You can look into any muscle-building magazine or book and you’ll find literally hundreds of different exercises, all claiming to be superior to one another. Keep in mind that any exercise that produces a positive adaptation response is a good thing. There just happens to be great exercises and amazing exercises. Let’s take a look at the exercises that science has shown to be some of the best in the fitness world.

The Squat

You’re probably not surprised that this one is on the list. Squats have long been considered one of the best exercises around. In fact, every workout program needs to incorporate some form of squat because of the number of benefits it provides. Check out this link for a full breakdown of the squat.

Main Muscles activated:

  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Calves
  • Hip flexors
  • Abdominals

Benefits of the Squat:

  1. Shown to dramatically boost growth hormone levels
  2. Increases overall performance in other areas such as jumping
  3. Increases bone density and strength

The Deadlift

Another classic of the bodybuilding world, the deadlift is a compound movement that packs the most bang for your buck. Check out this link for a full breakdown of the deadlift.

Main Muscles activated:

  • Hamstrings
  • Lower back
  • Glutes
  • Calves
  • Hip flexors
  • Abdominals

Benefits of the Deadlift:

  1. Due to the compound movement, fat burning potential is maximized with this exercise
  2. Helps to manage and improve lower back pain
  3. Improves mobility and stability

The Bench Press

Last but not least is the bench press. When performed correctly, the bench press is an excellent way to build plenty of upper body muscle mass. Like the other two exercises above, to maximize your gains you need to perfect the form and posture of the movement. Check out this link for a full breakdown of the bench press.

Main Muscles activated:

  • Chest
  • Triceps
  • Shoulders
  • Abdominals

Benefits of the Bench Press:

  1. Dramatically increases your ability to throw (great for athletes)
  2. Supports lean muscle tissue growth
  3. Increases your “push” strength (think about generating maximum force production)


The three exercises listed below may not have come as a shock to you but think about the “classic” title that they’ve earned. These exercises have been around for a very long time and there’s a reason for that: they work! Master these three to see a real difference in your muscle gains.


Aaron Shaner, et al. The Acute Hormonal Response to Free Weight and Machine Weight Resistance Exercise. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. April 2014 – Volume 28 – Issue 4 – p 1032–1040.
Hartmann H1, Wirth K, Klusemann M, Dalic J, Matuschek C, Schmidtbleicher D. Influence of squatting depth on jumping performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Dec;26(12):3243-61. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31824ede62.
Fábio Renovato França, Thomaz Nogueira Burke, Erica Sato Hanada, and Amélia Pasqual Marques. Segmental stabilization and muscular strengthening in chronic low back pain ‐ a comparative study. Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2010 Oct; 65(10): 1013–1017.
Chris Barnett; Vaughan Kippers; Peter Turner. Effects of Variations of the Bench Press Exercise on the EMG Activity of Five Shoulder Muscles. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (Impact Factor: 1.86). 10/1995; 9(4).

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