In this article of weight training exercises for men I'll assume that you are training at a commercial gym or the equivalent thereof, If you’re not training with a lot of equipment, you can still get a lot from the men's exercises article.
Going to the gym can fall under other various names such as: weight lifting, bodybuilding, weight training, but... the one you need to concern yourself with the most and reason that you're going to the gym in the first place is: to increase Strength!
Increasing strength, is to master heavier resistance with good form and use the best exercises to help you achieve this. So… Let's look a little closer at what we can do to help you, get in your best shape this year!
One important thing that should be considered before you strike out for the gym is: Set an athletic goal ! Make it a realistic one with a plan towards it.
A whopping 71% of people that set serious goals (not New Year's resolutions), with a realistic plan towards what you want to achieve, and focus on it, has a higher probability of yielding serious results.
Setting your goal this year gives you direction, and something serious to work towards. planning your exercises around a realistic routine with some rewards along the way to the main goal, is Paramount in enjoying and sticking with it.
So... try some questions first: depending on the direction you want to take your training, some of these questions could be:
Gear your training interests towards your athletic goal!
Intensity is just as much psychological as it is physical! With that said: you have to put effort into what you’re doing; on each rep of each exercise.
If the goal is to become stronger and more muscular, you have to train with enough intensity to see your goal come to fruition. Intensity is like any other word in the dictionary...
It's not the word that has the
deeper meaning: It's real value lies in applying it.
So... having a goal and direction towards it; now begins to make you rethink why you’re at the gym in the first place, focus is where the intensity comes into the exercise equation.
Focusing is the ability to Ignore distractions and concentrate on the task at hand.
Putting your entire goal related desires into focus on each exercise, motivating your determination and being persistent towards the effort you’re focusing on: is the highway to achievement!
E.g. if you’re doing 10 reps of barbell curls or bench presses, etc., stay focused on your breathing, pushing or pulling the weight up slightly faster on the concentric part of each lift; opposed to how you lower it on each rep - if you’re not feeling this exertion, then you’re not focusing.
Cycle your workouts
Cycling and changing training routines every 3 to 5 weeks, changing up the different exercises. E.g., experiment with some of the more difficult exercises that you struggle with to perform, to even out your strength curve.
Also the amount of repetitions in most of the exercises is rated to between 5 and 7 repetitions. These are for building strength primarily size will also be a benefit. If you wish to train for hypertrophy ,10 to 12 reps will probably be closer to the range you want to be in.
Results in your weight training will be determined by the exercises you use and what you want from them.
Try to incorporate a cycling method of exercises and use your creativity towards your goal, this helps eliminate boredom and increases size and strength gains immensely.
Machines or Free Weights?
Barbells, Dumbbells and Weight machines... What works best? And where do they fit into the strength training equation? Bar nothing: the Barbell used in compound basic movements is King!
The barbell is the ultimate in strength unification because it has to be held with two hands. Dumbbells are the Queen: and follow as a close second. Machine based training equipment makeup the maids and servants of true strength training exercises.
So lets investigate the Barbell first.
These exercises are time-tested and proven as some of the best Compound weight training exercises for men there is out there today.
Let's start out with the rear barbell squat, arguably one of the best lower and upper body strength builders there is in weight training.
Note: always take the time, even if you're pressed for time to make sure you're well warmed up. There are many reasons for this, but most importantly; the warm-up wakes up the entire body...
The neural pathways become excited and ready for stimulation, muscles and joints also have much less chance of sustaining injury, ultimately the warm-up unites the brain and body.
Rear BB squat:
Keep your feet inside shoulder width, keep your form tight don't sacrifice lifting form for more resistance, keep the tension on the hips and legs.
Tip: if you're pushing your butt out too far, and leaning in towards the knees too much, this is the body's way of telling you the resistance is too great, back it off a little, train the muscles not the ego.
Exercise Sets 3-4 Exercise Reps 6-8, adjust weight and reps as you feel you need this range will produce good results.
BB Dead lift:
The barbell dead lift is one of the oldest free weight training exercises out there, easy to use, simple to learn and has many compounding benefits.
The powerful muscles of the legs, upper and lower back, shoulders, biceps even the trapezius muscles all come in to assist in the dead lift.
Taking and even stance with a reverse grip, as shown in the illustration, start by having your butt low, rock back on your heels slightly as you begin to lift.
Allow the bar to barely clear the knees as you continue upwards, (keep the stress in line with the hips), allowing the shoulders and back to do the pulling and the powerful muscles of the quads to do the pushing.
Tip: try to imagine as you move upwards with the weight, of pushing through your heels, not your toes... If you're having trouble with this movement, it's probably because you simply have too much weight. Keep the weight on the heels.
Exercise Sets 2- 3 Exercise Reps 5 -8
Again, this is another great upper and lower body unifying compound exercise. This stimulates the shoulders, lower back, quads, hamstrings and glutes.
This is an exercise that doesn't take a lot of weight to get great stimulation. As you lunge try to have your toes just out past the knee, as the exercise implies, this is a lunge not a step.
This is one of the great weight training exercises for men in that; it gives a great stretch adds muscle tone to the glutes, quads and hamstrings. In other words, makes the legs look pretty good to the opposite sex.
Exercise Sets 2-3 Exercise Reps 8-10 each leg: While trying to increase strength in this exercise is not as important as form and a great stretch.
Perform these like you mean it, and not only will you feel these the next day, but over time your legs are going to look a lot different.
BB arm curls:
The BB arm curl is one of the great compound weight training exercises for men, when it comes to the upper arms.
Utilizing an underhand grip, shoulder width apart, starting with arms at length, pull the bar up with a - 3 count on the way up. Stay in control of the movement; as mentioned, move the bar up at an even pace and lower the same way.
If you are having troubles with this movement, try reducing weight, don't heave, let the biceps do the work, try to keep the elbows pinned and close to your sides.
Shoulders, arms, forearms, legs, abdominal's, even the chest all come into play on this compound exercise.
Exercise Sets 3 Exercise Reps 6-8 this repetition range is to increase strength.
If you're strictly after mass increase your repetitions by two or three. Tip: always keep in mind, especially on arm exercises: don't bend over or use the legs to assist, make it all arms!
BB bent over rows:
This exercise is a great upper body compound movement, this increases strength as well as mass in the upper back, biceps and traps, the leg stabilizers assist in this lift also. As simple as it looks, It is demanding.
Start with an overhand past shoulder width grip, pull the bar up until it touches the upper abs, if you can't pull the bar up this high the resistance is too much, back it off a little.
Note: the reason for the block under the feet is to be able to lower the bar slightly deeper and not have the plates touch the floor, producing a better stretch.
Exercise Sets 3 Exercise Reps 5-7, adjust reps as you feel you need, this ranges for increasing strength.
Barbell bench press:
One of the all-time strength building, weight training exercises for men is the bench press. A true upper body strength building movement designed to increase pressing or push strength.
Line yourself up so your eye level with the bar, use a past shoulders overhand grip on the bar, place your feet out to the sides roughly in line with the knees, the legs act as stabilizers throughout the exercise.
Un-rack the bar - lower to your chest with a two second count, press the bar back-up to the termination point with a three second count, try not to fully lock out the arms as you're holding the bar, giving a momentary squeeze at the top on each rep, complete your repetitions.
Exercise Sets: 3 Exercise Reps: 5-7 this rep range is suited to increase strength.
BB clean and press:
The barbell clean and press is an exercise you don't see often performed as much anymore, don't let that fool you... this is a great compound exercise that unites both the upper and lower body strength.
The movement of pulling the bar up to the shoulders and pressing it overhead builds strength in the shoulders traps and arms. Even the legs come into play to support and stabilize this upper body lift.
Keep an overhand past shoulder width grip, keeping your speed even, pull up to the shoulders and rotate your wrists at this point: drive the weight-up with a pressing motion, return weight in this manner.
Exercise Sets 3 Exercise Reps 6-8, adjust sets and reps as you feel you need, these produce great strength and size building results.
Start with heavier basic multi-jointed exercises using barbells. You don’t need preform more than three or four total exercises per workout.
As part of your strength training routine, focus on doing barbell exercises first, the heaviest most difficult movements are usually preformed before going on to dumbbells or machines.
Training for strength specifically, should be done in relatively short bursts I wouldn’t stay using these exercises at this intensity for more than 6 to 8 weeks, or small injuries can begin to creep in and nag as intensity increases.
Dumbbell Strength-Based Weight Training Exercises For Men
The lunge, (as mentioned with barbell lunges) are often a gym exercise that gets overlooked; knock the dust off this exercise and use it regularly in your leg training.
The lunge provides a great look and muscle tone to the glutes, upper hamstrings and the quadriceps.
Try to keep the knee slightly behind the toe on each step; keep in mind this is a lunge, so a large step is necessary.
This is also a great exercise because: it builds strength and explosive power for sports minded athletes.
Exercise Sets 2 - 3 Exercise Reps 8 - 10 for each leg, depending on resistance used.
Note: if you haven't done these before, I would encourage no resistance for the first few weeks, as these give a pretty good stretch and have a tendency to cause soreness over the next few days.
Incline DB press:
The incline dumbbell press is another great classic bilateral upper body chest exercise.
This compound effort stresses the Triceps, front Delts and upper Pectoral muscles, the legs are positioned further apart to stabilize the trunk throughout the lift.
As shown in the illustration start with dumbbells resting against the sides of the chest touching the shoulders, push-up in an even steady manner as you meet the midpoint in your lift turn the dumbbells together, try not to allow them to touch; at this point give a strong contractual squeeze, then lower.
Exercise Sets 2-3 Exercise Reps 6 - 8
Bent DB Rows:
DB bent rows add a little more flexibility to this movement over the barbell.
This is a great upper body strength and muscle developing movement. This compound exercise focuses on stressing the biceps, forearms, the lats, traps, and rear deltoids.
Starting: once you're in a bent over position holding the bells as you lift in the bottom end try not to slump or have the shoulders lower than the hips.
Meaning: keep your back as straight as you can, lift evenly, bring the dumbbells up to the sides in line with your upper stomach.
Release the dumbbells back down while maintaining control through-out the movement.
Exercise Sets 2-3 Exercise Reps 6 - 8
Note: try to choose dumbbell resistance that matches strength and lifting level, to reach the given rep range.
Seated dumbbell press:
DB seated presses are another great extreme upper body exercise, the dumbbells increase shoulder strength, coordination and muscle size in this bilateral movement somewhat, over the barbell.
The central nervous system has to work harder to balance and coordinate in movements like this one, over that of the barbell.
This exercise takes on a more perpendicular seated position, dumbbells should be lightly touching the outsides of the shoulders; begin pushing the bells upwards using only shoulder strength and legs to stabilize upper body.
As you reach the top, try not to lockout the elbows, avoid allowing dumbbells to touch.
This particular shoulder exercise is somewhat isolating over other shoulder compound exercises, but... it does a great job of working and strengthening the mid-and rear Delts, Traps, and Triceps.
Exercise Sets 2 - 3 Exercise Reps 5 - 7, for overall strength and size gains in the shoulders try to always incorporate barbell exercises first before moving on to dumbbells.
Seated DB Laterals:
Seated DB. laterals are a great exercise, although they are not a compound moment as much as it is an isolation movement, but instead; this exercise does build a lot of lateral shoulder strength and muscle separation.
Always be sure you're well warmed up before doing any deltoid-lateral movements, this exercise puts the shoulders at a mechanical disadvantage, not as much weight is needed in this exercise, especially; if you're relatively new to shoulder training.
Starting: in a semi-seated-bent position,with dumbbells at your sides, lift, the dumbbells up approximately even with the shoulder, (don't swing the bells) as you release the bells back down to the starting position, lower it under control.
Always start off light in the beginning.
Exercise Sets 2 - 3 Exercise Reps 6 - 8
The reason I list dumbbells as
second is: most lifters aren't as strong with dumbbells as you are with the barbell,
e.g., if you can bench press, 250 pounds with a bar.
You will probably struggle
intensely to bench press two - 125 pound dumbbells for even one rep, unless
you’re a very seasoned lifter, but...
Dumbbells are a great way to
coordinate and build overall athletic/fitness strength. If you have the
luxury of a commercial gym and a full dumbbell rack you’re on your way.
don’t, you may have to have a few adjustable sized dumbbells set up in
increments that will challenge you.
Balance your movements to balance your strength and muscle structure:
Some facts in weight training exercises for men get missed simply because the word strength and muscular size gets thrown around together so much, that many don’t understand there are distinct differences.
True strength requires balance, having dominant limbs that unbalance your training will result in an unbalanced strength curve...
It is normal to have imbalances in our natural strength, dumbbells can help with this, using a barbell produces a stronger strength curve as muscles and nervous system are unified by the bar.
Dumbbells work the opposite side to bring better balance to your strength curve and muscle structure.
Keep in mind with any strength-or muscle development weight training/bodybuilding program or routine, try to be creative and break it up. Don’t train for strength continuously give it 4 to 6 weeks if you’re consistent, then back off e.g...
By focusing on contraction training or hypertrophy for 4 or 5 weeks.
Weight machines have their place in any commercial or decent home gym, using machines can have a great impact on strength, size and overall athletic muscular gains.
Some of the positive aspects of using machines:
Smith machine shoulder press:
The Smith machine shoulder press exercise does not have some of the advantages of using a barbell or dumbbell free weights, but...
This is a great machine for building unilateral shoulder strength that can be used in sports, daily tasks, even rehabilitating old nagging injuries.
Starting: with palms up wider than shoulder width grip, lower the bar low enough where you can begin to feel the stretch in the mid-and rear deltoids as shown in the image, push-up with a steady even tempo, stop short of locking out the elbows, then return to your starting position.
Exercise Sets 2 - 3 Exercise Reps 5 - 7
The T-bar row is an older classic machine based upper back exercise. This exercise, even though is machine-based, is surprisingly compound; the legs come in as strong stabilizers, the Lower back, Traps, Biceps and Lats of the upper back all come into play.
I still to this day often use the T-bar row machine, as it's a tough machine to beat for building and increasing overall upper body strength.
The biggest mistake that gets commonly made on this machine is guys simply stand up to straight to do this exercise, you need to be in a bent over position and keep it throughout the entire exercise, to allow the Lats to do the work, and not the legs.
Starting position, as shown in image should be comfortably bent over, pull the weight up towards the upper stomach or lower chest. Hold for a short contraction, then release the weight back to the starting position.
Exercise Sets 3 Exercise Reps 5 - 7
Standing calf raises:
Standing calf raises are a simple exercise to perform, but... sometimes there not preformed properly, negglecting a full range of motion.
The calf muscles if you don't know; are exceptionally strong, they are some of the most powerful muscles in your body. Make sure you challenge the calves with enough resistance this is one exercise you can use more weight on.
Not only do calves look great in a set of shorts, but also have many strength advantages in sports such as running or jumping, which most sports consist of these movements.
Starting: keeping your body as straight as you can throughout the exercise is important.
Once the machine is properly weighted for your level, start with your heels as low as you can get them, fully stretching the calves in the bottom end. This tells you the calves are now ready for work, push off with your toes, keeping your knees locked...
up as high as you can for a full contraction, then lower back to the starting point.
Exercise Sets 2- 3 Exercise Reps 6 - 8
Angled leg press:
The angled leg sled is one of the best lower body muscle and strength builders out there.
As this is a machine, it does isolate the lower body. This exercise is great for increasing leg strength and great for sports minded athletes, weightlifters etc., this can even be used to rehabilitate lower body injuries.
Starting: adjust the weight to your level, position the feet up high enough on the leg platform so that the quads do the work.
Lower the weight until rear leg biceps are parallel to the platform, or close to. At this point: push back up, but try not to lockout the legs, keep the tension on the quadriceps.
Exercise Sets 3 Exercise Reps 6 - 8
Lying leg curls:
Lying leg curls are a great way to strengthen add shape and tone to the glutes and rear leg biceps.
This exercise strengthens the upper leg muscles if performed often enough, this exercise can increase athletic performance where you need explosive power from a crouched or sprinting position.
Starting position hooking your heels under the machine pad, grip or hold something in front of you to help stabilize, at this point begin lifting steady and evenly up to a full contracted point at the top as shown in the illustration, give a contraction, then lower to the starting point.
Note: try to always keep your pelvic bone firmly against the pad and not raise your butt, this takes the stress off the hamstring muscles as you're pulling.
Exercise Sets 4 Exercise Reps 5 - 7
Seated cable rows:
One nice thing about cable weight training exercises for men is: tension always remains constant with these types of machines.
This exercise is great for increasing strength and upper body shape in the lats, traps, biceps and forearms.
Starting: after selecting the appropriate weight; use a grip that keeps the hands close together, this allows you to use more weight and get a stronger contraction. Lower yourself into the exercise. For a deep stretch that should be felt down low and up high on the lats.
Pull back, using your legs to stabilize, while keeping the focus on the biceps and upper back muscles, finished position should be upright with hands against the upper stomach and shoulders pulled back with chest out, complete your repetitions.
Exercise Sets 3 Exercise Reps 6 - 8
Machines can breed complacency and laziness
Confusion even miss-interpretation of using machinery to build strength and size is under microscope scrutiny in weight training for men. Machines can breed complacency and laziness if you’re not careful. When I use machinery, I’m personally very conscious of this.
I often increase mental and physical intensity as I use machinery for one reason... Machines make life easy. The question is simple in weight training: if you want to see results, you have to force the issue and add intensity or it simply won’t happen.
Machinery can be great but, you generally have an element of safety, because the weight is not going to come crashing down on you, machines protect you from this physically and mentally...
As with all things that are great; there are also some things that aren’t so great. Just keep intensity in mind as you use machinery to produce results you want to see.
"Don’t be afraid to sweat"
The comment don’t be afraid to sweat may sound funny to some, but it is amazing how many guys don’t generate enough energy or intensity to make themselves actually physically sweat.
Weight training and sweating is it essential?
It is a
nervous system response to stress; if you overheat, the central nervous system begins to release
its hold on the water you retain, to cool the body.
With this development of energy and intensity many positive things happen, the body releases endorphin's that give a sense of energetic enthusiasm...
With the release of this energy outflow the body also rids itself temporarily of negative imbalances and stabilizes nervous conditions, such as: anxiety, stress, etc.
Some people have to work at desks all day, as a result; the body sweats very little. This is not healthy and can become detrimental to your physical and mental well-being, sweating throughout the day is healthy.
Don’t be afraid to, and be proud of every drop that falls to the gym floor as you perform these lifts, because... each one that does - puts you closer to your goal!
Where the secrets live in building solid strength and raw muscle….
The funny thing about secrets are... secrets often lie in plain sight but...
We sometimes have a tendency to miss or ignore them.
In many cases picking the exercises you don’t like or that make you feel uncomfortable; generally are the ones the body needs the most for growth.
Not some: but all of the exercises that I didn't care for in the early years that felt uncomfortable or were difficult to perform, meaning: basically, the ones I didn't like and avoided them - I finally began to accept that weight training exercises for men are rugged, at best.
They not only harden and toughen the muscles, tendons, and bones, but also the spirit of every man that uses them, especially: with free and body weight exercises. I used to detest exercises for calves and shoulders, and some leg exercises such as: front squats and barbell upright rows etc.
Learn to condition your mind to these exercises to get your body to respond to them. Focusing on the goal or set task, builds your power of positive thinking and always outweighs... a fleeting or misguided dream.
I’ve used all of these exercises on and off over the years and all I can tell you is: the amount of effort you put in, is exactly what you get from them. They’re all great exercises, and I still use all of them today in different cycles.
If you challenge yourself with these training exercises: they have tremendous benefits.
These exercises always paid-back as much as I ever put into them. I have been at it for over 35 years and I have loved each and every one of them, as I hope you will. Good luck - DWT.