Are You Missing Muscle Groups? Simple Weight Training Exercises that Get the Job Done
There are countless weight training exercises out there. A lot of them are very good. They provide variety and attack all of your muscle groups.
At the same time there are a lot that don’t or they can be overwhelming.
In this post of the weight training series we are going to talk about several exercises you can do and provide you with video examples so that you can do this from home.
Some of these could include weights or bands, but often it isn’t necessary. You can get in great shape by using gravity and your body as resistance.
The main purpose we want to accomplish here is to give you a variety of compound exercises that hit all of the major muscle groups so that way you give them all the proper attention.
If you can include these weight training routines in your weight training plan it can go a long way toward getting you into shape.
What Weight Training Exercises Should I Do?
So in order to do this right, I thought it would be good to give you some examples of how to exercise. Form and force are key to making the most of your experience working out and avoiding those terrible injuries.
The movements we are going to talk about are “compound” movements. These bad boys are called “compound” because they are synergistic or full body movements that work multiple parts of your body to get you faster results.
These are the same type of activities that we are accustomed to with our day-to-day activity. Whether that is picking up a box to put on a shelf or running up a flight of stairs, compound exercises will get you the most bang for your buck.
As I mentioned I am going to give you a variety of options. Some are “compound” in nature, but I will also give you some isolated stuff too. These are great weight training exercises for men and weight training exercises for women.
Now some of your workout wonks will say isolated exercises are a waste of time. I agree with that if you are just doing isolation exercises. Since you are not just doing lame isolated exercises, this is more of the icing on the cake.
I include them because it is good to have variety and at times you may feel like certain muscle groups are or aren’t progressing better than others. Most of you won’t give a crap or know what I am talking about, so kindly move on.
Others of you who are religious about compound exercises, please don’t freak out. Use what works for you and move on.
I will say that by having the synergistic experience you are not killing two birds with one stone, you are killing a flock of a hundred birds with one stone launcher. Sorry animal lovers, just trying to make an emotional impact on the significance of compound exercise.
Squats Aren’t iPhones
For some of you, as you read these exercises you may say, “There is nothing new here for exercises.” I understand, but that isn’t the point.
This site is full of time-tested content. You think eating protein, fat, and veggies are as innovative as an iPad? Our goal isn’t to reinvent the wheel.
We do want to help simplify things to get you the results you want at a pace that is comfortable for you. There are billions of us who struggle with body composition. A little simplicity can go a long way in solving that.
You want to max out on your reps where you can’t do any more. That is where you get the most bang for your buck. You will probably be sore after working out for the first couple weeks, but that is a good thing. That is you jolting your muscles back to life by breaking them down in order to build them back up.
You don’t want to feel pain that lingers after you are done with the exercise. If you do, then go lighter on weight or stop that exercise all together for a week or two at a minimum.
If you are as confused as a teenager going through puberty between the two, then play it safe, stop and take a breather. Splash some water on your face if it is gettin’ you all emotional (kinda joking).
Seriously take it easy. Injury sets you back possibly for weeks and even months.
What proper technique should you do?
Make sure to have a straight back as often as possible when doing these exercises. As your grandma always said, “Bend with your knees and not your back.” Use the strength of your legs and core to avoid running into problems with your lower back.
Make sure to take deep breaths between motions and restrict your core (stomach, lower back area) as you do the exercises. This will help with that whole “compound” impact on multiple muscle groups in your body. You will get more muscle involvement if you do and most importantly build your core, which is usually the last battlefield to win in the war on body fat.
So what exercises should I do? Let’s begin with leg exercises and then go through the other muscle groups.
Start with stretching and getting your blood flowing for about 5 minutes. Running in place is a great place to start.
Squats are important because they help to build strength in your joints, thighs, and butt. Think of all the times you sit down and get back up during your day. Some of you that may not be many times, but it is kinda a big deal.
How are you going to find that remote? Crawling?
Until you can master The Force, you are going to have to get up at some time to go get food, go to the bathroom, or search for the remote. The point is this is important.
You are definitely going to have to work on your balance and strength in your legs. For some of you, there will be flexibility issues, but be patient and keep at it. Start with less or no weight if needed. No weight is a great way to start so you can initially master technique.
Also as you build your strength and become more comfortable, you can introduce weights such as dumbbells (10-20 pounds), barbells (45 pounds), or even resistance bands. Some people get really hard core and will include chains with a plate attached to it (10-45 pounds).
Here are some examples:
Lunges are great for getting some sassy butt and hamstring muscles. The important thing is to limit weight. We are talking about 8-12 pounds for females and 10-25 pounds for dudes. At first you may attempt without weights to get the form down.
You want 90 degree angles in your legs as you lunge and again keep your back straight as you lunge. Make sure that you’re able to stay stable and balanced as you move forward.
Don’t move your step out too far so that it is hard to bring your back leg up as you stand up straight. As you progress, you can even increase the “power level” by exerting more force and maybe a bit more speed.
Deadlifts…more like “Live-lifts”.
While highly recommended, they come with concern and rightfully so. Let’s be honest, you can get injured lifting up your kids or a box off the floor. The same can happen if you aren’t careful with deadlifts. Life is full of pitfalls, but if you take care of your body, you have a lower risk of breaking down.
Deadlifts, just like a lot of these other exercises, can be dangerous if you don’t do it with caution, good posture, a strong emphasis put on maintaining the weight with your legs or “bending with your legs”. Just like any other exercise start with minimal weights and a safe speed.
Just like the lunges, deadlifts do a great job of working the butt and hamstrings to get those awkward look backs from people attracted to you. And we all like those.
- Barbell Deadlifts
- Dumbbell Deadlifts: This kind lady is nice enough to demonstrate it for us with dumbbells.
- Straight-Legged Deadlifts: Also there is a straight-legged example that I only recommend if you don’t have back problems, have a strong core, and sturdy legs.
Swings are one of those key synergistic type movements that work a variety of your body from your thighs to your bum, from your core up to your arms and shoulders. Start by getting a smaller kettlebell to master proper technique.
Calf Raises (Optional)
So this is one of those isolated exercises that we talked about. There might not be a lot of overall benefit on multiple muscle groups, but for some of you there may be some embarrassment that have chicken sticks for calves.
Often leg exercises work calves, but may have more emphasis on butt and thighs. This simply pinpoints a weakness. If you feel you are struggling here, then you can do calf raises with a variety of resources such as bands, dumbbells, and a barbell.
Chest and Back
Again it is important to warm up for at least 5 minutes and then stretch your back and chest. Often yoga movements may help here like upward and downward dog. Here are some examples of what you can do to get your upper body rolling.
Push-ups are all about those chest muscles, but they subtly impact the back as well. Whether you are incarcerated or bored looking for something to do on an airplane, push-ups seem to be an option in most every place you are doing your business.
For some of you that are starting to get back into shape, I would recommend the wall push-up. It is one of the best weight training exercises for beginners. Let me apologize in advance about the video quality and production below for wall push-ups. It may make you feel like you are in an episode of Dawson’s Creek, but sometimes being nostalgic is ok. One point this YouTube rock star doesn’t mention about wall push-ups is that as you move your feet back further, it creates more tension and difficulty. Adjust as needed and don’t headbutt the wall please.
As you become more comfortable use a chair to rest your hands on. Do the push-ups with your feet on the ground and your body at about a 45 degree angle, or maybe a little lower depending on the height of the chair.
Eventually as you master that, move to your classic push-up. Again this is about proper form and exerting power. Go down to the point where your torso and face are very close to touching the ground. If you get exhausted doing this, then feel free to do push-ups with your knees and feet on the ground. Don’t “push it” too far.
As you start to master push-ups like Joey Chestnut throwing down hot dogs, then you can raise your difficulty level by doing some of the other options below.
- Wall Push-Ups
- Push-Ups: hands and feet on ground
- Close and Wide Hand Push-Ups
- Feet Elevated on Chair Push-Ups: You can also create elevated Push-Ups by resting your hands on a chair a couple feet off the ground.
- Balance Push-Ups: To really test your balance, try push-ups with your feet on an exercise ball or one hand on an exercise ball and the second on the ground.
Body Rows or Dumbbell Rows
Rows act as the ying to the push-ups yang. This is the pull to the push.
The impact will be mostly felt in your back, but also in your chest and arms. For all strength training with your upper body you will commonly have to counter a push exercise with a pull exercise.
Full Body Rows
If you want to really do this well, then you will have to purchase either some gymnastics rings or blast straps that you can set up and properly pull. This is a safe way to get started and one of the best weight training exercises you can do.
As you feel stronger and more comfortable you can transition to rows and eventually pull-ups and chin-ups. Below is a random dude demonstrating the full body rows. Notice he is down rather low to start, so you may want to start at an angle as he shows at the end, which is how you should start.
If the rings or straps seem too complicated then get some light weights (10-20 pounds for males and 8-12 pounds for females) and do some bent over rows as demonstrated below.
I recommend starting with your weaker arm if you do the one arm dumbbell row. You are consistently using force on both arms, one pulling up the weight while the other holds your balance. This will give you the biggest return on investment.
Pull Ups and Chin Ups
As you progress in doing rows, eventually you will graduate toward pull ups or chin ups. You can alternate back and forth between reverse grip (chin-up) and overhand grip (pull-up). The chin-up with its reverse grip works core, lats, and biceps. The pull-up does a nice job of addressing the core and various areas of the back depending on how wide your grip is.
This video below demonstrates the reverse grip, which tends to be easier. See if you can do 8-12 reps. Also you can adjust your hands to a wide placement beyond your shoulder length slightly or you can narrow your hands to about a two thumbs length a part. Both will add difficulty and work different areas of your back muscles.
Shoulders and Arms
If you want strong, broad shoulders, then rows are where it is at. In fact, this is where the phrase “standing on the shoulders of giants” came from. Ok that isn’t true, but the exercise really does work for your shoulders and arms.
You can do upright rows with either weights, cables, bands, or a kettlebell. Start with the bands if you are new to this gig. If you start using weights, start out small (8-12 pounds for females and 10-20 pounds for males). Again master the form before you start adding weight.
- Upright Rows with Bands
- Upright Rows with Cables
- Upright Rows with Dumbbells
- Two-Arm Kettlebell Upright Rows
Dumbbell presses are great for your shoulders, back, and arms. They fit in that “push” category. As you begin, consider using very light weight (8-12 pounds for women or 10-20 pounds for men). If you need to go lighter, then do it.
No one will laugh at you. If they do, I give you permission to slap and or gut-punch them.
If you need to go without weights all together in order to get the process down, then do it. No hurry here. Technique is important.
Push press is the next synergistic compound step to help with shoulders, but also gets in a bit of legs as well. These examples are with a kettlebell and a barbell, but you can easily use dumbbells and bands as well. The difference in these push presses is that you are using your legs to get some momentum by slightly bending your knees.
- Double Kettlebell Push Press
- Barbell Push Press: This guy seems to struggle with balance, learn from his mistake
This is a great way to get synergistic exercise for your shoulders as well as chest and back to some minor extent. Start with bench dips, but also mix in tricep dips to add variety. If you don’t have the equipment, then you can use a chair or a patient family member as well.
Bicep Curls (Optional)
Curls are another one of those blacklisted isolated exercises. So while this focuses only on a specific small muscle group, it can be rather important. Again consider this, if you feel like your chest is a little bit bigger in proportion to your arms, then you want to give some extra love to your arms right? That could mean more isolated reps, but also potentially more weight in those isolated areas.
Bicep curls are a great way to balance out the lean muscle look for what you want. I know this because I have had personal challenges with my chest growing larger proportionate to my arms. It has also been a great benefit for me. You still have to do the compound work, but consider curls even if it is for limited weight (10-20 pounds) and limited reps (8-10).
Tricep Extensions (Optional)
This is a repeat of the same story for curls, but for the tricep muscles. Keep it brief and simple. Work your way up in weight and repetitions as needed.
If after a while you want to test out new exercises or take it to another level, here are some sources where you can do that. These are also solid resources to view visual examples of these exercises. Never forget doing a simple Google video search as well. The Internet is cool and here to stay.
The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding: The Bible of Bodybuilding, Fully Updated and Revised by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold “wrote” this book, but I think it was more of his thoughts and less of his writing. Arnold was a governor, so there is no reason why we shouldn’t trust him. Honestly if this guy knows anything, it is working out. This is more for the bodybuilder type, but there are a lot of good techniques and philosophies you can learn in here.
Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes and Coaches by Greg Everett. Greg works with Robb Wolf at NorCal Strength and Conditioning. They host a rather sassy show, The Paleo Solution that I highly recommend if you like knowledge with a dish of comedy.
Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle by Tom Venuto. Tom is a professional bodybuilder and trainer. He has trained thousands of people and knows his stuff. While I believe in a lot of what he talks about from a health perspective, I am not as big of a believer in the exact same science he subscribes to for nutrition. The guy is ripped though, and does it the right way without the juice.
Keys to the Inner Universe by Bill Pearl. Pearl is a former Mr. Universe winner and has an extensive knowledge on weight training and body building.
Robbwolf.com: Robb hosts The Paleo Solution podcast and also wrote a book with the same name. As I mentioned he is the owner of NorCal Strength & Conditioning. Robb has a strong background in kickboxing, powerlifting, MMA, CrossFit, and the list goes on. Rob is one of the major influences for this site and a good guy that has been very helpful with my progress.
Bodybuilding.com: This is a great resource. I recommend checking out the video and exercise sections. We used a lot of the videos here at Know My Body as you may have noticed in this post. I am not a big fan of a lot of their diets and beliefs as to why we lose fat, but this is a great place to get a variety of video exercises for you to reference.
Catalyst Athletics: This is one of Greg Everett’s sites based around fitness.
Mark’s Daily Apple: Mark Sisson’s has 225,000+ subscribers and is the author of The Primal Blueprint. He is a marathon and triathlon legend and has aged in a way that most men dream of.
Joe Friel’s Blog: This is Joe Friel’s site. As I mentioned he focuses on endurance training. His nutrition plan is also great for those that are long distance runners or an ectomorph/mesomorph body type.
Movnat.com: This is a site by Erwan Le Corre that promotes natural body movements. What is that you may ask? Well it is some pretty crazy stuff. The techniques will help you come to terms with your inner caveperson. If you have ever wanted to start carrying logs across lakes and climbing mountains naked, then your ship has come in.
Arthur Devany: Arthur is one of those old school guys that gives us all hope. He might be a bit more traditional and a little crazy like Doc Brown at times, but the guy knows his stuff.
Now that you have some exercises that will make a huge impact on your health, it is time to talk about what fitness equipment you may need to get.