How To Choose The Right Muscle Building Exercise

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The Most Effective Muscle-Building Exercises For Every Body Part!

The Most Effective Muscle-Building Exercises For Every Body Part!

With the help of EMG analyses, you can accelerate your muscle gains by selecting the single-best exercise for each body part. Learn about the best overall movement that no workout routine should be without!

If gym exercises could compete head-to-head in the same way that your favorite college football teams do, we might finally and unequivocally be able to determine the best possible movements for every body part, bar none. Unfortunately, because exercises cannot be played on the field, we must go a little deeper to pit them against one another.

To compile this list of the best muscle-building movements, we used EMG analysis—an electrodiagnostic technique that measures muscular electrical activity—scoured recent scientific research, examined which movements allow you to best overload the target muscles, and consulted leading experts.


Who Was Involved in Putting Together This All-Star Workout Squad?

Athletes from iSatori, a sports nutrition company Author and educator Stephen Adele, CEO and founder of iSatori These panelists collectively have decades of in-the-trenches experience coaching elite amateur and professional athletes.

"Any weight-training program that omits these fundamental, compound, maximum-growth exercises is horribly incomplete," says Adele of iSatori. "[Skipping these lifts] ignores movements like squats and deadlifts, which cause the body to release growth-promoting hormones that cause you to grow—to gain both muscular size and strength."and strength."

In other words, the movements you see here are the best of the best for each muscle group. These are the exercises that you must include in your training if you want to increase muscle size. Once you've mastered them, perform them first in your workout when your energy levels are at their peak. Then, load them appropriately with very heavy weights so that you can also focus on maximizing strength, which will help you build more size.


Shoulders
Standing barbell overhead press is the best.

Muscles of Majority The following muscles were worked: middle and front delts, trapezius, triceps, upper pectoralis, and serratus anterior.

Why Standing barbell presses, according to Hyde, should be a part of every lifter's shoulder routine. "They necessitate upper back and rear-delt stabilization, core activation, and powerful legs. According to EMG research, when compared to a seated dumbbell press, there is significantly greater muscle activation of both the middle and front delts during a standing barbell press. This is critical because the capped delts are the two primary muscles responsible for cannonball."

"This should be one of your primary presses on either shoulder or push day," Hyde says. "If you wait too long to incorporate it into your workout, you'll be too tired to train your delts with the intensity they need." While delts can usually be trained at a slightly higher rep range, this movement should be performed in the same manner as a bench press. Vary the reps from three reps per set to eight to twelve reps per set for hypertrophy."


Quads
Front squat is the best.

Quadriceps, gluteus maximus, and hamstrings were the major muscles worked.

Why It is ranked first: "Front squats are at the top of the list for a couple of reasons," explains Hyde. "The majority of the load and force should be concentrated around the midfoot, regardless of where the bar is placed." The bar is held high on the anterior delts during a front squat, and there is little change in back angle, allowing for more quad recruitment and activation [than other types of squats]. When the bar is positioned correctly during a back squat, the hips are forced to travel further backward, putting more strain on the hip extensors (glutes)."

Because quad exercises put more strain on the knee, Hyde points out that front squats have less shearing and compressive force across the knee joint. As a result, they are a knee-friendly squat variation.

"Use the front squat as the primary movement for a quad-focused leg workout," says Hyde. "This exercise requires not only leg strength, but also a strong upper back and core. If you don't have much flexibility, you can cross your arms over the bar or use lifting straps to hold the bar in a pseudo front-rack position."


Chest
Best: Bench press with a barbell

Pectoralis major and minor, anterior deltoid, triceps, and serratus anterior were the major muscles worked.

Why It's number one: This is where you should begin on chest day, at least most of the time. "With a bar, you get the most power and thus can press the most weight," Hyde explains. "In addition, the bar is easier to control than dumbbells. Several EMG studies have concluded that the barbell bench press not only activates the pecs more than incline presses, decline presses, and flyes, but it also targets the triceps brachii more effectively."

In Your Education: Place the bench press at the beginning of your workout for heavy sets with low rep ranges. The amount of bar you can move is affected by your grip width. According to research, a grip in which your forearms are 90 degrees to the floor (completely flat) is best.


Biceps
Dumbbell curl is the best.

Muscles of Majority Biceps, brachialis, brachioradialis, and pronator teres were all worked out.


Why Is It Number One?

"While using a barbell allows you to lift heavier weights, it can also cause muscle imbalances if the stronger side takes over," Hyde says. "Dumbbells can help (or prevent) strength and muscle imbalances, as well as provide adequate stimulus for muscle growth. Dumbbell curls allow for a more natural movement and a greater range of motion, as well as the option of varying your hand position—supinated throughout, neutral like hammer curls, and neutral to supinated as you turn the weight up as you curl—which can slightly alter the activation of the different biceps heads."

If you're training both the biceps and the back on the same day, do biceps moves after the multijoint pulling exercises for the back. If you follow a body-part split with an arm day, try loads at the heavier end of the muscle-building rep range for sets of 8.


Back
Best for the back: bent-over barbell row

Latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rear delt, rhomboid, teres major, lower back, and biceps were all worked out.

Why It is ranked first: According to Hyde, "EMG studies clearly show that bent-over rows hammer the entire back evenly." "This exercise results in significant increases in back muscle activation, with equal contributions from the lower back and lower and upper lats." [6] When handling very heavy loads, make sure your lower back does not round when pulling, as this can put additional strain on the lumbar discs."

"Bent-over rows are my absolute favorite exercise for building a big back, and they're the main movement I credit for my back development," says Team iSatori athlete Nick Wright. "I switch between an underhand and an overhand grip, each of which is slightly different." The overhand grip reduces biceps activation in a variety of ways, as I've discovered.

The Yates-style row, named after former Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates, has always been my favorite. I've also done them in the style of Ronnie Coleman, where you're angled about 45 degrees above the horizontal plane. It's fine to use some momentum as long as it's controlled, especially on the negative."

In your training, perform heavy sets with lower rep ranges, such as 6-8 or 8-10 reps. The Smith-machine version is a good substitute; it locks you in the vertical plane, but your body must be precisely positioned relative to the bar. For a different variation, try the reverse-grip version, which emphasizes the lower lats and biceps.


Glutes
Best for Glutes: Hip-extension machine/butt blaster

Gluteus maximus and medius, as well as the hamstrings, were all worked out.

Why it's No. 1: "One of the largest series of published EMG data by a group out of Hamburg, Germany, discovered that the lying hamstring curl with your thighs elevated and a "Forced glute contraction activated the glutes the best," Hyde says.

"Because that isn't a common exercise, I'd recommend the hip machine as a close second. It's essentially a simulation of a sprinter's stride (which can be done standing or on all fours). You'll recruit the glutes as you progress to a more extended position. Concentrate on squeezing the glutes rather than rushing through the reps."

"Because this is a better isolation type of movement," Hyde says, "you'll want to do it after your heavy leg work of squats, deadlifts, and/or hack squats." "This is going to really work your glutes, which are the primary movers in your multijoint leg exercises. Reps should be in the 8-12 range, with a slow and controlled tempo."


Weighted parallel-bar dip is the best triceps exercise.

Triceps, anterior delt, and upper pectoralis major were the major muscles worked.

Why Is It Number One? "Published EMG evidence tends to show that triceps dips, which maintain a more vertical body position while limiting elbow flare, elicit a very high amount of triceps activation," Hyde says. "While other exercises may activate the triceps more effectively, the multijoint nature of dips, as well as the ability to truly control rep speed, make them an excellent choice." resistance, and chest angle, gives it the edge over other single-joint triceps moves." The weighted bench dip is a good alternative, according to Hyde.

In Your Education: To work in a muscle-building rep range, you'll most likely require a belt that allows you to hang additional plates from your waist. Doing endless reps with your body weight will not produce much of the muscle-building effect you seek. Do heavy dips first in your workout, adding weight so you can train toward the lower end of the target rep range of 8-10, as you would with any multijoint triceps exercise.


Best for hamstrings: Romanian deadlift

Muscles of Majority Hamstrings, gluteus maximus, and lower back were all worked out.

Why It is ranked first: "The Romanian deadlift is one of the best exercises for really hammering the hammies (RDL). A recent EMG study found that the RDL outperformed the leg curl, glute-ham raise (GHR), and good mornings in terms of hamstring activation "Hyde says.

Because the hamstrings cross the knee and hip joints, you must include movements that target each, as no single movement works the entire muscle to its full potential. The RDL primarily works the hamstrings from the hip joint, so include a knee-joint hamstring exercise, such as a leg curl, in your routine to ensure complete overall development, advises iSatori VP of marketing Craig Stevenson.


Donkey calf raising is the best way to raise calves.

Muscles of Majority Gastrocnemius and soleus worked.

Why it's at the top: "The same German group that reported on the glute exercise also discovered that the donkey calf raise had the greatest activation of the calves," Hyde explains. "They also discovered that [using] a foot position with the toes pointing directly forward increased recruitment of both the medial and lateral heads of the gastrocs."

If your gym doesn't have a machine version of this exercise, it's time to get close to your training partner and perform these the way Arnold did—with someone on your back—to ensure you're overloading the target muscle sufficiently.

In Your Education: "Perform this exercise after you've finished all of your quad and ham work. Because the gastrocnemius is indirectly recruited in many leg movements, you don't want to fatigue them before performing these exercises "Hyde says. "Perform this movement before the rest of your calf exercises, especially bent-knee movements that minimize the work done by the gastroc. One training tip: Increase the reps and really force the eccentric on these!"


Overlla
Best: back squat with a barbell

Quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves were the major muscles worked.

Why "The barbell back squat tops the overall list for several reasons," explains Hyde. "It first engages the calves, quads, hamstrings, and glutes before moving on to the erector spinae, upper back, and biceps. Squats, specifically those done for 6-10 reps, have been shown in a large body of research to significantly increase testosterone levels. You can also vary the exercise by adding chains, performing box squats, or changing foot positions to emphasize different areas of your lower body."

Jason "Big J" English, an iSatori athlete, joins the list. "The most important exercise for total-body strength, mass, and balance is squats." Great results are unavoidable no matter what type of training program you're on, whether it's an athletic training program or a personal training program. upper/lower split or a 4-5-day-a-week training program. Squats are extremely important in all aspects of any sport. So do them with zeal!"

"Recent research suggests that doing squats earlier in your workout may transiently increase testosterone throughout the workout," according to Hyde. This, in theory, would improve the response of the smaller musculature in subsequent working sets." Aim for a moderate load (70-80% of your 1RM, or a weight you can do for 8-10 reps) with a high volume (keeping your total number of sets high). Rest should be limited.

Regardless of what research and our panel of experts say, everyone has a different opinion on what is the best exercise. Who are we to tell you that if you truly believe one movement is superior to another? List it in the comments section and explain why!


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