The land of bodybuilding routines is vast and complex. There are full body routines, one set per bodypart routines, routines that use rest-pause, routines that feature training just shy of failure, and routines that are high volume.
But while the amount and variety of bodybuilding routines is staggering and complex, the core exercises for these routines are not. If you want to get big and strong, regardless of your routine, consider making the following seven exercises the cornerstone of your time in the gym.
BENCH PRESS. The bench press is the favorite exercise of gym rats everywhere. Show me a bench at any local gym, and I will show you several lifters waiting in line to use it. The bench press is the king of upper body compound movements. Not only does it hammer your chest into massive growth, but the bench press also works your triceps and delts.
OVERHEAD PRESS. The overhead (or military) press rules the land of shoulder growth, blasting your side and front deltoids into submission. There are many effective variations of this movement…seated dumbbell presses, seated barbell presses, standing barbell presses, behind the neck barbell presses. The overhead press also works your triceps and traps.
DIPS. Dips are a potent, but little used tricep blasting exercise. Dips also work the chest and shoulders. Despite being a bodyweight exercise, additional weight can be added to this exercise by the use of a weight belt.
DEADLIFT. Another often avoided or ignored exercise is the deadlift. The deadlift is an amazingly anabolic compound lift that will bomb your back, traps, hamstrings, forearms, biceps, shoulders, and just about every other muscle in your body. No workout routine is complete without the deadlift.
ROWS. While most gym rats prefer to work their backs with lat pulldowns, the barbell or dumbbell row is a much more effective exercise. Rowing exercises allow you to lift heavy weights while still maintaining good form and encouraging thick, powerful back growth. Certain variations of t-bar rows are also effective as well.
PULLUPS. Pullups are one of the least favorite bodyweight exercises on the planet. The pullup is generally hated because it is difficult to perform. Like the dip, additional weight can be added while performing pullups via a weight belt. There are several variations of the pullups movement, all much more effective than machine lat pulldown movements.
SQUATS. Squats are hands down the king of all weightlifting exercises. If your routine does not include squats, you might as well be ice skating. Squats put your body into an anabolic state, and not only make your legs and lower body stronger, but also encourage upper body strength increases. You haven’t lifted until you’ve squatted.
There are also some very effective mass builders that you can use to supplement the seven core bodybuilding exercises. These exercises are:
CLOSEGRIP BENCH PRESS. A heavy compound exercise that stresses your triceps, chest and shoulders.
INCLINE BENCH PRESS. Another great variation of the bench press. Incline presses can be performed with a barbell or dumbbells.
UPRIGHT ROWS. Upright rows blast your shoulders and trap.
SHRUGS. Barbell or dumbbell shrugs are great for trap development, and work well hand in hand with deadlifts and shoulder work.
POWER CLEANS. The power clean is yet another under-used exercise. The power clean works your shoulders, traps, back, legs and more.
ROMANIAN DEADLIFTS. The Romanian deadlift is an effective way to blast your hamstrings, and an awesome alternative to lying machine hamstring curls.