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The Only 7 Exercises You Need to Build Muscle

Building muscle doesn't require an endless array of exercises. In fact, with just seven fundamental exercises, you can effectively work all the major muscle groups in your body. Here's a guide to these exercises, including how to perform them, the order in which to do them, and how often.

1. Squats

Muscles Worked: Quads, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and core.

How to Perform:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Keep your back straight, chest up, and core engaged.
  • Lower your body as if sitting back into a chair, bending at the knees.
  • Go down until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Push through your heels to return to the starting position.

Frequency: 2-3 times a week.

2. Deadlifts

Muscles Worked: Glutes, hamstrings, lower back, upper back, and forearms.

How to Perform:

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, with a barbell in front of your shins.
  • Bend at your hips and knees, grabbing the bar with an overhand grip.
  • Keep your back straight, lift the bar by straightening your hips and knees.
  • Lower the bar to the ground, maintaining control.

Frequency: 1-2 times a week.

3. Bench Press

Muscles Worked: Chest, shoulders, and triceps.

How to Perform:

  • Lie on a bench with your feet flat on the ground.
  • Grip the barbell with hands just wider than shoulder-width.
  • Lower the bar to your chest, keeping elbows at a 45-degree angle.
  • Push the bar back up to the starting position.

Frequency: 2-3 times a week.

4. Pull-Ups

Muscles Worked: Upper back, biceps, and forearms.

How to Perform:

  • Hang from a pull-up bar with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width.
  • Pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar.
  • Lower yourself back down with control.

Frequency: 2-3 times a week.

5. Shoulder Press

Muscles Worked: Shoulders, triceps, and upper back.

How to Perform:

  • Sit or stand with a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height.
  • Press the weights above your head until your arms are straight.
  • Lower the weights back to shoulder height.

Frequency: 2 times a week.

6. Bent-Over Rows

Muscles Worked: Upper back, lats, and biceps.

How to Perform:

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  • Bend forward at the waist, keeping your back straight.
  • Hold a barbell or dumbbells with an overhand grip.
  • Pull the weight towards your lower chest.
  • Lower it back down with control.

Frequency: 2-3 times a week.

7. Planks

Muscles Worked: Core, shoulders, and glutes.

How to Perform:

  • Lie face down, then lift yourself up onto your elbows and toes.
  • Keep your body in a straight line from head to heels.
  • Hold this position for as long as you can, aiming to increase the time.

Frequency: Daily or every other day.

Order and Routine

A balanced routine could look like this:

  • Day 1: Squats, Bench Press, Planks
  • Day 2: Rest or light cardio
  • Day 3: Deadlifts, Pull-Ups, Shoulder Press
  • Day 4: Rest or light cardio
  • Day 5: Squats, Bent-Over Rows, Planks
  • Day 6 & 7: Rest or active recovery

These seven exercises are the cornerstone of a solid muscle-building program. They cover all the major muscle groups, promote functional strength, and can be adjusted in weight and intensity as you progress. Remember, consistency, proper form, and a balanced diet are key to seeing results. Always consult with a fitness professional if you're new to these exercises to ensure you're performing them correctly.

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