• Joshua Li

Top 8 Exercises For Building Lean Muscle Mass

On the journey to developing a strong physique, many overlook the importance of maximising the benefits found in their routine. Trying to put on as much lean muscle as possible requires particular movements that should never be overlooked.

Not all exercises are going to give you the reward you’re looking for, but certain movement patterns are essential when it comes to faster muscle growth; compound exercises. These will recruit more muscle fibres by using more than one joint through multi-joint movements. Compound exercises will typically require more effort and incorporate large muscle groups.

If you’re truly looking to get the most out of your routine, here are eight exercises that have helped me, and have become my personal favourites.


Deadlifts should be considered the king of all exercises, and will most definitely incorporate more muscle groups than any other exercise. This movement requires a bit more technique than most, but when done correctly, it will build an incredibly strong physique with powerful legs, and will help you develop a big back and strong core. Building a powerful posterior chain requires that this movement is being hit regularly and with intensity.

T-Bar Rows

This back exercise will hit an often underdeveloped area of the back; the rhomboids, which are essential to holding a good posture and strong upper body. T-Bar Rows are a definite winner when it comes to helping develop the thickness of the back. To make this movement even more effective, pause at the top of every rep to make the lats and rhomboids work harder in their contracted position. You can also maximise the stretch by allowing the weight to fall deep through the extension and applying a deep stretch across the back.


An exercise as good for the anterior chain of the lower body as the deadlift are for the posterior chain; barbell squats are the key. This powerful movement requires a strong core, especially if you are hitting those legs with a heavy load across the back, and performing this exercise by squatting to depth creates extreme trauma to the central nervous system. Try to get into the habit of making this movement a regular exercise and try to focus as much as possible on ensuring your technique is flawless. After getting the basics down, you’re on your way to developing some strong, powerful quads and glutes.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

The most effective movement for really isolating those shoulders would have to be seated dumbbell shoulder presses. This movement is typically what is needed to isolate and hit those shoulders with force. By pushing in a vertical manner against resistance, typically in a supported position, you’ll be able to target those deltoids very effectively. Prioritise this movement to really build that width in your shoulders.

Incline DB Press

An impressive physique isn’t complete without a strong round chest to support it. Often, your average lifter will have an underdeveloped upper chest, which is typically much more difficult to target as opposed to the mid and lower portions. I suggest targeting horizontal pressing movements at an incline position to really place the peak tension of the exercise on the upper portion of the chest. In addition, use dumbbells as the predominant form of resistance since this will allow you to get a much larger range of motion, compared to a barbell.

Weighted Dips

Weighted dips is massive exercise for developing strong triceps, and rarely will you see anyone with undeveloped arms repping out these. With this exercise there is a natural cross-over to the pectorals. To emphasise the work in the triceps, keep your body as upright as possible, and exaggerate the tricep contraction by fully extending the arms at the top of the movement for a full contraction in the triceps.

The highlight of weighted dips is that you are able to overload the triceps with a heavy sets to failure, remove the weight and then perform an immediate drop set to encourage more blood flow.


Pull-ups can be one of the most difficult movements to perform, but excelling in this movement will ensure that you have a wide and well developed back. If done correctly, pull-ups will not only strengthen but improve mobility throughout the scapula, which most people lack. Hanging in general is also beneficial for shoulder health and developing a strong grip.

In terms of versatility, there is no better exercise for your back, lats, biceps and even your abs than the pull-up and you're working them all at the same time. If you're looking for that enviable V-shaped torso, then the pull-up has to be in your repertoire.

Barbell Hip-Thrusts

This exercise targets one of the most neglected areas of the body; the glutes. It also plays a pivotal role in one of the most important fundamental movements in the body; hip extension. Not only are the glutes important for healthy hips and functional strength, it addresses many common dysfunctions, including tight hip flexors, sore knees and weak support to the lower back. The glutes are also one of the largest muscles in the human body, making it an overall difficult movement to perform, recruiting significant muscle fibres.


If you’re looking to build some serious muscle mass, or improve your strength, including these mass building exercises will no doubt help you. Once mastered these exercises can become the foundation of your plan, and you can ultimately build on them with other variations to hit your targeted muscle group from all angles.

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