Body builders and strength athletes are always worried about building muscle, six-pack abs, strong triceps and so on. As a personal trainer in Huntington Beach, California, I have found that there are several exercises that prove highly productive as muscle building exercises during a workout. Compound exercises work multiple muscles across more than one joint. Examples of compound exercises include bench press, dips, and squats. Isolation exercises work fewer muscles across a single joint. Working with dumbbells and leg extensions are examples of isolation exercises.

Contrary to popular belief, isolation exercises are not the best approach to build muscle. Compound exercises are far more effective in building muscle because they incorporate the use of several muscle groups, allow for a heavier training load, and work more muscle mass in the same amount of time. For instance, a squat works the quadriceps, hamstrings, , lower back, abdominals and hips all at the same time. They also allow for heavy weights to be lifted. This makes the squat an incredibly effective muscle building exercise.

Working as a personal trainer in Newport Beach, CA, I work with the following in mind: Compared with machine exercises, free weight exercises are more effective for building muscle. Machines make the exercises easier to perform and offer less muscle stimulation. Free weights have a greater ability to involve stabilizer muscles than machines.

While majority of your exercises should be compound free weight exercises, it does not mean that you should avoid machine exercises. In fact isolation exercises and machine workouts have a low risk of injury and are great for beginners. If you’re just starting bodybuilding, begin with these exercises and work your way up to heavier compound exercises and free weights.

Here is a brief overview of some of the best muscle-building exercises I teach as a personal trainer in Costa Mesa. Make sure to read and understand each exercise very carefully before you try anything out. And remember, never begin bodybuilding without an experienced trainer. If not guided well, you can hurt yourself seriously and damage critical muscles for life.


Technique is everything with this exercise. Make sure that you are arching your back from the time that you pick the weight up to the time you rack it. Your head needs to be back, preferably looking up during the set. Your chest should be out with feet a little wider than shoulder width. Imagine yourself sitting down in a chair.


Remember to do this exercise on the days that you work your back. This is an excellent movement for overall strength and building thickness in the mid to lower portion of your back. Deadlifts can be done anytime in the workout, but it is probably best to do it later in your workout. Deadlifting exercises your legs as well, so you can take a narrow stance, with your arms outside of your knees. This will exercise your back even more. The key is to have strict form, arch your back, and keep it that way throughout the movement.

Bench Press

Most people use this exercise to build their chest muscles. The danger is that they lift very heavy weights, which causes them to assume terrible postures on the bench. While it might feel good to tell your pals about how much you bench, you could seriously injure yourself. There is always a right way of doing any exercise. While doing a bench press, let the weight down to your chest and very gently touch your chest with the bar. Then push up very slightly towards your head. The weight should end up over your chin or mouth. If you push towards your feet, the weight will feel much heavier. This is what you will tend to do with extremely heavy weight or late in a set. Put the emphasis on actually pushing with your chest muscles.

Military Press

This exercise will work your shoulders. Military press is very good for getting that wide and thick look up top. While doing the military press, if you are going behind your neck, you need to make sure that your elbows are back throughout the entire set. You don't want to come down to your neck and push the weight up while your forearms are at a weird angle to the bar. You forearms should be perfectly perpendicular with the bar. Be cautious of the position of your lower back and butt throughout the set. Usually, you tend to deviate from the back of the bench as the set progresses. Make sure that you keep your lower back and butt pressed against the back of the seat.

Straight Leg Deadlifts

This exercise is great for working your hamstring muscles. It is a very simple movement, but it can be devastating if you are not aware of your form. Just like regular deadlifts, you should keep your lower back arched, chest up, and head back. Use about a 15 inch grip and when you let the weight down, stick your butt out and bend at the hips. This will cause you to focus in on your hamstrings. When you pull the weight up, flex your hamstrings and bend only at the hips
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