It's important to choose the right weight lifting exercises for your workouts. If you want the best muscle gains possible you should be doing the right exercises.
A common mistake made by a lot of people in the gym looking to build muscle is choosing the wrong exercises. Don't become a statistic, and learn the proper lifts even if they are hard to perform at first and make you look silly!
Let's take a look at the most effective weight lifting exercises out there to build muscle, sorted into the main different muscle groups. You should work all of these muscle groups to build an all-round great figure.
Many people try to avoid working their legs, or they don't work them as hard as their arms or chest for example. That type of thinking is not good, you should train your legs just as hard as any other part of your body.
The reason why is simple. If you just build up your upper body and avoid working your legs, your figure would look odd. Think about it, a strong muscly upper body with weak "twig" legs would just look plain silly. But there is another important reason that is explained in our article on leg workouts.
The most effective leg exercises are:
Squats are definitely the most important leg exercise, and some even say the most important exercise for your whole body. Read more about squats with our articles:
The Importance of Barbell Squats
Proper Squat Technique
Along with your legs, a lot of people avoid working their back. If you want to pack on as much muscle mass as possible, avoiding your back is a big mistake. The muscles in your back make up a lot of the overall muscle mass in your body, and a large, well-defined muscular back makes your figure look very powerful and looks great.
Including these exercises in your back workout will go a long way:
For the best gains in your chest you should include the bench press as the main weight lifting exercise. There are different ways to perform the bench press, either with a barbell or dumbbells.
You can do a basic flat bench press, or you can do it on an incline or decline bench. These different variations will work different types of chest muscle. These are the chest exercises you should concentrate on:
Learn more by reading how to structure a solid chest muscle workout.
Big strong shoulders are a must for a powerful physique. The best exercises for building up your shoulders fast are:
Read about structuring a great shoulder workout here.
The arms (biceps, triceps and forearms) are the most "showy" muscles and so many people focus too much on working their arms, and other muscle groups are ignored. Sure, work your arms very hard! But don't neglect the other muscle groups. But building arm muscle is only one part of building your overall body.
Check out our page on arm workouts to build large and strong biceps and triceps.
Everyone dreams about having those rock solid, sexy-looking 6 pack abs. Although many people are misguided about how to go about getting those great abs.
Most people believe that if you train your abs very hard and at frequent times, your 6 pack will magically appear. That's far from the truth. You see, for your muscles to show in your abdominal region, you need to get your overall body fat under a certain level. No matter how hard you train your abs, unless you have a very low bodyfat percentage, they won't show all that much.
I'm not saying you shouldn't train your abs, just understand that you won't necessarily see amazing abs until you start lowering your overall body fat percentage.
There we go, the most effective weight lifting exercises for all the major muscle groups. Like I said before, don't slack off on any of the muscle groups. It's important to train all muscle groups for a balanced body.
Hopefully this article has helped, but always remember to never get stuck in research land. Information is great, but what's infinitely more important and the only thing that actually matters to get results and change your life is to be hitting the gym week in week out, with a properly-structured, intelligently-crafted (based on science-backed principles) and overall well-balanced strength training and nutrition plan to effetcively build muscle as a skinny guy (AKA a lifting hardgainer). When you have a great program used by other successful hardgainers that have gone before you, you can't go wrong if you simply stick with it.
But here's the thing:
You don't just randomly stumble upon a highly-effective program that's designed specifically for hardgainers by simply browsing a popular fitness magazine, site, or forum (or asking your average run of the mill personal trainer at a local gym who is highly likely to be just repeating the same old ineffective, incomplete mainstream advice they learned in the classroom). No, instead, to create the best weight training and nutrition program for maximum results, you must be a little more selective in the program you choose to follow.
So, here are the 3 different paths you can take to guarantee you follow a finely-tuned, effective program that will leave nothing to chance and give you the best muscle building and strength gains of your life (again, if you simply execute and don't quit after a mere week 'cause you don't notice a change...).
See our flagship 7-step introductory guide to building muscle for beginners which covers all the basics you need to know, and guides you through designing and creating an effective program for muscle gain without getting fat. If you don't want to spend any money buying a pre-made program or finding a (good) personal trainer, and/or you're the DIY type who enjoys researching every little detail and knowing about how everything works and fits together, this is probably the path for you if you have the patience.
If you don't want to take the time to plan your own natural bodybuilding plan from scratch, following an already made, high-quality, credible program from a true expert in this field can save you a ton of time.
It can give you a great head start on your transformation journey and makes things a whole lot simpler as it's simply a matter of understanding what the program involves, how to do perform all the exercises, how to execute on the included meal plans (taking into account your own perferences as you'll want to tweak any pre-made diet plan for your own needs), and then simply executing week in and week out.
Sean Nal's popular hardgainer program is the one I currently recommend most, as it's the most complete, easy to follow program for beginners that I've seen (and I've experimented with many over the years). It's also the exact program that initially changed everything for me and I owe a fair part of my overall hardgainer success (going from 132lbs/60kg to 220lbs/100kg - mostly muscle) to being fortunate enough to having stumbled upon this program when I was struggling with gaining weight and building muscle. See my full review of Sean Nal's program here.
Path C: Find a (Good) In-Person Trainer
This isn't for everyone though as a quality trainer who knows what they're doing, and most importantly has got great results themselves (ideally starting out in similar shoes to you) can be quite costly. This is the path you should probably really consider if you have any type of serious injury though.
Whichever path you choose, never forget the single most important thing: never give up, and your success in transforming your body, strength, health, posture, and self-confidence will simply be a matter of when, not if. I'd say good luck, but if you really understand that last sentence, you're not gonna need it, friend. I wish you nothing but success.
Mad-Scientist of Hardgainer-to-Hero Transformations for 12+ Years
Last and Definitely Least: Certified Fitness Instructor (real-world experience > school)