In this age of $5000 strength machines and $8000 treadmills, it may surprise readers to learn that some of the best bodybuilding exercises can be performed for as little as $100! That’s right, you don’t need chrome and glitz to transform your physique. Long before Universal, Nautilus, and Hammer Strength, came on the scene, bodybuilders had been packing on muscle mass by training with good old-fashioned barbells.
The following (in no particular order) are our choices as the top bodybuilding exercises of all time.
Most authorities consider squats to be the best leg exercise. Period. One set of all out squats will do more for your lower body than 10 sets of leg extensions. Squats are also one of the most natural and basic of all body movements (let’s face it how often do you mimic the leg extension in the run of a day!) and target virtually the entire lower body.
Barbell Bench Press
The barbell bench press can be considered squats for the upper body. No pretty machine comes close to what this basic bodybuilding exercise will do for your torso. Long before the Pec deck started taking up space in gyms, bodybuilders were putting muscle mass on their chest, triceps, and shoulders, by training with barbell presses.
Although long considered a powerlifting exercise, deadlifts are one of those exercises that often get neglected by bodybuilders because they take a lot of effort to do properly. But deadlifts will build you a set of python-sized spinal erectors as well as bestow on you that “no neck” look. They’ll also do wonders for your hamstrings and thighs.
Long before lat pulldowns transformed the way people trained their backs; chin-ups were tops of back bodybuilding exercises. The great thing about chins is that you can do them just about anywhere from a play ground to a basement. Unlike lat pulldowns, chin-ups require you to lift as well as stabilize your body (i.e. keep your body from swaying). This is what makes them so effective.
If chin-ups widen your back and produce that much-coveted v-taper, barbell rows will give your inner back that dense, thick, meaty look. Unlike the more often substituted T-bar row, barbell rows have none of the balancing removed. You have to lift and balance the weight. There is no pivoting on the floor or being locked in a given plan of motion that may be unnatural for your body.
Seated Barbell Press
This is another oldie but goodie. Training with seated barbell presses will give your shoulders that cannonball look. Seated barbell presses evolved from the old standing press that was so popular with Olympic lifters and bodybuilders in the 1940’s and 1950’s. They’ve stood the test of time and you should be doing them.
It’s safe to say that the first exercise performed on barbells when they were invented was a barbell curl. No cable or machine curl will come close to what these babies will do for your biceps muscle mass. They’ll also build up a phenomenal set of forearms. So if you want hams hanging from your shoulder joints you must add barbell curls to your bodybuilding exercises.
Lying triceps extensions
Lying triceps extensions, also called skullcrushers, are the triceps equivalent of barbell curls. They’re simple, basic, and will bring those horseshoes out for all to admire. So you can fluff with kickbacks or cable extensions or put some serious meat on your arms with this great bodybuilding exercise!
Push-ups go back even further than barbell exercises. Push-ups are the best bodyweight exercise for building the chest, shoulders, and triceps. By changing the height of the legs you can target different parts of the chest. They can also be done just about anywhere, whether the gym or in a hotel room while on the road. So drop and give me 20!
Crunches will strengthen your abdominal core. They’ll also improve your posture and help protect your lower back. Crunches evolved from sit-ups, but unlike sit-ups they place less stress on your lower back and keep the hip flexors from contributing to the exercise. As with push-ups crunches can be done just about anywhere and should be the primary exercise in your abdominal routine.