To build muscle you need to use the best weight training exercises out there otherwise you’re just wasting your time.
Since I’ve already written about the best bodyweight exercises I figured it was time for the top weight training exercise list.
DO NOT piss around with isolation exercises like flyes and concentration curls.
Those do absolutely no good for anyone who isn’t advanced.
After you’ve been training a few years these exercises have some merit. But if you need a lot of mass in a hurry I’d skip them.
Compound, multi-joint free weight exercises that allow you to use the greatest amount of weight will build size and strength faster than anything else because they incorporate the largest amounts of muscle mass.
Below is a list of the top ten weight training exercises (working our way from the top of the body down) that absolutely must be a part of your workout.
Note that keeping you healthy is a major part of the Renegade System so we use more non-traditional exercises to achieve the desired result.
When you minimize the nagging injuries you can train more often in a fresher state which allows more muscle to be built.
1) Snatch Grip High Pull
The snatch is a great exercise. But you can’t do the eccentric component because it will wreck your shoulders. So the time under tension is a bit low since you only do a single then drop the bar. And it’s a bit more technical to learn. Of course it works but we need something that will work faster. Plus, most people don’t have bumper plates and the ability to drop bars in there gym.
Enter the snatch grip high pull. This exercise will build up your traps and strengthen your shoulders. Big traps look cool and command respect.
The added benefit of the snatch grip high pull over the snatch is that it allows you to do multiple reps without dropping the bar which is better for building muscle. The wider grip is also less stressful on the elbows than a clean grip high pull.
For best results figure on doing them twice a week for 5 sets of 6 on average.
2) Fat Bar Standing Overhead Press
The standing press is basically the essence of weight training and one of the original barbell exercises. I prefer doing this with a fat bar as it just seems to feel better and is less stressful on the elbows and shoulders. If you want big delts, traps and triceps this exercise should be a staple.
3) Log Clean & Press
Cleans with a straight bar can be hell on the wrists and elbow. The log with a neutral grip is a much better choice. Plus there’s almost zero learning curve. Anyone can learn the technique in 5-10 minutes. It’s a staple in strongman competitions and builds massive traps, upper back muscles, shoulders and forearms.
4) Angled or Neutral Grip 15-30 Degree Incline Press
The flat bench press has never been a favorite of mine. It’s a bit too stressful on the shoulders. However, when you raise up to a slight incline, as was preferred by 7-time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates, you get a much better exercise that’s safer and targets the pecs more effectively. Unfortunately, most gyms only have 45 degree incline benches which can beat up your shoulders. So my advice would be to see if you can find some boxes or plates to give your flat bench a slight lift.
The next thing you can do to improve the exercise is ditch the straight bar. A Swiss bar, football bar or The Renegade Bar (use the coupon code JasonF at checkout if you choose to invest in one) would be the preferred option. Those will be much safer and keep your shoulders healthier.
5) Safety Bar Squat
Wanna pack size on your legs? Then get your ass under a bar and squat. The problem with the typical back squat is that most people simply can’t do it. At least not without twelve weeks of serious preparation, soft tissue and mobility work. More people do seem to be able to squat properly with the safety bar, however.
The added benefit of the safety bar is that there’s zero stress on the shoulders. Back squats with a regular straight bar can irritate your shoulders especially if you’re big, tight or both. It makes no sense to tax your shoulders on a lower body exercise if you don’t have to.
Another great option is a Buffalo bar which is slightly bent so that it allows for a lower hand position.
6) Trap Bar Deadlift
Bend over and pick up heavy shit. It’s the most basic fundamental principle of weight training. Which would then make the deadlift the premier weight training exercise. If you have a trap bar and fully comprehend the concept of submaximal training that’s the preferred deadlift variation. Most people can not pull a straight bar off the floor with good form but everyone can do a good looking trap bar deadlift. It’s like a hybrid of a squat and a deadlift. In many cases you can kill two birds with one stone just by using this exercise.
7) Partial Range Deadlift
I consider this an upper back and trap exercise, first and foremost. If you do nothing but snatch grip high pulls and rack deads your upper back will be yoked. By elevating the bar off the floor slightly you can decrease the stress to the lower back and reduce the chances of rounding your spine.
I call it a partial range deadlift instead of a rack deadlift simply because pulling off of a stack of rubber mats is much safer and has a better overall feel to it than pulling off of pins in the power rack.
The highest you’d want to go is slightly above knee height. Anything above that is an ego stroke and an injury waiting to happen simply because you’ll be able to use too much weight.
8) 1 Arm Dumbbell Row
Do this with enough weight and you’ll build big big lats. End of story. These can be done strictly with a sawing motion or cheat/ Kroc style if you’re more advanced and know how to protect yourself and also use the target muscles properly. I’d recommend a more strict performance for at least your first two years of training. A chest supported dumbbell row is a great variation, especially for those with lower back injuries. A cheated 1 arm row is seen below.
9) Farmers Walk
Carrying something heavy is a required part of any muscle building workout. Farmers walks are the best grip exercise you can do. They also pack size on the traps and entire posterior chain. Stability in the ankle and knee is greatly improved from this exercise as well. And if you ever want to take a picture of yourself while training this one makes you look coolest. Just FYI.
10) Sled Dragging/ Pushing
So it’s not a traditional barbell or dumbbell exercise. The fact is you’re using weights when you use a sled. Not only that but sled work can build leg size and strength like a mofo, while simultaneously improving your conditioning. I consider it an essential part of any training program.
If you look at the quads of any cyclist or speed skater you’ll see that quads respond well to volume. The best part of the sled is the lack of eccentric component. So you can pile on the volume, which will make your legs grow, without your recovery ability getting crushed.
Honorable Mention- Kettlebell Swing
Most people just started hearing about swings in the last decade. But Arthur Saxon was doing them back in 1906. They were even part of lifting competitions back then. That makes them okay in my book. Swings are not only great for conditioning but also for improving posterior chain strength and explosiveness, building bigger glutes, protecting the lower back against injury and helping to actively lengthen tight hamstrings.
So there you have it- Renegade Method essentials.
If you’ want to get jacked without getting injured I highly recommend you put in a lot of time and effort on the top 10 weight training exercises listed above.
Good luck and be relentless.