When you exercise to build muscle, you can expect barbells and dumbbells to play a major role in your workout sessions. That is because free weight exercises are the undisputed king of muscle building. Forget fancy machines and gimmicky, expensive supplements. Here we will tell you all about the best barbell and dumbbell exercises for every muscle group in your body for truly incredible muscle. These free weight exercises have stood the test of time and have been employed by every single Bodybuilder who has ever graced the competitive stage.
The Best Free Weight Exercises – EVER
For simple reference, the following guide has been segmented into the various different exercises for different body parts and muscle groups. As always, the best results will be achieved by consuming a high protein, low fat Diet and supplying the body with adequate rest between workouts.
Chest and Back
Legs notwithstanding, these are the two biggest muscle groups that bodybuilders work so hard to develop. Aesthetically speaking, a well-developed chest is surely one of the bodybuilding essentials, especially if you plan to join competitions. Even if you are Bodybuilding purely for personal satisfaction, the importance of well-developed back should not be underestimated. Aside from enhancing that impressive ‘V’ shape physique that you seek, a strong Back also allows you to lift more weight, further increasing strength and muscle mass plus avoiding injury when doing so. Here are the best free weights exercises for the Chest and Back:
- Bench Press – Considered as the top upper body exercise for building muscle mass ever invented, this should be the focal point of your chest workout routine. It targets primarily the pectorals (chest muscles). To perform the bench press, you should lie face-up on an exercise bench and then grab a weighted barbell with a wide grip. Lower the bar slowly towards your chest and then raise it back up until your arms are nearly locked. When you bench press, be sure to keep your elbows at a 90-degree angle from your body and avoid using momentum in raising the bar. You should also keep your feet on the floor and refrain from arching your back when you lower the bar.
- Dumbbell Flyes – This is a great exercise to complement the bench press and is a very effective way of isolating your pectorals. To perform, lie face-up on an exercise bench with a dumbbell held in each hand. Hold the dumbbells above your chest with your palms facing each other and your arms slightly bent. Rotate your shoulders to lower the weights and stretch your pectorals and then bring the weight back up by imitating the movement of a bear hug. You may also do this exercise on a 30-degree incline bench.
- Bent-over Rows – This may not be the most pleasant free weights exercise, but it’s one of the best for building your back muscles and should be a major focus of your back training. To perform, stand with your feet a shoulder width apart and then bend over at the waist until your upper body is almost parallel to the floor. Hold a barbell at arm’s length with your knees slightly bent. Pull the bar slowly up to your chest and then lower it back down to starting position. Be sure to keep your head up and your back in alignment throughout the movement.
- Upright Rows – This is an excellent exercise for working the traps and should be the main focus of your traps workout. To perform, grasp a barbell with your hands a shoulder width apart and then pull it towards your chin with your elbows leading. Lower back to starting position slowly. Be sure to keep the barbell close to your body and allow your wrists to flex as you raise the bar.
- Shrugs – This is a great exercise for isolating the traps and is an excellent alternative to upright rows. To perform, grasp a barbell with your arms extended. Raise your shoulders as high as you can and then lower them back as far down as possible. This exercise can also be performed with dumbbells.
Arms, Shoulders, and Abs
The arms and shoulders are among the most noticeable muscle groups even when you are fully clothed. It is understandable, then, why no bodybuilder should ever neglect these muscles in their workout routine. And when you remove your shirt, the abs becomes the focus of most people who admire your form. Well-developed abs are important not only for aesthetic reasons, but also because they are essential for you to continue growing stronger and essential core stability. Here are the best free weights exercises for building your arms, shoulders, and abs:
- Military Press – This is a very effective exercise for developing your shoulders and should therefore be the focus of your shoulder workout. To perform, grasp a barbell with your arms a shoulder width apart and then hold it right in front of your neck. Raise the bar overhead until your arms are fully extended and then lower it slowly back to starting position. Be sure to keep your chest out and your back straight throughout the movement. This exercise can be done either seated or standing up.
- Front Raise – This is excellent for isolating your front deltoids and as a superset to the military press. To perform, hold a dumbbell in each hand with your elbows bent at a 20-degree angle. Raise one arm until it is parallel to the floor, lower to starting position and then raise the other arm. Avoid bending back and letting gravity help when you perform this exercise. Remember to keep your back straight throughout the movement.
- Lateral Raise – This exercise is said to be the best way to hit your side delts. To perform, stand with a dumbbell in each hand and your elbows slightly bent. Raise both arms to the side until they are parallel to the floor and then slowly bring them back to starting position. Make sure that your palms are facing each other at the bottom of the movement and facing downwards at the top. You should also keep your elbows aligned with your wrists throughout the movement.
- Close-Grip Bench Press – This is considered as the primary exercise for working your triceps. To perform, lie face-up on an exercise bench and then grab a barbell with a narrow grip. Lower the bar to your chest and then raise it until your arms are nearly locked. Remember to keep your elbows close to your body and avoid arching your back.
- Biceps Curl – As the name implies, this exercise is an excellent way to build your biceps. To perform, grasp a barbell with your hands a shoulder width apart and your elbows tucked at your sides. Raise the bar until your forearms nearly touch your upper arms and then lower it back down to starting position. Be careful not to bend your back when you lift the bar and keep your elbows tucked throughout the movement.
- Wrist Curl – This exercise primarily targets the forearms. To perform, grasp a barbell with an underhand grip, sit on a bench and then rest your forearms on your thighs with your wrists just beyond your knees. Lower your wrists and allow the barbell to roll onto your fingers and then grip the bar again and curl your wrists upward. Keep your forearms glued to your thighs throughout the movement.
- Weighted Crunches – This classic exercise is still the best way to strengthen your abs and should therefore be the focus of your abs workout. To perform, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Holding a dumbbell over your chest with both hands, raise your shoulders up from the floor while keeping the small of your back on the floor and then lower yourself back down. Make sure that you do not use momentum to propel yourself up off the floor and remember to keep your neck relaxed throughout the exercise.
- Weighted Twisting Sit-ups – This is an excellent exercise to develop your obliques. To perform, lie down on an incline bench with your feet locked at the top of the bench and your hands holding a dumbbell over your chest. Raise your body up towards your knee and then twist your torso to one side. Lower yourself back down and then raise yourself back up while twisting to the other side. Keep your butt on the bench avoid jerking.
Too many men forget to work their legs as they focus on building their chest and arms. This is bad news because neglecting the legs will make you look disproportionate and more than a little ridiculous. Weak legs will also make you more prone to injury. Here are the best free weights exercises for building your leg muscles:
- Squat – This exercise should be a major focus in your weight training. To perform, stand with your feet a shoulder width apart and a barbell held on the back of your shoulders. Bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor and then raise yourself back to starting position. Make sure that the weight is held on your shoulders rather than your neck and look straight ahead while doing the squat. Not only will this incredible exercise build monstrous legs, but you will also benefit from a huge rush of human growth hormone and testosterone being secreted around your entire body leading to all over strength and muscle.
- Deadlift – This is considered the number one exercise for targeting the glutes but also builds legs. To perform, stand with a barbell held at arm’s length. Your hands should be a shoulder width apart and the barbell as close to your body as possible. Bend at the knees and waist to lower the barbell to the floor and then slowly return to starting position. Keep your arms straight and your back slightly arched throughout the movement. Keep looking ahead of you.
- Lunge – The short lunge is a great alternative to the squat and the long lunge to the deadlift. To perform, stand with a barbell held on the back of your shoulders. Lunge forward with one leg landing your heel and forefoot and then lower yourself until the knee of your other leg almost touches the floor. Return to the starting position and then lunge with the other leg. Look straight ahead and arch your back slightly for this exercise.
- Straight Leg Deadlift – This is the number one exercise for working the hamstring and is the second most important muscle building exercise for the legs. To perform, stand with a barbell held at arm’s length and your hands slightly wider than a shoulder width apart. Bending from the hips, lower the weight to the floor while keeping your legs straight and then slowly return to starting position. Look straight ahead as much as possible and get a better stretch by standing on a platform.
So, there you have it! Those are the best free weights exercises to build all of your muscle groups. What’s most important when you perform these exercises in proper form. After all, you want these exercises to help you build muscle mass, not to cause injury.