The following exercises/movements, in my informed opinion, are essential in creating a foundation of strength, overall physique balance, and maximizing muscle gain by inducing the proper physiological response to training.
Before I list them, it should be noted that they are all compound exercises. Compound movements are multi-joint exercises that involve several muscles. Normally, compound movements will allow a trainee to move a greater amount of weight than isolation exercises. Isolation exercises/movements on the other hand are single joint exercises that aim to work one muscle at a time and usually are performed using far less weight than compound movements.
Pro bodybuilders and advanced bodybuilders tend to use a lot of isolation exercises to narrowly target specific muscles at different angles. It is usually due to this fact as well as the average person’s desire to get a big chest, big biceps, or whatever specific muscle they want to grow that leads to thinking isolation exercises are the way to go. The result is usually a small physiological response that unbalances the body, and the creation of a forward dominant posture due to the general tendency to do pushing movements more than pulling movements, which can lead to future injuries.
The squat is recognized by many as the “king of all exercises.” This compound exercise is performed primarily to train the muscles of the legs (quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and to a lesser extent calves). However, it also uses the muscles of the back to stabilize the bar, and many other muscles in the body are used in static hold fashion in order to perform the exercise safely and with proper form.
Like the squat, many people think of the deadlift as the most important exercise. This is due to the fact that it is also a full body movement and normally a trainee can perform this exercise using more weight than any other exercise. More weight equals more awesome. This awesome exercise is used to mostly train the hamstrings, lower back (spinal erectors), and glutes although you will also use your quads, traps (trapezius), lats (latissimus dorsi) as a stabilizing muscle, abdominal muscles, and other muscles to stabilize your body while doing the movement. This is an amazing posterior chain exercise.
The bench press is one of the most popular bodybuilding exercises throughout the world. This exercise allows you to load the most weight on the upper body. This universally bro-certified exercise is actually quite awesome in that it trains the pecs (pectoralis major), triceps, front deltoids, and lats. .
The Overhead Press, or simply the Press, is another great compound movement that is used to target the shoulders and the triceps.
It’s very important to have at least one heavy rowing exercise in your arsenal. To meet this end, I would suggest performing either an explosive barbell row off the ground, or the more popular bent over row.
Pull-ups and dips are highly beneficial body weight exercises.