Different muscle groups serve different functions and need to be specifically targeted with exercises in order to see results. However, according to a survey by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, nearly 80% of Americans fail to meet the minimum recommendations for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. This highlights the need for training and education on how to properly work out each muscle group. Incorporating a variety of exercises that focus on all the major muscle groups is key to overall strength, mobility, injury prevention, and an attractive physique.
The major muscle groups in the body are the arms, legs, chest, back, shoulders, abdominals, and hips. Each group contributes to movement and stability in a unique way, and targeting all these muscle groups is important for a balanced, full-body workout. Focusing on form and technique is important to getting results and avoiding injury. Always start with lighter weights and gradually increase intensity over time as muscles gain strength.
Now, let’s go over the top exercises for each muscle group.
To develop the biceps, exercises that bend the elbows and curl the weight upwards are most effective. Barbell curls allow you to progressively overload using heavier weights – just avoid swinging the bar. Alternate between underhand and overhand grips to hit all areas of the biceps. Similarly, hammer curls are another great move, using a neutral palm-facing-in grip to work the brachialis muscle and outer bicep head.
The triceps make up the back of the arm. To target them, use straight arm pushing exercises like overhead extensions with a barbell, dumbbell, or resistance bands. These work the long head of the triceps. By maintaining consistent effort, you can get amazing sculpted arms that not only look impressive but also significantly enhance your strength.
The quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves make up the major leg muscles. Squats are one of the most effective compound exercises for working all the lower-body muscle groups at once. They engage the quads, glutes, and inner thighs when done properly. Focus on maintaining good form by sending your hips back while exerting weight on your heels, not your toes. Descend until the thighs are parallel or just below parallel to the floor.
The glutes can be targeted with bridges and hip thrusts. During bridges, you raise your hips off the floor, squeezing the glutes at the top. Lunges are a functional exercise that tones the quads, hamstrings, and glutes through a full range of motion.
Incorporate both isolation and compound moves into your leg days. Allow proper rest between leg workouts for optimum gains.
The chest muscles, known as the pectorals, are engaged anytime the arms are drawn across the body in a horizontal pressing motion. This includes classic bodyweight moves like pushups as well as gym favorites like the bench press and pec fly machine.
One of the best chest exercises for beginners is the standard pushup. To properly target the pecs when doing pushups, keep the elbows drawn in close to your sides as you lower down. This creates maximum horizontal adduction of the arms, really working the pectoral muscles. If regular pushups are too difficult at first, modify them by doing pushups at an incline—resting your hands on a bench, step, or wall at an angle. Over time, you’ll gain the strength to do them from the floor.
A strong back is important for good posture, injury prevention, and a balanced physique. The latissimus dorsi muscles of the upper back are best targeted with pulling exercises that retract the shoulder blades. Chinups and pullups are great bodyweight back exercises. Chinups specifically target the lats by using an underhand grip to pull your chest up toward an overhead bar. If you can’t do full chin-ups, use resistance bands or start with negatives.
Pullups with an overhand wide grip also hit the lats while emphasizing the middle back more. Let your shoulders and arms extend straight overhead at the top and feel a deep contraction. Asyou do with chin-ups, boost yourself up to the top position if needed. Bent-over barbell rows are another phenomenal back exercise, working the lats, rhomboids, rear delts, and traps. Hinge forward at the hips, keep the core braced, and row the barbell up towards your torso.
The deltoids make up the rounded shoulder muscles. Lateral raises are an isolation exercise that specifically targets the middle delts. To perform them, hold weights at your sides with elbows slightly bent and lift your arms straight out to the sides until parallel to the floor. Keep the movement controlled, and don’t swing the weights upward.
Finish your shoulder workout with some rotator cuff exercises using resistance bands or light dumbbells.
Crunches and situps are great for engaging the rectus abdominis, the long superficial muscle that makes up the six-pack. To target the abs, curl your torso up off the floor in a controlled manner, keeping your chin tucked to avoid neck strain. You can increase the level of difficulty by holding weights behind your head or doing incline situps with your legs elevated. Rotate your torso slightly for oblique crunches.
While crunches work the abs through flexion, planks are a key exercise for training core stability in an isometric hold. Forearm and side planks strengthen the entire core musculature, including the transverse abdominis, obliques, lower back muscles, and more. Planks challenge your core to resist extension of the spine. Make them more difficult by adding arm or leg movements.
The hip abductors on the outer thighs and hip adductors on the inner thighs play key roles in stabilizing the pelvis and upper leg. Strengthening these muscle groups improves function in daily movements like walking, running, and squatting.
Clamshells target the gluteus medius abductors. Lie on your side with your knees bent, keeping your feet together. Lift your top knee while keeping your ankles touching, feeling the burn along the outer hip. Band walks are another great way to strengthen abductors and adductors. Place a resistance band around your ankles and walk laterally from side to side.
Incorporate hip exercises into your lower body routines. Strong hips lend power to your squats, lunges, and other leg moves.
Targeting each muscle group with specific exercises enables you to sculpt a strong, balanced physique. This list of movements provides a complete, full-body workout. Focus on proper form and gradually increase intensity over time. Aim for 2-3 sessions per week, allowing rest days in between for muscles to recover and grow. Pair your strength training with regular cardio for a comprehensive fitness plan. With consistency, you will begin to see and feel results in your muscle tone, strength, and mobi