Building muscle is great, it makes you stronger, a lot of the time it makes you look better but the often ignored element is that it improves your metabolism to the point that burning fat is easier. So a person with more muscle will be more efficient at losing fat and building more muscle.
Now this makes my job here easier, as any muscle building exercise I give you will also be a fat burning one.
Before we get into specific exercises, I want to explain the difference between compound movements and isolation movements.
Compound vs Isolation
An isolation exercise is one that trains one muscle group or movement at a time.
An obvious example would be the bicep curl, which involves you taking a bar in front of you with your arms locked out and then flexing at the elbow so that you hands are brought towards your shoulders, you then extend the elbows so that your hands are back where they started.
All of this is done with just the bicep muscle, there will be other muscles used in the stabilisation, but not in the active movement.
A compound exercise is one which uses multiple joints and muscles in a movement.
A common example of this would be the bench press. With this, you lie down on a bench; unrack the bar; lower it to your chest, and then; press it back up to the starting position.
This exercise uses the pectoralis muscles (the chest), the anterior deltoids (the front of the shoulders) and the triceps muscles (them big ones on the back of your arm) as well as the elbow and shoulder joints.
A compound exercise will get you bigger weights as there are muscles and joints involved in the movement, whereas isolation movements can focus on particular areas. They are both needed for a balanced routine, so you will see both here.
This is a part of everyday life. If you’re sat in a chair and stand up, you’ve just done one. There are many variations in that you can use a barbell, dumbbells or kettlebells, and you can also have the weight in a back or front loaded position.
It is fantastic for quadriceps, hamstring and gluteal development.
Basically, you : –
- Go from a standing position with your feet anywhere between hip and shoulder width.
- You then bend your hips and knees, while keeping your feet flat on the floor until the crease of your hips is below the top of your thigh.
- You then push the floor away so that you’re back to a standing position.
Like the squat, this is a staple of everyday life. It probably affects more muscles than it doesn’t, but its main movers are the gluteals, hamstrings, quadriceps, lower back and forearms. It is basically the safe way to pick a weight up off of the floor and it is likely to be the strongest lift you can do.
For more – look here.
#3 Bench Press
I explained how to do this exercise above, but it probably uses the most muscles of any upper body weight lifting movement. It is fantastic for chest, shoulder and arm muscle building.
#4 Barbell Row
The rowing movement will help to even out any imbalances caused by too much pressing. The barbell row, aka the bent over row, is where: –
- You have a barbell in your hands, akin to the top of a deadlift.
- You then push your hips back and bend over, keeping your back flat.
- Then you row the weight towards your rib cage.
In doing this you’re activating the the latissimus dorsi, some of the shoulders and the bicep muscles, therefore, it affects a lot of muscles in the upper body.
Variations such as pendlay, or with dumbbells are also fantastic.
#5 Shoulder Press
The shoulder press can be done sitting or standing; one hand or two; with dumbbells or a barbell. To do it you take the weight from your collar bone and press it straight up over your head until your arms are locked out. This uses the deltoids and the triceps and is a briliant muscle builder for these areas due to the loads you can use.
#6 The Lunge
There are various ways to do a lunge; with a barbell; dumbbells or kettlebells; stationary or walking; forwards or backwards. In general a lunge is where you go from standing and then take one leg forward (or backward) so that your leading knee is 90 degrees to the floor and then you stand back up.
This uses similar muscles to the squat, so the quadriceps, the hamstrings and glutes mainly. The variations can affect which muscles it hits more.
Nearly every client I’ve trained wants to be good at these. You grab a stationary bar or ledge above you, and pull yourself so that you can see over it. Simple as that.
It is not at all, it takes strength and stability to move your own weight in such a controlled manner but the benefits from mastering it are massive in terms of muscle and strength.
A staple of military training all around the world. It uses the same muscles as a bench press but you need more core stability to keep your body straight. Once you get strong enough to do these they can become more about muscle endurance than sheer strength, but they are still a fantastic movement.
#9 Glute Ham Raise
Not a very common one as they require equipment to be done. They use the hamstrings in a similar manner to leg curls but you have to use your whole body around them, which only ups the difficulty. These are great for building muscle in the hamstrings and butt.
These can be done with parallel bars or with your hands behind you. They are fantastic for tricep and chest strength as well as muscle in those areas.
To Sum up…
The majority of the exercises listed are compound movements and this is because these can lead to more strength and more weight shifted and therefore more volume. Volume has been shown to be the prime element in muscle hypertrophy.
It should also be noted that while these exercises will build muscle in those precise areas, they will only stimulate overall fat loss as you can’t choose where you lose your fat. Your body just does it in a general fashion.