dalton green leanbuff lean buff doing barbell row

My 5 Best Exercises for Building Size & Muscle

Gaining muscle is one of the most difficult things for a beginner lifter. You spend tons of time using exercise machines, cables, and dumbbells but might be seeing very little results.

When I began my fitness journey, I was around 150lbs. Currently, I’m 206lbs.

I struggled in the beginning with adding weight because I spend most of my time doing basic curls and pull-ups. Sure I was adding a bit of muscle, but I wasn’t seeing my body itself gain any size.

After tons of reading, google searches, and watching YouTube videos, I managed to compile a list of exercises that could help me accelerate my growth.

Through tons of trial and error, I found a few of them that worked exceptionally well for me. Here’s the list.

1) Barbell Deadlifts

Some people hate deadlifts and I don’t really understand why.

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ll know that I never did a deadlift for the first 1-2 years of training. After I began doing them, the results were incredible.

Not only did deadlifts improve my core & lower back strength, but they also helped me increase the size of my back, biceps, traps, shoulders, legs, etc. 

It’s crazy.


If you haven’t implemented barbell deadlifts, you should definitely start today.

Barbell Unavailable? Try the Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

2) Barbell Rows

While I’ll admit barbell rows aren’t my favorite exercise (in fact, they’re my least favorite), I can’t deny the sheer benefits of this exercise.

Barbell rows have helped me increase the overall size of my back, improve my grip strength and build upon my core.


They’re an excellent exercise to add to your next pull or back day.

Not liking the barbell rows? Try doing Dumbbell Rows

3) Barbell Military Press

Who doesn’t like having strong-looking shoulders?

The military press is another exercise that I neglected during my first year of working out. It’s honestly surprising that I’ve come this far.

The barbell military press is a fantastic exercise because it forces you to engage your core to stabilize the weight going above your head. Your upper body needs to be properly trained to do these effectively so it’s best to stick to higher reps and a manageable weight until you’re sure you can go up.


Doing military presses has given me a wider appearance in my shoulder while also rounding out my upper body including my chest.

Just a great exercise overall.

Alternative exercise: Dumbbell Shoulder Presses

4) Barbell Bench Press

One of my favorite exercises ever. Does anybody hate doing bench presses?

The bench press is one of my favorite movements because of its emphasis on the upper body. When done properly, this exercise gives you the most bang for your buck. It trains your shoulders, chest, and core muscles to the max.

One problem I often see is when beginner lifters use the “trick” of lifting their lower back off the seat to increase their arch, which lessens the distance the bar has to travel, which in turn allows them to lift heavier weights. 

What’s the problem you ask?

Well, when you complete the lift this way, you are lessening the range of motion of your lift causing your overall muscle gains to be limited.

I usually have to remind people that that method of lifting is often reserved for powerlifters whose only goal is to move the bar from point A to B.

Your goal is to increase your size. Don’t cheat yourself. Do the lift properly.

Alternative exercise (And probably just as good): Dumbbell Press

5) Barbell Squat

Doesn’t everybody love leg day? Well if you don’t, too bad. You need to do it.

Squats are such an important exercise because ultimately our legs are the roots of our bodies. If you don’t take care of them, mobility issues will eventually occur leading to ankle, foot, or knee problems.

Barbell squats improve the size of your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles. And of course, the added benefit of engaging your core.


This was another exercise that I often neglected when I first started working out. I frequently would do leg curls and leg extensions, along with dumbbell and smith machine squats, but nothing compared to actually using a barbell to complete my lifts.

The main difference being that barbell curls force you to stabilize your core to move the bar up and down. I really can’t stress enough how important this is.

Alternative exercise: Dumbbell Squats along with Lunges

In closing

Starting your fitness journey can be a daunting challenge and you can sometimes go weeks, months, or even years without doing something that can exponentially speed up your process.

I’ve been there too and you know what? It’ll work out eventually. Always remember that your journey isn’t a race, it’s a marathon.

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to share it with someone you think it would help.

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