3 “Must Do” Exercises for Building Muscle & Strength

You can build a lot of muscle mass with just a few basic exercises, as long as you do them consistently and train with progressive overload. Keeping things simple and becoming a master of the basics will take you a long way in the iron game.

In today’s blog post you’re going to get 3 of the best muscle building exercises that you can do to help build a bigger, stronger, and more muscular physique.

These 3 moves are more advanced variations of some basic moves that you are probably already performing in your workouts right now.

Including these exercises as part of your workout routine will stimulate muscle growth in your total body and they will build real world functional strength because they involve a lot of core strength, balance, and stability.

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Front Squats:

Front Squats - A Must Do Exercise

The first exercise is the front squat. While all varieties of the squat are good for building up the legs and back, the front squat is one of the hardest squat variations. When you hold the barbell in front of your body it changes the balance and weight distribution and forces your body to engage more core and back strength. It also works the quadriceps to a greater degree than regular back squats.

Front squats are good for power athletes such as football players, rugby players, wrestlers, MMA fighters, etc. to develop power and functional strength that can carry over into their chosen sport.

When setting up to perform the front squat, get under the barbell so that it is as close to your neck as possible and purposely hold your elbows high in order to create a nice “shelf” across your front shoulders to rest the barbell. As you squat down keep your back flat and head up. This will prevent the barbell from rolling forwards during the exercise.

Overhead Press:

Overhead Press

The next exercise is the standing overhead press (aka The Military Press). This shoulder press variation is much harder than doing a seated shoulder press with a back support. When you are standing and pressing overhead you’ll engage all the stabilizer muscles throughout your core and back. It will place your body in a more 3 dimensional training environment and help to provide a higher level of neuro-muscular activation and central nervous system stimulation.

When doing shoulder presses, try not to lean back to much. When you lean back you turn the exercise into a high incline bench press instead of a shoulder press. Focus on keeping your body straight and pressing the bar directly overhead in a straight line. To do this you need to practice moving your head back and out of the way so that you can press the bar up without hitting your face. Click Here for a video showing how to do the Military Press.

Pull Ups:


And the last of our top 3 “Must Do” muscle building exercises is the Pull Up. If you’re looking to build a wide v-shaped muscular back, than the pull up will help you acheive that development. Most people will perform some form of lat pull down in their workout program, which is fine for beginners, but if you really want to maximize your back development and increase your pulling strength, you should work on performing pull ups instead.

The pull up is an advanced exercise because you have to be able to lift your entire bodyweight in order to perform it properly. If you have trouble performing pull ups, than I recommend that you check out The Progressive Pull Up Program.

The Progressive Pull Up Program is a graduated pull up training system that uses special exercises to help build up your strength for doing bodyweight pull ups and eventually even doing weighted pull ups. You can download this program by Clicking Here.


There you go, those are my top 3 muscle building exercises, give’em a go in your own workouts (if you are not already).

Now I know we could argue that other exercises should have made this list as well… Back Squats, Bench Presses, Rows, Power Cleans, etc. And they are certainly all good exercises. But this blog post is simply meant to highlight the front squat, overhead press, and pull up. I’m not saying that these are the only 3 exercises you’ll ever need, but they are certainly 3 good ones that I feel are a “Must Do” in your workout program.

Feel free to share your favorite exercises in the comments section below…

About the Author:

Lee Hayward Lee Hayward started working out in 1990 and began competing in bodybuilding competitions in 1995. Then in 1999 he started www.LeeHayward.com the very website you are reading right now. Over the years Lee has committed himself to helping aspiring bodybuilding and fitness enthusiasts improve themselves by gaining muscle, burning body fat, and developing a strong healthy body.

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About The Author


Lee Hayward is a former competitive bodybuilder and muscle building coach who has been online coaching people since 1997. His work has been featured in several international magazines such as: FLEX, Muscle Insider, Muscle Mag International, Testosterone, Ironmag, and Forbes. Lee's main focus right now is with helping men over 40 - who don't want to be fat anymore - lose the gut, build muscle, and get back in shape. If you're ready to "Start Again" for the last time and finally build a lean healthy body that you can be proud of, just e-mail Lee to discuss a realistic action plan that's right for you... lee@leehayward.com


  • My adventure with weightloss has been an up and down roller coaster kind of journey. Your post and information is awesome! It puts me into another perspective for my self update plan. thank you for this!

  • Building muscle and strength are in right now to those in bodybuilding. Their goal is to achieve that perfect physique. This one takes lots of time and effort but if you’re determined to achieved that goal that you wanted, time will fly fast.

  • junior

    I am doing your 12 week program and a clean balanced diet 30/40/30. But I am getting some fat around my waist. I have an endo mesomorph body,and I am not doing cardio. How much cardio should I do so I gain lean mass?