

Your training program should have you lifting heavier weights gradually and with more volume. It’s not about hoisting massive dumbbells on day one. Instead, start with what feels challenging but manageable, then add weight progressively as your body adjusts.

Strength training effectively means listening to your body during each rep set. Take adequate rest time between sets – around 1-3 minutes depending on the intensity of the exercise. For pure strength rest for a couple of minutes between compound lifts and for smaller isolation exercises you can rest for 60-90 seconds.

Variety can be key too. Altering resistance programs every so often can help prevent plateaus that hinder progress. Although it’s more about consistency and continual growth. Avoid getting into a stagnant state but don’t program hop every few weeks.

Incorporate exercises into your workout routine that recruit multiple muscle groups simultaneously for full-body work – think squats or deadlifts rather than bicep curls alone. These compound movements are more efficient at building overall strength and muscle. They burn more calories too so you can get shredded.

Remember: Train smartly, be patient with yourself, and most importantly – keep grinding.

Best Weightlifting Exercises for Each Muscle Group

We got the big ones down so now let’s talk about how to build strength with more of the best weightlifting exercises. We all know that different exercises target specific muscle groups. But knowing which exercise works best for each group is crucial.

Arm Development

Everyone loves to have big guns. Let’s talk about building massive arms.



Dips are a common exercise and are an excellent way to work on all your upper body muscles. They allow room for progression by adding weight in small increments with a Dip Belt.

Skull Crushers, and the many variations, are some of my favorite tricep builders. They target the triceps directly and help add real bulk to your arms.

Pushdowns are also really good to incorporate.


Here’s everyone’s favorite. Bicep curls in all of its forms, develop the biceps pretty well. Dumbbells are great for isolating your arms separately so they can be more balanced.

Reverse Grip Pull-ups are another great choice because they target your back, lats (latissimus dorsi) along with biceps.


These don’t need direct training unless you want to make up for a lack of grip strength or size.

Farmer Walks are perfect for grip strength and a massive pump.

Reverse Curls target the biceps and the tops of your forearms.

Wrist Curls are very common as well.

Shoulder Development

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Strong shoulders should be sought after by every man. We talked about the OHP, but there’s more to build cannonball shoulders.

Dumbbell Press and Arnold Press and any other shoulder press further build your overall shoulder strength.

Lateral Raises are great for developing the different parts of the deltoid muscle.

Upright Rows build the traps effectively.

Rear Delt Flys or Face Pulls target the ever-so-neglected rear deltoids.

Chest Development

Aside from Bench, there are other chest press exercises you can do to further develop your pecs.

Push-ups are a perfect exercise for almost everyone because you don’t need any equipment and can do them anywhere.

Incline/Decline Bench Press are good for shifting the load to your upper/lower chest muscles and using dumbbells or barbells brings more variety.

Chest Flys are also great for isolating the pectoral muscles as well as Dips.

Back Development

best weightlifting exercises

A strong back is paramount to any manly physique. These exercises will help build a massive back in addition to the Deadlift we already talked about:

Rows, in all of its variations, target almost all of the back muscles and help build more strength. I love Bent-over Rows and Dumbbell Rows as well as the Cable Row.

Pull-ups are a major indicator of back and upper body strength. I would focus on these and add more weight with a Dip Belt if needed. If necessary you can work up to them by doing Lat Pulldowns.

Pull-overs are an often-overlooked exercise to perform.

Shrugs build grip strength and your traps.

Leg Development

There are a variety of exercises for the legs in addition to the Barbell Squat so don’t skip leg day.



Front Squats target the quads more directly and are good for overall development.

Leg Press can allow you to load massive weight and help target your quads effectively.

Lunges and Bulgarian Split Squats are difficult and effective exercises for balance and stability.

Leg Extensions target the quadriceps exclusively

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Hamstrings/Posterior Chain

Stiff Leg Deadlifts and Romanian Deadlifts differ from the standard Deadlift we already talked about and target the hams pretty well.

Goodmornings are difficult but really target your posterior chain well.

Glute Bridges with weight are a solid go to.

Leg Curls isolate your hamstrings.


Calf Raises are going to be your go-to here.

Running and leg exercises target these well too.

Best Weightlifting Exercises for Muscle Growth

If you’re serious about building muscle, then compound lifts are your best friends. We’ve mentioned the big ones already but there are more to utilize and it’s how you use them that is key.

The Power Clean is a popular lift among athletes and also works several major muscles all at once. This explosive lift will not only help build overall body power but also improve coordination and agility.

There are countless other exercises out there that target muscles in different ways but everything we’ve talked about so far will serve your needs perfectly.

Additionally, many of the body weight counterparts of these lifts work great.

To maximize results from these exercises though remember – progressive overload is key. Keep adding weight over time in order to challenge yourself and stimulate further muscle growth.

Strength Training for Beginners

If you’re new to the gym, weight training can seem daunting. But let’s demystify this. First off, don’t be intimidated by the weights or fellow gym mates during your training session. The key is not to worry about others and start small and build strength over time.

Lifting heavy might sound like advice for seasoned lifters, but it applies even when you’re just starting out. It means pushing your limits gradually by applying progressive overload. This approach will make sure that your muscles get stronger and larger over time.

The main lifts are critical here – Squats, Deadlifts, OHP, and Bench Press. They use large muscle groups which gives you more bang for your buck in each workout session.

Remember: Consistency trumps everything else in weightlifting. Stay patient and committed to reap the benefits of this amazing journey towards fitness.

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Strength Training for Advanced Lifters

As an experienced lifter, you know the exhilaration of pushing your body to its limits with a heavy lift. You feel invincible with each new personal record. But let’s be real – progress isn’t always linear and the dreaded plateaus are inevitable.

To combat this, changing your training program and selecting the best weightlifting exercises every 4-6 months can help keep those gains coming. This technique helps shock your muscles into growth and prevents them from adapting to a specific routine that may have stagnated.

The cornerstone exercises remain unchanged though: Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press, and Overhead Press. These big lifts target major muscle groups and are essential in any advanced lifter’s arsenal. What you can do is change up the variation to get a variety of stimuli on your muscles.

Moving Beyond Plateaus

Incorporating these techniques can certainly give us that much-needed push past our limits. However, remember guys – consistency is key when it comes to reaping benefits from weightlifting.

Just because you hit a plateau doesn’t mean it’s time to slack off. While there is a natural limit to your muscle-building abilities you can still always make forward progress and bust through a plateau.

Plateau Busting Secret

I am going to share with you a secret weapon you can use to bust through your muscle-building plateaus that I normally save for those who pay for it but you’re special because you’ve read this far.


The not-so-secret secret is using the Time Under Tension method for muscle growth.

Time under tension refers to the duration a muscle or group of muscles is engaged during a set. Increasing this time can stimulate muscle growth effectively. It also gives you a massive pump.

Try lowering the weight for a 4 count for every rep you do on one of the best weightlifting exercises we listed. Keep in mind that you will need to lower the weight slightly and only apply time under tension to lifts you can safely control.

The goal isn’t maximum weight but time under flexed tension.

FAQs About The Best Weightlifting Exercises

What is the most beneficial weightlifting exercise?

Barbell Squats or Deadlifts take top honors because they work multiple large muscle groups, helping build overall strength and power.

What are the 5 major weightlifting exercises?

The big five are Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press, Overhead Press, and Barbell rows. These engage various key muscles in your body.

What is the most effective weightlifting routine?

A combo of compound lifts like squats or deadlifts with isolation exercises makes a powerful workout routine for maximum gains.

Which exercise works most muscles?

The deadlift reigns supreme here as it engages almost every major muscle group from your legs to your upper body.

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Discovering the best weightlifting exercises doesn’t have to be daunting. You’ve learned that focusing on major muscle groups through squats and presses can lead to significant strength gains.

Mastered the art of compound lifts? They’re your ticket to full-body power. But remember, good technique is vital – it maximizes gains while minimizing injuries.

Add weight progressively over time for continuous growth. The beauty of resistance training lies in its ability to target specific muscles with precision – dips for triceps, deadlifts for lower back, pull-ups for a complete back workout!

No matter your experience level, strength training has something to offer everyone – from beginner to advanced! Remember these tips next time you step into the gym and make every lift count towards building a stronger version of yourself!

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