"Eat your veggies and you'll grow up big and strong", drilled into us every night as little kids. And whilst this is true, our parents left out one very important detail... to get strong you need to lift heavy stuff, regularly!
Sounds pretty straightforward, right? That's because it is! When it comes to exercise we love to preach the good ol' saying "keep it simple stupid". Sure, you can write up a program with heaps of fancy-pants exercises, but there's a reason people stick to the basics - because they work!
For our strength training days there are 5 movements we focus our sessions around - squat, hinge, lunge, push and pull. These are all simple movements we perform almost every single day, and they become the basis of our strength training not only because they improve our everyday mobility as human beings, but because they also make up our compound movements.
As you've probably realised we are major advocates for compound exercises, because honestly, what's not to love? You hit multiple muscle groups with a single exercise, burn excess calories and strengthen your heart all at the same time! We could ramble on about the awesomeness of compound exercises for days, so we'll stop here and get down to it.
Here are our 5 best muscle building exercises
No explanation for what movement this one is, the legendary squat. Famous for growing the booty and strengthening the lower body, squats are great for growing your quads, hamstrings, glutes, abductors and calves.
They'll also help to strengthen and tighten your core, as your abs should ALWAYS be engaged to provide lower back support and prevent injury, especially during a heavier session.
WFA TIP: technique over weight
When it comes to squatting (or any exercise for that matter) nailing the technique should always be the priority. We recommend warming up with just the barbell to make sure your movement and mobility are correct before stacking on the weight plates.
The biggest, baddest and best (well, we think so) exercise of them all, the deadlift. This is where our hinge movement comes into play. Rather than predominantly bending at the knee like we would with a squat, we hinge at the hips to execute our range of motion.
We call this movement the biggest and baddest because there pretty much isn't a single muscle group this exercise doesn't hit. Powered through your legs, with your core engaged, the deadlift also strengthens your back and shoulders as you lift the barbell from floor to your hips.
Being most people's heaviest lift, the deadlift really is the king of all muscle building exercises. If you're goal is to build strength and size, then this exercise should definitely be part of your training regime.
WFA TIP: maintain a neutral spine
When performing a deadlift it's important we don't arch our back before powering up. Pull your shoulders back, chest up and your back straight to avoid any pain or discomfort. To help with this, you can always chuck on a weight belt or try out a trap bar (imaged above).
Another exercise that takes the fun out the guessing game. Lunges are a leg exercise that target the big three - quads, hamstrings and glutes. They also work your hip flexors and abductors, helping achieve muscle symmetry and a fully sculpted lower body.
We love this exercise because there are SO MANY variations you can do - walking, reverse, curtsey, lateral, and the list goes on. You can add even more variety by doing them bodyweight style, or with dumbbells or a bar.
Some of you may find this surprising but trust us, lunges are a secret weapon when it comes to growing the glutes. Because our bootay is made up of three main areas - the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus, we need to focus on targeting all of those areas if we want it to grow. Each lunge variation will help you hoan in on a different glute area, helping you reach your goals!
4. Bench press
An easy selection for our top 5 muscle building exercises, and a clear winner for our push movement. The bench press is a beauty for developing your upper body, hitting the trifecta for your chest, shoulders and triceps.
By laying in a flat position all power for this exercise comes from the muscles mentioned above. There is no wriggle room to pinch a little extra mojo from your lower body when the going gets tough, making it a true test of upper body strength. So, if your goal is to grow boulder shoulders and tight pecs, you should be benching regularly.
WFA TIP: try making it tri dominate
If you're into your weight training then you already know how difficult it can be to grow those pesky tris. Every few sessions alter your bench press by narrowing your grip as this will help put the load into your triceps more.
5. Bent over row
Last, but certainly not least, the bent over row. This exercise takes the cake for our pull movement, and when done regularly, baby you'll have some back!
Another compound exercise that hits a triple whammy - your lats, biceps and core, this move will help you add size to your back whilst tightening up those abs.
The bent over row not requires the ability to have a strong pull, but because you are bent over you need to have a strong core to stabilise your body.
WFA TIP: switch up your grip
To make this exercise predominantly back focused go with an over-grip position. If you want to incorporate your bi's a little more, switch to your grip to underneath.
As our final tip, we recommend performing all these exercises with a barbell and weight plates if your looking to build muscle. As a general rule, you'll normally be able to lift much heavier with a barbell compared to dumbbells which is important when trying to add size.
As always, for any more tips and tricks, you can always contact our expert team or drop a comment below!