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12 Must-Try Exercises for Men To Build Muscle

Pump up your physique with these muscle mass-building movements.
FACT CHECKED BY Alexa Mellardo

It's no secret that the ideal physique for most men includes building toned, defined muscles. Whether you seek a bulky, bodybuilder look or a lean, chiseled physique (think Brad Pitt from Fight Club), you need to work on sculpting muscle. That being said, I'd like to share some advice I've learned over a long career of training male clients for physique transformations. The below must-try exercises for men to build muscle can be part of the basis of any serious workout regimen. Plus, they hit the majority of the important muscles in your body.

In addition to working with weights, which is a key part of many traditional muscle-building programs, you can also boost muscle growth by performing bodyweight exercises. The most important thing for building muscle with bodyweight exercises is finding ways to make the exercise more difficult over time. In this article, you'll see a combination of bodyweight exercises and moves that utilize weights such as dumbbells and a barbell.

Read on to learn all about my must-try exercises for men to build muscle. And when you're finished, be sure to check out the 10 Best Exercises To Melt Lower Belly Fat.

Pushups

pushups, exercises for men to build muscle
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First up on this list of exercises for men to build muscle is the pushup. Pushups are an amazing bodyweight exercise. They work your shoulders, chest, triceps, and core with no equipment and allow a variety of progressions.

To perform a standard pushup, start in a plank position, and lower your chest and body toward the floor by bending at your elbows and shoulders while maintaining a braced core. When your body is about an inch off the ground, drive through both hands to return to the top position. Aim to perform three to five sets of 15 reps.

To make this exercise more difficult, you can move your hands closer together or shift your body forward while keeping your hands in place to decrease the leverage and increase the muscular difficulty. Finally, advanced individuals can work towards a one-arm pushup.

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Air Squats

man doing squats, exercises for men to build muscle
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Squats are a must-do exercise for muscle size in your lower body. Standard squats start with your feet hip-width distance apart. Sit back, and lower your hips by bending at the waist and knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor. At the bottom of your squat, drive through both feet to return to the starting position. Aim to perform three to five sets of 15 reps.

To make the exercise more challenging, you can add a jump at the top of each repetition or carry some external weight such as a backpack.

Lunges

reverse lunges exercise
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Lunges are another great lower-body exercise to build muscle in the glutes, quads, and hamstrings.

Perform a lunge by stepping forward with a large step and lowering your whole body by dropping your back knee toward the floor. When your knee is an inch off the floor, press through the front foot to return to the starting position. Aim to perform three to five sets of 15 reps.

To make the exercise more challenging, perform an explosive jump between each repetition, or elevate your front or rear foot on a step.

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Pull-ups

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Pull-ups technically require equipment since you need somewhere to hang onto and pull yourself up. Play structures or public parks often have suitable bars for pull-ups.

Using an overhand or underhand grip, hang onto a bar, and pull your chest to the bar by bending at the elbows and shoulder. Aim to perform three to five sets of 15 reps.

You can make pull-ups more difficult by changing grip variations, increasing speed on the upward movement while slowing the downward movement, or by adding external weight.

Sprints

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Believe it or not, performing all-out sprints and similar training builds muscle in the lower body, similar to resistance training. You can also progress fairly easily by increasing your speed or distance covered in each sprint. I recommend starting with 40-meter sprints and performing five to 10 total sprints per workout.

Single-Leg Squats

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Performing a squat on one leg, sometimes called a "pistol squat," is challenging. However, it allows you to put your entire body weight on a single leg, drastically increasing your ability to continue to build muscle in your legs after regular squats become too easy to properly stimulate further muscle growth.

Begin this exercise standing, and straighten one leg out in front of you. Lower your body by bending the planted leg, keeping your other leg extended the whole time. At the bottom, push through your planted foot to return to the top position. Aim to perform three to five sets of 15 reps.

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Handstand Pushups

This exercise is beyond the reach of most individuals. However, if you progress to the point where you can perform this exercise, the handstand pushup is a very effective way to build muscle in your chest and shoulders.

Start in a handstand, lower your chest, and face toward the floor. When you reach the bottom, press through both hands to return to the top position.

Deadlifts

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Deadlifts are one of the most powerful lifts you can perform. They train the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and back muscles. You can lift very heavy weights with a deadlift, allowing major muscle-building stimulus to your entire lower body.

To perform a barbell deadlift, begin with a barbell on the floor with the appropriate amount of weight on each side. Step up to the bar until it's just away from your shins. Hinge at the waist, and grip the bar with an overhand or alternating grip. Keeping a braced, neutral spine, drive through the floor, and lift the bar until your knees and hips are locked out. Return to the starting position. Repeat for the target repetitions. Aim to perform three to four sets of eight to 12 reps.

Dumbbell Bench Press

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The bench press is one of the most popular exercises, and for good reason. It allows you to lift major weights with your chest muscles, shoulders, and arms, providing a major mass building to these areas. I personally prefer dumbbell bench presses as they allow a smoother, more natural range of motion. That being said, you can do them with a barbell as well.

To perform dumbbell bench presses, begin seated at the foot of a weight bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Lie back on the bench, and position the dumbbells on each side of your chest with your arms bent at the elbow. Press upward until your arms lock out straight up. You can bring the dumbbells together at the top of the motion for the maximal muscle squeeze. Return to the starting position. Aim to perform three to four sets of eight to 12 reps.

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Overhead Press

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Overhead presses build major mass in the shoulders. I am equally a fan of dumbbell and barbell overhead presses, but the dumbbell variation is more forgiving on novice lifters who have not perfected the barbell technique.

To perform a dumbbell overhead press, begin standing with a dumbbell in each hand, held at shoulder height. Press the dumbbells overhead until your arms lock out. Bring them together at the top for a maximal squeeze. Return to the starting position. Aim to perform three to four sets of eight to 12 reps.

Dumbbell Rows

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Dumbbell rows train the horizontal rowing motion which develops the posterior shoulders, upper back, and biceps.

To perform dumbbell rows, begin with a dumbbell in one hand and the other hand positioned on a bench with your torso leaning forward. Row the dumbbell upward until your upper arm is in line with your torso. Return to the starting position. Aim to perform three to four sets of eight to 12 reps.

Dips

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This list of exercises for men to build muscle wraps up with the dip. Dips are a bodyweight exercise that builds the triceps, shoulders, and chest. You can use a bench to perform dips, but I prefer parallel bars or rings to allow full body weight.

To perform dips, begin on parallel bars with your arms straight going downward, gripping the bars. Lower your chest toward the floor by bending your elbows and pivoting at the shoulder joint. Lower until your upper arms are parallel with your torso. Drive through both hands to return to the starting position. Aim to perform three to four sets of eight to 12 reps.

Tyler Read
Tyler Read is a personal trainer and has been involved in health and fitness for the past 15 years. Read more about Tyler