Best Exercises To Build Muscle – Build Muscle & Strength With These 5 Compound Exercises

Best Exercises To Build Muscle

What are the best exercises to build muscle? A question that gets asked a lot in the fitness world. There may be a lot of answers to this question all over the web and depending on who you ask you will get different answers almost every time. I like to keep things simple and to the point when it comes to building muscle.

Every time I came to a plateau or wanted to gain more overall strength I always went to these five compound Exercises. A compound exercise is when you are activating a series of muscle groups to perform a movement.

I stuck to them for a few weeks before trying to crush a new personal record. Regardless if it is about running faster, jumping higher, or trying to perform better overall sticking to these compound exercises for me always did the trick. .

First I want to talk about the 5 main compound exercises I do to build muscle, strength, and crush personal records. Then we will go over how much weight and rest time you should have to stimulate muscle growth.  And finally how you can incorporate these exercises into your weekly workout routine.

Alright, let’s get to it…

5 Compound Exercises To Build Muscle & Strength

What I like about these 5 exercises is that it requires a lot of energy to perform which means you will be burning more calories and fat.


Get underneath a barbell and position it right on your traps or if more comfortable position the bar slightly under your traps. From here you want to make sure you keep your back straight and squat down like if you are about to sit in a chair. Come down until your knees bend at a 90-degree angle (pause) and come back up.

(Make sure you keep all the weight back towards your heels and not on your toes)

Squats are a great all-around body compound exercise. It targets your legs, abdominal and even your upper body muscles. It trains the muscles of the hips, thighs, buttocks, hamstrings, and quadriceps femoris muscle.

This exercise also helps strengthen the bones, insertion of the tendons and ligaments as well.

Dead Lift:

Your feet should be hip-width apart and grip the barbell right outside your legs. You can use overhand grip or a combination of underhand and overhand. Your shoulder should be back and down while keeping your back straight in a neutral spine position from start to finish. The bar should be as close as possible to your legs throughout the whole range of motion.

(if you have a hard time keeping your back straight try looking up throughout the range of motion)

This is by far my favorite compound exercises to do. When you perform a deadlift you are activating your butt, upper front legs, inner thigh, upper back legs, lower back, and upper neck muscles.

You will be surprised on how stronger you become after a few weeks of performing this exercise. The amount of muscle volume you will get is amazing (especially if you are new to strength training). Your whole body will be sore the next day and even more sore the day after. But I personally enjoy the pain. When I feel the pain I know my muscle are recovering and growing.

Bench Press:

Lie right under a barbell, barbell should be lined up with your eyes, un-rack the bar, and bring it down to your lower chest. Make sure your elbows are not too flared out, keep them about a 45-degree angle toward your body.

When we perform a bench press we are activating more than just our chest muscles. We are also using our triceps and front deltoid shoulder muscle. You will be pretty amazed of the amount of development you get from this single exercise alone!

Shoulder Press/Military Press:

Keep your stance hip-width. Grip the bar slightly outside shoulder-width. While gripping, your elbows should be slightly in front of the barbell. Push the barbell over your head (shoulders push up into bar) until you reach full arm extension. Keep a full grip and your heels down throughout the range of motion. Torso and legs should remain static. once you, reach full arm extension bring the barbell back down until your elbows reach a 90-degree angle and repeat the range of motion again until desired reps.

(Shoulder presses can be done with dumbbells or barbells while standing or sitting down)

Shoulder press/Military Press target the deltoids muscles in the shoulders as well as triceps. When performed when standing (which I prefer than sitting down) it works the core and legs which help stabilize weight.

Pull Ups:

Grab the pull up bar with a shoulder width grip and palms facing away from you. Hang on the pull-up bar with straight arms and your legs off the floor. Pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar. Your elbows should be pointing down towards the floor while when your chin is over the bar. Lower yourself back down until your arms are straight again.

Pull-Ups target your arms, shoulders, scapulae, abdominal, hands and forearms. These may be hard for some of us to do but the more you do them the easier they get.

Rest Time & Weight

More strength equals more muscle! The heavier you lift the stronger your body will become and the bigger your muscle will grow. It’s that simple.

If your focus is to build muscle and strength you should wait at least 1 to 3 minutes before starting the next set. Weight should be at least 75%-85% of your 1 rep max. For example, if you are able to bench press 225lbs once and can’t do any more reps other than that first initial rep then you have found your one rep max.

once you, find your 1 rep max you can calculate 75%-85% of your one rep max to create working sets. In this instance, 75% of 225lbs is 170lbs (round up). Your workout set should be similar to this; 3-4 sets of 170lbs bench press for 5-12 reps.

Sets and reps will vary depending on the complexity of the exercise. If you are just starting off do sets and rep ranges that you feel comfortable with and build a solid foundation to start from. From there gradually increase weight and modify your set and rep ranges.

You can also do 1 rep of your 1 rep max for 5 sets and have a rest time of 3-5 minutes between sets. In doing so you will gain strength and muscle quicker than reducing your one rep max as described above. I recommend doing this only if you are an experienced lifter. The last thing you want to do is injure yourself and give all the gains back due to injury.

How Often You Should Lift To Build Muscle

Like most things in fitness, there is no perfect answer to this question. Everyone is different and some of us are more experience than others. We all have different weaknesses and strength and the best advice I can give you if you (especially if you are starting off) is to not take on too much too soon. Allow your body to get used to strength training and build a solid foundation.

I Personally would strength train Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays. I like to start with one of the main compound exercises listed above and follow up with other exercises that hit the same muscle group. I allow my body to rest and recover Tuesdays and Thursday. Saturdays and Sundays I will do some HIIT cardio. Here is how my strength training schedule looks like:


  • Bench Press 245lbs x 5-7 reps, 4 sets, 1-3 minute rest between sets
  • Dips (body weight) x 15 reps, 4 sets, 1-minute rest
  • Triceps extensions 70lbs x 12-15reps, 4 sets, 1-minute rest
  • Abs


  • Rest


  • Squat 275lbs x 6-7 reps, 4 sets, 1-3 minute rest
  • Dead Lift 365lbs x 4-5 reps, 4 sets, 1-3 minute rest
  • Leg Extensions 130lbs x 12 reps, 1-2 minute rest
  • Abs


  • Rest


  • Pull-ups with 35lbs added x 5-6 reps, 4 sets, 2-3 minute rest
  • Barbell Bent Over Rows 145lbs x 12 reps, 4 sets, 1-2 minute rest
  • Military Press 135lbs x 10-12 reps, 4 sets, 1-3 minute rest
  • Abs


  • HIIT Cardio


  • HIIT Cardio or Rest

From time to time I will switch up this routine depending on my current goals but it’s a good general idea on how I approach my strength training.

Keep Things Simple

There is no need to over think things. By now, you should have a good idea on how to build a foundation to start from for strength training. You can model my routine listed above until you come up with your own. Again the weight listed above in my routine is based on what I can handle and may not work for everyone.

Step one is to find your one rep max with the compound exercises listed above and calculate 75%-85% of your one rep max to work into working sets. Step two is to create a workout schedule for the week. Step 3, execute your workout schedule and build a foundation. And step 4 increase the intensity as you progress and get stronger.

Hope you guys enjoyed reading my post. Let me know what compound exercises you do to get stronger and gain muscle by dropping a comment below. All questions are welcome also!

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