Not all exercises are created equal. Some exercises do a far better job at working certain muscles then others. That being said you want to do the exercises that will work your chosen muscle group the best.
For example the bench press does workout the shoulders but the military press works out shoulders far more effectively. If your looking to train your shoulders you would want to choose the military press over the bench press then. It is crucial to select the most effective exercises for all your muscles in order to promote maximal growth in each of them. The list below shows the most effective exercises in each muscle group.
The most common and straight forward way of categorising weight training exercises is simply in terms what muscle group or body part an exercise targets.
While some explaining was necessary to properly show the difference between free weight exercises, body weight exercises and machines, and compound exercises and isolation exercises, and of course the different weight training movement patterns, very little explaining is needed here.
In fact, all this is going to be is just a big list of exercises for each muscle group with virtually no explanation whatsoever.
So, let’s get to it.
In no specific order, here’s a list of what are considered to be the best and most often used exercises for each major muscle group…
A List Of The Best Chest Exercises
- Flat Barbell or Dumbbell Bench Press
- Dips (on parallel bars with slight forward lean)
- Incline Dumbbell Flyes
(Compound chest exercises also target the triceps and shoulders secondarily.)
A List Of The Best Back Exercises
- Lat Pull-Downs
- Bent Over Barbell or Dumbbell Rows
- T-Bar Rows
- Barbell, Dumbbell or Machine Shrugs
(Compound back exercises also target the biceps secondarily.)
A List Of The Best Shoulder Exercises
- Standing Overhead Barbell or Dumbbell Press
- Arnold Press
- Dumbbell, Cable or Machine Lateral Raises
- Barbell, Dumbbell, or Machine Rear Delt Rows, Raises or Flyes
(Compound shoulder exercises also target the triceps secondarily.)
A List Of The Best Quadriceps Exercises
- Barbell or Dumbbell Squats
- Barbell or Dumbbell Lunges
- Leg Press
- Machine Squat/Hack Squat
(Compound quad exercises also target a significant portion of the lower body/posterior chain.)
A List Of The Best Hamstring Exercises
- Barbell or Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts
- Barbell or Dumbbell Straight Leg Deadlifts
(Compound hamstring exercises also target a significant portion of the lower body/posterior chain.)
A List Of The Best Biceps Exercises
- Standing Barbell or Dumbbell Curls
- Barbell or Dumbbell Preacher Curls
- Hammer Curls
A List Of The Best Triceps Exercises
- Flat Close Grip Bench Press
- Close Grip Push-Ups
- Skull Crushers
- Overhead Barbell or Dumbbell Triceps Extensions
- Bench Dips
So, there you go, a big list of exercises for each muscle group. I eventually plan on writing descriptions of each along with pictures and videos showing proper form at some point in the future, but for now it’s just a big list.
And this is in no way meant to be the definitive list of EVERY exercise in existence, by the way. While it is pretty damn comprehensive (especially in terms of what is considered best and most popular), some stuff has been left out.
I mean, for a majority of the exercises mentioned, I could have listed various minor variations of each based on the type of grip (pronated, supinated, neutral), how wide or narrow the grip or stance is, the specific placement of the bench/seat height, and on and on and on.
However, to avoid being unnecessarily repetitive, I decided not to get THAT specific. So, if you’re looking for additional exercises beyond what’s on this list, just know that minor variations (like the ones I just mentioned) can be made to many of them if desired.
Also keep in mind that, in the case of all compound exercises listed above, additional muscle groups are targeted secondarily.