10 Most Effective Multi-Joint Exercises For Building Muscle Mass

May 28, 2016

bench-press

You build the most muscle in the least time by doing compound exercises that work several muscle groups at the same time.

While professional bodybuilders or Olympic athletes may spend several hours a day training each individual muscle, most people want lives outside the gym.

Whether you are trying to improve general fitness, training for your favorite sports, or just want to look good in a bathing suit, you can develop muscle mass with an effective full-body strength-training routine that requires under two hours per week by using the multi-joint exercises described below.

If you are over forty, obese or have existing medical conditions, consult your health-care provider before starting a new workout program. More is not always better for building muscle.

When you work out, you break down muscle tissues. You gain muscle mass as your body rebuilds those tissues when you are recovering from your workout.

In practical terms, this means that you need to use enough resistance to stress your muscles, but allow adequate recovery time to rebuild them.

Use weights you can lift for a set of eight to twelve repetitions. One set is enough for basic fitness, but for maximum mass gains complete three full sets. Allow 48 hours between strength workouts to fully build up muscles.

1. Bench Press

When you want to know how strong someone is, you ask how much they can bench.

The reason the bench press has been such an iconic part of body building is that it works many major muscles of your chest, shoulders and arms as well as your abdominals.

By using an incline or decline bench, changing your grip or switching between barbells and dumbbells, you can emphasize different muscle groups.

Always use a spotter when lifting heavy barbells. If you are working out on your own, substitute a chess press machine or dumbbells to work the same muscles safely.

 

2. Squat

What the bench press is to the upper body, the squat is to the lower body: the single exercise that does it all.

The quadriceps are the main muscle used in the squat, but you also use your back muscles, hip muscles and other leg muscles.

You can also challenge yourself and bust through plateaus by trying variations such as hack squats, one-legged squats, jump squats or split squats.

If working with heavy barbells, use a spotter. For working out on your own, substitute a leg press machine; although the seated leg press does not work as many stabilizer muscles, it is safer to use when you are alone and less likely to cause injuries.

 

3. Pull-Up and Chin-Up

Pull-ups and chin-ups work several muscles groups in your back, shoulders and arms simultaneously. Best of all, the only equipment they require is a bar.

Alternate between overhand and underhand grips to work a wider range of muscle groups, or challenge yourself with variations such as towel-pull-ups, pull-ups with claps, weighted pull-ups or neutral or parallel grip pull-ups.

If you are not yet strong enough to do pull-ups, use a high pulley to do pull-downs to strengthen the same muscle groups.

 

4. Lunge

Lunges are an all-purpose multi-joint lower-body exercise.

The basic forward lunge works the hip, thigh and lower leg muscles, with your back and stomach muscles acting as stabilizers.

Rear lunges emphasize the quadriceps along the front of your thighs, while side lunges are especially effective for your inner and outer thigh muscles.

To build even more muscle mass, hold dumbbells in your hands as you do your lunges.

pushups

5. Push-Up

Push-ups are the cornerstone of military fitness training across most of the world. These simple, convenient exercises require no equipment at all.

As well as working your arm, chest and shoulder muscles, they require you to activate leg and core muscles as stabilizers.

Push-up variations are only limited by your imagination.

You can pack on the muscle mass with challenges such as push-ups with claps, decline push-ups, medicine-ball push-ups or one-arm push-ups.

 

6. Dip

Another bodyweight exercise you can do with minimal equipment, dips work your arms, chest and shoulders, as well as using core muscles as stabilizers.

If you can manage 15 consecutive dips, add weights to keep the exercise effective for building muscles.

 

7. Sit-Up or Crunch

When your six-pack starts looking more like an entire keg, it is time for sit-ups.

Whether you are doing the traditional hands-behind-neck sit-ups, crunches, bicycle maneuvers or stability-ball variations, you work the big muscles of your stomach and the front of your hips and legs.

Add twists to firm up the oblique muscles that run along your sides. Hold weight plates on your chest or use a decline bench to ratchet up the intensity and build more muscle mass.

 

8. Deadlift

The deadlift is one of the three standard power-lifting exercises.

While it may get less attention from new lifters than the squat and the bench press, it is just as important.

As you lift a heavy barbell from the ground, you strengthen all of the muscles of your legs, hips and back.

This is also the most functional of the canonical lifts. The next time you need to pick up groceries, move furniture or load a new television into your car, you will be using the muscles you build doing deadlifts.

 

9. Seated or Bent Over Row

Seated and bent-over rows both work the back, shoulder and arm muscles.

Especially if you spend hours every day hunched over a computer screen, these exercises build the muscles that help you maintain good posture as the same time as they help you build the big biceps or “guns” you plan to show off at the beach or on the dance floor.

 

10. Back Extension

Another multi-joint exercise to counteract the effects of too much sitting is the back extension.

Whether done on a Roman chair or just lying on your stomach, back extensions build the muscles running along your lower back, buttocks and the backs of your thighs.

Hold weight plates to your chest while doing Roman chair back extensions to build up firm muscle mass in your hips and eliminate sagging.

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