You know that building muscle helps your metabolism and in turn, naturally allows your body to burn fat and gain strength. But what you may be trying to figure out is how to do this efficiently and effectively. When the fitness industry first started gaining traction, cardio was pushed heavily to help with weight loss and muscle tone. But after years of research, experts now know that resistance training is the best way to gain muscle.
So what exactly is resistance training? Instead of using movement alone to move your body, resistance training is using an outside force for your body to react to. In other words, you are creating a force with a machine, weights, or even your body weight for your body to resist. This resistance puts the muscles in overdrive and creates strength and muscle tone over time. If you are wondering which exercises build muscles, exercise scientists and trainers have done the hard work for you and figured out which resistance exercises yield the best results.
Resistance Training Option #1: Barbell Training
One of the best ways to build muscle when resistance training is to work as many muscles as possible in one movement. Ask any trainer, and many will tell you that if all you did was squats, deadlifts, and bench press for the rest of your life you would continue to build muscle and strength. Wondering why this is the case? Well, these three classic weight training exercises work all of your muscles and allow you to work at your own pace adding weight to the bar as you go.
If you have never used a barbell before you want to start slow to protect your muscles and joints. The Form is crucial with any weight training and you don’t want to overdo it in the beginning. Starting with the barbell and working with a trainer or teaching yourself from videos is the way to go. But once you get the form down, that’s where the muscle build will begin. The reason that barbells are always included in any public gym is that they can be adjusted to any weight desired.
As you work to increase your strength, you will be astonished to see that you can go from barely being able to bench press the likely 45-pound barbell to bench pressing 100 pounds within a year if you stick with it. Barbell training offers an opportunity for muscle growth quickly as long as you stick with it. Many trainers suggest squatting and deadlifting each training session and then rotating a press with either a bench press or an overhead press to work different back and arm muscles.
Resistance Training Option #2: Building Core Muscle with Plank Variations
If you have ever taken an exercise class, you have most likely held a plank pose for way longer than you would have liked. This is because getting into a plank position is one of the most efficient ways to build your core muscles and is meant to be challenging. Just like with any exercise, form is important here too.
As you lift yourself into plank, remember to use your oblique muscles (the muscles on the side of your stomach) to help squeeze your core. The goal is to eventually be able to hold a two-minute plank, but start slow and increase your time intervals gradually to help keep your form.
The classic plank position is a great exercise to add to your routine, but there are also different plank variations to target specific areas of your core.
Resistance Training Option #3: Use Resistance Bands to Target Specific Muscle Groups
If you have never used a resistance band before, you may be a little skeptical wondering how using an oversized rubber band can give the same impact as using free weights. Because of the way resistance bands are designed, you can choose the intensity of resistance. Many resistance bands are labeled by pounds of resistance. Once you find the right resistance, there are numerous exercises available to try with the bands making this option a budget-friendly and convenient option you can do at home or even on the go.
A popular exercise with resistance bands is the lateral leg walk. This is where you step into a loop band and keep it either near your ankles or up around your quads (you don’t ever want to put the band around your knees). Once the band is situated, bend your knees slightly to get into position. Then you can start by taking 10 steps to the right and then 10 steps to the left. This exercise works a variety of leg muscles including your quads and glutes.
Resistance Training Option #4: Yoga
Believe it or not, yoga is one of the best ways to incorporate resistance training into your workout routine while also getting the flexibility benefits from the practice as well. There are numerous varieties of yoga practices and poses, so you want to make sure you are actually doing the style or poses that provide resistance and in turn, help you build muscle.
Have you ever seen a yogi quickly pop into a handstand or an arm balance pose like it was nothing? If you have ever tried to do that yourself you know how much strength it takes to be able to hold your body weight up.
Wondering what yoga poses are the best to build muscle? Well, going through a simple sun salutation by completing plank, up the dog, and down dog uses almost all of your back and arm muscles. Many yoga practices have you do that sequence a minimum of 10 times to warm up. Now you can see why yogis have such muscular arms if that sequence is just a warm-up. As you continue to add poses to your workout routine, poses such as the crow pose or tree pose help work both arm and leg muscles and will add strength over time.
Resistance training is challenging and for good reason as it works numerous muscles to help you build strength over time. Many experts suggest finding the exercises you enjoy the most and stick with those, as you want to look forward to training instead of dreading it. But as long as you stick with consistent resistance training, whether you choose using a barbell or incorporating a yoga practice, you will be guaranteed to build muscle and strength as you go.