How to Target Muscles with Specific Exercises

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Getting Started with Targeted Muscle Building

Ever tried to remember which exercises are best for building which muscles? I still have to check out some of the finer points. Once you start doing this in detail it can get a little tricky because there are many small muscles, and even the target muscles have helper muscles (synergists) and stabilizer muscles that get involved as well.

In this article, I’ll concentrate on the most important target muscles of the major body sections and the best weight training exercises to target them. Because there are literally hundreds of exercises, I’ve chosen a mixture of the most common and the most useful across a range of free weights, machines and bodyweight exercises.

If you’re a bodybuilder and you need to make your muscle targets a little more specific, then check out Hugo Rivera’s Bodybuilding site for further information.

(I've only linked once to an exercise example, though it may be repeated in subsequent muscle groups.)

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Weight Training Exercises for Leg Muscles

Legs

Keep the back straight and knees tracking over the feet and not swaying in or bowed out in leg-bending exercises.

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Weight Training Exercises for Arm Muscles

Gillette BODY and Jason Khalipa Help Guys Get #BODYREADY For Summer
Gillette BODY and Jason Khalipa Help Guys Get #BODYREADY For Summer. Steve Jennings/Getty Images

Arms

Try not to "cheat" when doing arm exercises by using the momentum of a swaying chest or abdomen to move the weights. Force the focus on the targeted muscles.

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Weight Training Exercises for Back Muscles

Australia Training And Press Conference : News Photo CompEmbedShareAdd to Board Australia Training And Press Conference
Australia Training And Press Conference : News Photo CompEmbedShareAdd to Board Australia Training And Press Conference. Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Back

Keep the back straight, head still and squeeze the shoulder blades together when doing back exercises.

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Weight Training Exercises for Shoulder Muscles

2013 SupeRugbY: Melbourne Rebels Gym Session
2013 SupeRugbY: Melbourne Rebels Gym Session. Steve Haag/Gallo Images

Shoulders

Don't overextend the shoulder joint because it is one of the most complex—and perhaps one of the most fragile—joints in the body. Don't use heavy repetitions for front and side raises. When doing the upright row, use a wide grip, and don't raise the weight too high as this may cause impingement of the joint.

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Weight Training Exercises for Buttock Muscles

2013 SupeRugbY: Melbourne Rebels Gym Session
2013 SupeRugbY: Melbourne Rebels Gym Session. Steve Haag/Gallo Images

Buttocks

Remember to squeeze your glutes together when doing butt exercises.

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Weight Training Exercises for the Abdominal Muscles

Wallabies World Cup Training Camp
Wallabies World Cup Training Camp. Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Abdominals

No need to draw your abs in so that you "hollow out" the midsection. All you need to do is brace the abs firmly in preparation for abdominal exercises.

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Weight Training Exercises for the Chest Muscles

Springboks Gym Session
Juan Smith in action during the Springboks gym training session on September 24, 2007 in Noisy le Grande, France. Tertius Pickard/Gallo Images

Chest

If you find you get sore shoulders doing the flat bench press, do the incline bench press instead.

The above is a reasonable selection for all muscle groups to start with even though many variations and innovative techniques exist.

If you need to brush up on weight training principles and practices, try this beginner's guide.

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