Best Muscle Building Exercises

(Last Updated On: November 10, 2016)

Ok, this one is for guys or girls who are looking to put on muscle, but don’t want to do a ton of different exercises like the guys in the bodybuilding magazines. The good news is you don’t have to do all those exercises. All of those guys in the magazine take enough steroids to kill a Billie Goat plus they workout for a living, so doing the same workout they do is a bit silly.

The good news is you can build some serious muscle mass without spending countless hours in the gym grunting like a gorilla. In fact, you could get totally jacked by just doing 5 exercises or so if you do them right and get strong at those exercises. Luckily we will give you ten great muscle builders in this article.

Best Muscle building exercises

Use Compound Exercises

Compound exercises are the way to go if you are looking to put on muscle fast. Compound exercises are the exercises that use multiple muscle groups at once rather than just one single muscle. A good example of a compound exercise would be the bench press. The bench press works your chest, shoulders, triceps, lats and even some abs. These are the kind of exercises you want if you are looking for the best exercises to build muscle. Bicep curls and calf raises are nice, but if you want the most bang for your buck then compound exercises are the way to go. Compound exercises should be the meat and potatoes of your routine with the other exercises being secondary.


Now let’s list our 10 best muscle building exercises shall we?

After all that is why you clicked on this article, so here you go.


1. Clean and press

Danielle Sidell

The clean and press is an exercise that will add slabs of muscle. This one is really a whole body exercise with extra emphasis on the shoulders and upper back.

This one exercises covers two of the most simplistic and effective muscle building rules. These strategies are: 1) Pick heavy things off the ground. 2) Lift heavy objects over your head. This movement puts incredible neurological and metabolic demand on the body, making it great for strength, power, muscle building and burning fat.

Get strong at this exercise and you will be well on a one way train to Jackedland.


2. Deadlift


Deadlift is easily one of the best muscle building exercises there is. Some people might be mad it isn’t in first place, it was close. This bad boy hits the whole body, but really works the back, traps, butt and hamstrings. It’s a bit more technical than it looks though so be sure to follow The 10 Deadlift Commandments as a good guide. There are also a few variations of ways to do the deadlift like the traditional method, sumo style, with a trap bar and stiff legged. Find one you like and hit them up. There is no wrong variation just be sure to use good form.


3. Squats

Back Squat

You knew squats would be in here. It’s the king of lower body exercises for Pete’s sake of course it will be in this list. Squats work the quads, hamstrings, butt, back and abs. There are plenty of squat variations as well. Back squat and front squat are the two biggest muscle builders, but split squats, goblet squats, hack squats ect. all have their place as well. Find one or two squat variations you like and put some muscle on those chicken legs and grow that booty!


4. Bench Press

5 exercises to get jacked

Now it’s time for the king up upper body exercises. The bench press hits the chest, triceps, shoulders, lats and even the abs. If you are looking for a solid upper body, then this exercises is a great place to start. Use a barbell or dumbbells, flat or incline bench, they all work. For best results mix them up a bit instead of just doing one thing over and over.


5. Bent over rows

athlete barbell row

Bent over rows are the kings of back exercises if you are looking to build muscle and thickness. They work the biceps and hamstrings pretty well also. Pair the bench press with bent over rows and you can literally get a big, strong, muscular upper body with just those two exercises.



6. Pull-ups

Danielle Sidell

Next we have another back exercise with pull-ups. These will add width to your back and hit your lats hard along with your biceps and your abs. If you are not able to do many or any pull-ups check out our article A Different Way to Improve Your Pull-Up and you will be hammering them out in no time.


7. Farmer’s Walk

Farmers walk

Farmer’s walk is another full body exercise. This one works your grip, shoulders, core and gives you a mountainous upper back. If you want traps of a god, then the farmer’s walk is where it’s at.


Related: Farmer’s Carries to Build Muscle and Strength


8. Overhead Press

Overhead press

The overhead press is the big daddy when it comes to shoulder exercises. They hit the shoulders, triceps and abs. You can rock these with a barbell or dumbbells and also go standing or seated, whichever you choose hit these up for broader shoulders.


9. Heavy Kettlebell Swings

Kettlebell swing

Heavy kettlebell swings are another great muscle builder that is truly underrated. Some have even said that heavy kettlebell swings are superior to deadlifts and used solid information to back it up. When we say heavy we mean like at least half your own bodyweight and preferably higher. Add these bad boys to your routine and get big, just make sure you use good form.


10. Thrusters

Josh Bunch CrossFit

Thrusters, they suck to do, I know. They are a pretty good muscle builder though, like a squat and overhead press in one. They are also good cardio as most CrossFitters can attest to. I’m sure most of you will probably skip this option due to the level of suck, but they would be worth your while to do as they are a great whole body exercise and muscle builder.


Best Muscle Building Supplements

If you are looking to take it to the next level a good muscle building supplement can help a lot. Especially if you use a couple of them together. Some of the best muscle building supplements include creatine, pre-workouts and protein powders. Check out our article on supplements that build muscle for a more in depth look at this subject as well as what supplements we recommend.

To put it in a nutshell though you are going to want to use a good testosterone booster, creatine, pre-workout or a mass gainer protein powder. There will be the best supplements that will get you results in terms of muscle building. Most other stuff on the market won’t give you as good of a bang for your buck.


Muscle Building Diet

When it comes to building muscle your diet is also very important. If you are looking to build muscle you are going to want consume enough protein, eat healthy fats and have good carbs.

All Proteins, carbs and fats are not the same though, not even close. Let’s look into each a little further.


Protein is the building blocks of muscle so you are going to want to be sure to get enough of this. You are going to want to eat about as many grams of protein per day as your body weighs. A 200 pound man should eat around 200 grams of protein per day in other words. Try and get some protein with every meal and supplement with protein shakes if you need to.

Some of the best sources of protein are:

  • Chicken breast
  • Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Lean grass fed beef
  • Tuna
  • Steaks
  • Cottage cheese
  • Turkey
  • Other seafood varieties



When it comes to carbohydrates you want to try and stick with the slower digesting carbs as much as possible. Carbs that digest quickly will most likely end up turning in to fat so you want to stay away from those as much as you can especially if you are not very active that day.

Some good sources of carbohydrates include:

  • Brown Rice
  • Veggies
  • Quinoa
  • Oats
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Yams
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Fresh Fruit

Some of the main carbohydrates you would want to avoid include: Candy, cakes, sugary snacks, soda pop, potato chips, white breads, white rice.

Carbs are important if you are looking to build muscle, you just have to be careful not to have too many or they will turn to fat. Good carb intake for most people would go as follows:

  • Rest day: <.5g per lb.
  • Light or Moderate workout day: .5-1.4g per lb.
  • Heavy and Intense workout day: 1.4-2g per lb.


We are talking healthy fats here, not loading up on McDonald’s french fries or anything like that.

Contrary to what many people still think, eating healthy fat does not raise cholesterol or clog your arteries. It actually helps reduce these cardiovascular symptoms. Eating too many calories, or eating too many non-whole, processed foods makes you fat, and increases risk factors for various cardiovascular diseases

Your fat intake should be around 0.35 to 0.5 grams per pound of bodyweight depending on how well your body can handle higher carb diets. For some it may be better to take carbs a bit lower and fats higher, while others do best with the opposite scenario.

Some of the high quality fats you want to be eating are:

  • Avocados
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Coconut
  • Nut
  • Natural peanut butter
  • Seeds
  • Fatty fish like salmon
  • Flax seed oil


Typical muscle building daily menu


  • 3 egg whites and 3 whole eggs cooked in olive oil with diced veggies
  • 1/2 cup oats with cut up banana
  • 1 cup 1 % milk

Morning Snack

  • Two pieces of whole grain bread and a table spoon of Almond Butter.


  • 5oz. chicken breast
  • 1 cup veggies
  • 1/2 cup brown rice

Mid Afternoon Snack

  • 1 Whole wheat pita
  • 1 Can tuna fish in water with light mayo and relish
  • 1 Cup steamed broccoli
  • 1 Granny Smith Apple


  • Side salad with vinaigrette dressing
  • 8 oz. grilled salmon
  • 1 sweet potato

Evening Snack

  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 handful of almonds



  • 5 oz. grilled chicken breast
  • 1 cup brown rice


  • Protein shake with 1 banana


Now you have all the information you need to build muscle. You have the right exercises to focus on, the right supplements to take and what you should be eating if you are looking to build muscle. Now all you have to do is put in the work and be rewarded.