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, well-balanced and optmized training and nutrition plan for your specific goals (which if you're reading this is likely building muscle mass as a hardgainer/skinny guy).
To do that there's essentially 3 paths you can take, each with their pros and cons:
Path A: Design Your Own Mass Gain Program (cheapest)
Learn all the crucial basics, principles and over-arching strategies you need to know about planning the best well-balanced, science-based, all-natural mass building program for your specific goal and workout/diet preferences with our pillar 7-step comprehensive guide for beginner lifters and future heros. If you don't want to spend any money at all, this is how you do it, but be sure to thoroughly research all aspects of your DIY muscle gain program as an unbalanced/bro-science/straight-up-bad program can mean little to no gains at best, and bad posture, injuries and a whole lot of having to backtrack later at worst.
Path B: Follow A Proven Mass Gain Program ($)
To save time having to research and plan the best muscle building program for your specific goals as a hardgainer/skinny-guy/skinny-fat-dad-bod/whatever, there are indeed some excellent pre-made online programs out there that have stood the test of time in getting guys great results. It can give you a great head-on your transformation journey, and will make things simpler for you as it's simply a matter of executing a specific eating and workout program and not having to worry about getting all the little important details of your program on-point.
Sean Nal's hardgainer transformation program (you can see my full review and before/after pics using the program here) is the complete all-in-one online program I'd recommend to most people and especially beginners, and is the one I personally got the most out of when I first started.
Ignore any slick marketing, this guy's the real deal and easily one of the smartest hardgainers-turned-fitness-models I've come across online. Vince Delmonte's Mass Gain program comes in at a close second, who's another smart guy with the real-world results to back it up, who has another effective and proven step by step online program that's helped thousands of guys transform over a few months (rather than years).
Path C: Find a (Good) In-Person Trainer ($$$)
The most expensive option to achieve your dream physique, but if you have the money to spend (1 on 1 coaching can quickly add up in costs) then ensure you pick a trainer who understands the science behind muscle gain, fat burning, supplementation, nutrition, etc, and most importantly choose one who practices what they preach and has similar results to what you want. If you're a hardgainer, ideally you'll want a trainer who has been in your shoes before and started out as a skinny hardgainer themselves and managed to build muscle successfully, otherwise they may not understand the best course of action for you and give you unhelpful generic advice.
Whichever path you choose - stick with it for long enough, don't give up, and your success in transforming your body, strength, health, posture, and confidence will simply be a matter of when, not if. I'd say good luck, but you understand that last sentence I said you won't need it ;)
Mad-Scientist of Hardgainer-to-Hero Transformations for 12+ Years
Last and Definitely Least: Certified Fitness Instructor (real-world experience > school)