Want to get toned? Run, run, run!
Well, not necessarily.
A lot of people think that the best exercises to gain muscle involve a lot of cardio. While cardio is a good way to get your heart pumping, cardio alone won’t get you that sexy muscle you’ve been dying for.
The best ways to gain muscle are by doing weight training and body weight exercises. You need to engage the muscles that you want to get defined. Makes sense, right?
However, a lot of people just hop into the gym and just randomly do exercises. I’ve definitely been guilty of this on many occasions. There are certain exercises that, if done correctly, will help you gain that tone you’ve been dying for!
But First, Some Tips
When it comes to exercises that involve weights, keep the reps lower, and the weights higher. Of course, if you’ve never lifted before, don’t try lifting 200 pounds your first time. However, if you find 20 pounds easy, try lifting 25 or 30 instead. Challenge yourself!
To build muscle, you want to keep your “reps” in the range of 8 to 12. Anything more than that and you’re building endurance, but not really any muscle mass. Anything less will increase strength but not develop those muscles as much as you should.
Also, always engage your core to prevent injury by keeping it nice and tight. And when you’re first doing these exercises, do them in front of a mirror to ensure you’ve got the correct form. If you get the form down right away, you’ll be more likely to stick to it, prevent injury, and keep yourself focused on getting swole, as they say.
Now, let’s get to it.
Related Story: How to Get More Fit with Less Exercise
6 Exercises to Help You Gain Muscle
1. Glutes: Squats
For this exercise, place your feet shoulder-width apart, then plant them flat on the ground. Don’t keep your feet straight ahead—point them outward. Look straight ahead, keeping your back straight. Bend your knees as if you’re going to sit back in a chair. Keep the chair strong in your mind, because if you start to bend forward, you can injure yourself.
Don’t let your knees go past your toes, and keep your heels on the floor. The effect will be that you’re squatting—hence, the name. You should feel the burn in your glutes and thighs. You can even hold weights to increase resistance.
2. Legs: Lunges
Keep your torso straight, shoulders back, and your chin up. Stare straight ahead. Now, step forward with your right leg, simultaneously lowering yourself until you have both knees at a 90-degree angle. Make sure your right knee is directly above your toes, and your left knee isn’t touching the floor.
Now, you can either do the same thing with your left leg so that you’re walking or just resume to the starting position and repeat with your left leg. You should feel the burn in your glutes and thighs. You can do lunges through your hallway if you like!
3. Upper body: Pushups
Get down on the ground, face down, keeping your weight on your chest with your palms on the ground. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart. Make sure your elbows are pointed toward your toes.
Now lift yourself up so that your toes are curled upward and only the balls of your feet and palms are on the ground. Keep your body completely straight—don’t let that butt go up!
Now, lower yourself so that you’re as low as possible without letting the rest of your body touch the ground, and push yourself back up. You can keep your hands closer together to engage your triceps, keep them at approximately shoulder width to engage your arms and chest, or keep them wide to work mainly the chest.
Use a combination to work out a good portion of your upper body.
4. Abs: Russian Twists
Sit up. Lift your legs up slightly, bend them, and cross your ankles so that you’re balancing on your butt. Keep your back off the ground at approximately a 45-degree angle. Lock your hands together. Now, twist your upper body and make your hands touch the ground, then twist the other way.
Don’t let your feet touch the ground. If done slowly or while holding weights, this exercise can be incredibly effective and give you a great burn in your abs. Remember to breathe!
5. Upper Back: Bent-Over Row
For this exercise, you’ll need a barbell. If you’ve never lifted weights before, feel free to try this one with no weights attached, with just the barbell so that you don’t injure yourself.
Place yourself behind the barbell, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees slightly and bend yourself over the bar with your back kept straight. Grasp the bar with a wide grip, more than shoulders width apart. Pull the bar up to the upper waist, then slowly lower the bar until the arms are completely extended.
6. Lower Back: Snatch-Grip Deadlift
This exercise is great for working out the back, an area that many people neglect when trying to build muscle. It’s another one that will need a barbell. Again, feel free to try this one out by using the barbell without any weights. Place yourself behind the barbell, with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Squat down and grasp the barbell, this time with as large a grip as you can. You may have to drop your hips quite low to do this. Keeping your head and chest up and your butt down, lift the bar while extending your knees, then slowly lower it back down.
Pounding away on the treadmill might be a nice way to get your heart pumping, but the best exercises to gain muscle involve getting down and dirty with the weights and the exercise mats. But don’t be frightened away! By incorporating squats, lunges, Russian twists, bent-over rows, and snatch-grip deadlifts, you can get the strong, sexy body you’ve been dying for.
Photo by Altamar