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Build Muscle Fast With The Best Weight Lifting Exercises for Strength Training, Bodybuilding and Weightlifting

Updated on March 17, 2011

Lifting weights isn't particularly complicated. Whether you are into bodybuilding, powerlifting or olympiclifting, or athletic training, the basics are pretty much the same.  Everyone has their favorite lifts for bulk, strength, finishing, or whatever they choose, but certain weight training lifts have stood out above the rest over the history of lifting for almost any purpose. If you want to be strong – do these. If you want muscular size – do these. These following lifts are my choices for the best lifts you can possibly do.

The Squat

The squat is one of the two or three best weightlifting exercises hands down and the undisputed #1 for building muscular bulk.  All types of squats are good – powerlifting squats, olympic (high bar) squats, front squats, and overhead squats.  If you want a lot of muscle and strength fast, focus on the powerlifting squats and the olympic squats for now.  Do them in medium to high reps as heavy as you can safely handle and work as hard as possible.  This isn’t new advice at all, but it is still excellent advice.  John McCallum, Peary Rader, J.C. Hise and many others would say the same. 

From drewgstephens
From drewgstephens

The Overhead Press (Military Press)

Pushing a weight from your shoulders over your head is the essence of manly strength (or womanly, I suppose, but it just doesn’t sound the same).  A heavy squat or deadlift is awesome to watch, but nothing is more impressive than to see a massive barbell pushed overhead in a strongman competition or just in the weight room.  This is the key lift for shoulder power and bulk, and works the whole upper body hard.  The bench press is a good lift, but the overhead press is better overall.  It may not work pectorals as much, but huge shoulders and traps win the prize.  Do regular overhead presses and push presses, either in the same workout or alternate – they are both great lifts and deserve a place in every workout.

The Deadlift

The deadlift gives the squat a tough fight for the top lift for muscular bulk and overall body strength.  Some people find that the dead fits their body type and levers better than does the squat and, for them, it may be a better lift.  There is no reason not to do both in your work out – probably not both in the same day, though!  Consider doing a Romanian deadlift or stiff-legged deadlift if you dead on the same day you squat.  These are much easier on your body than the regular bent-legged deadlift after squatting and work complementary muscle groups.

The Clean & Press

If you can clean or power clean with good form, the clean & press is probably the best lift in existence.  In one lift, you cover the deadlift, shrug, front squat, and overhead press.  Try the lift with a barbell, dumbbells, odd objects, or anything you have around.  Ten reps with 75lb dumbbells was an old goal for a reasonably strong man, and it isn’t a bad goal for most people now.  If you can do this, congratulations, you are much stronger than average!

Chin or Bent-over Row

If you can chin or pull-up, this is an amazing exercise!  It works the back and biceps hard and lets you know if you are getting too fat.  If you can’t do chins, work on rows (actually, work on rows a little even if you can do chins) until you gain the strength to do chin-ups.  The one primary exception is if your main upper body exercise is the bench – if so, do rows more often than chins to even out the directional pushing and pulling muscles.    

Incline Press

The Incline Press is a great lift for the upper body pushing muscles (chest, shoulders, triceps).  It is a much better choice than the regular bench press for most people since it works the whole upper body in a more thorough fashion and tends to avoid injury better than the bench press.  The bench is still a good lift, it is just that the incline is better.  A lifter would be better served to focus on the overhead press, probably, and use the incline as a supplemental lift; but, if he prefers the incline, that will work well, too.

Workout Routine Ideas

A routine made up of just squats, deads, overhead presses, clean & press, and chin would be an awesome workout with a couple of other lifts added such as incline press and curl! Not all lifts would be done at every workout of course, and a few extras could be added if desired. All sorts of combinations could be worked out with the above lifts as a base. Consider something similar to the following

Monday                 Wednesday          Friday

Squat                    Incline Press         Clean & Press

Clean & Press       Deadlift                Squat

Bent-over Row       Chin                     Romanian Deadlift

These are the core exercises, but you can always through in a couple extras if you still have energy after these. You could throw in some calf work, abs, etc. Most people would benefit from some stretching and mobility work before and after workouts. Combine this with some running, bicycling, or other good conditioning exercises and you have the makings for great strength and health!


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    • tony211289 profile image

      tony211289 6 years ago

      This goes perfectly with my little guide :). Tim, would you mind looking at my work? maybe suggesting a few extra points which I might of left out? Very nice work btw.