We all know that to get into the best shape, we need to train our muscles. But, what is the best way to do that? Is there a best exercise to build muscle?
There are so many types of exercises & ways to do them that sometimes you might wonder if you’re really training as effectively as possible. In order to get some perspective on strength training, we asked 5 of our experts to share their thoughts on what is the best exercise to build muscle.
Since there isn’t really just one best exercise, these 5 suggestions should give you a great foundation to either start a strength training routine or some new exercises to add into your workout.
Best Exercise To Build Muscle #1: Back Squat
I think the best exercise to build muscle is the barbell back squat for a few major reasons:
The major downside of the back squat is that it can be a dangerous exercise, especially if you don’t have proper mobility in your hips, calves, etc. (See: How to Increase Squat Depth). The compressive pressure on the lower back is significant, which is why some strength coaches don’t recommend them. In addition, it can take a long time to recover due to the intense neuromuscular requirement. I also don’t think it’s necessary to do very low reps with squats, you can still build a lot of muscle with relatively higher reps but still heavier weight.
In sum, if you have good mobility, don’t go too heavy with too low reps, I think squats are a killer muscle-building exercise. In college, my legs got so much bigger so fast doing squats that I literally had stretch marks form on my legs/hips! Trap bar, or sumo deadlifts also come to mind as a great exercise to build muscle, but the range of motion and stimulation to the legs is not the same.
Best Exercise To Build Muscle #2: Squats
Best Exercise To Build Muscle #3: Squats
Squats. I love deadlifts, but think that high rep squats are great for putting muscle on the legs, whereas heavy squats are great at putting muscle on the whole body. There’s nothing like putting a heavy weight on your back, being a little scared about the weight, still dropping down as low as you can, coming back up and doing it again for putting muscle on your whole body.
With that said, most people don’t squat low enough (See: How Deep Should I Squat?) and there are a good number of people where squatting won’t be optimal either due to extreme tightness or one hip higher than the other, etc. In that case, single-legged movements like split squats would be better.