Embarking on a journey to build muscle can be both exciting and challenging—especially for my clients who are new to lifting weights. The right exercises not only contribute to overall muscle development but also lay the foundation for a strong and healthy physique. Here, I’ve rounded up the 10 best muscle-building exercises for beginners, along with detailed instructions on how to perform each exercise effectively.

Incorporating these 10 muscle-building exercises into your routine as a beginner can set you up for better strength and enhanced overall fitness. Remember to start with lighter weights, focus on proper form, and gradually progress to more challenging variations as your strength increases. Consistency is key, so enjoy the journey as you build a stronger, healthier body.

Keep reading for the 10 best muscle-building exercises for beginners. And when you’re finished, be sure to check out these 12 Essential Rules To Get Back Into Shape After a Long Break.

Squats

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Squats are a fundamental compound exercise that engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously. They primarily target the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, promoting overall lower-body strength. Squats also engage the core, promoting stability and balance—crucial for beginners who are developing a solid base for muscle growth.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lower your body by bending at the hips and knees, keeping your back straight. Aim to lower until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Push through your heels to return to the starting position. Start with three sets of eight to 10 reps, gradually increasing as strength improves.

RELATED: 11 Strength Exercises To Regain Muscle Mass as You Age

Pushups

pushups
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Pushups are a versatile bodyweight exercise that targets the chest, shoulders, triceps, and core. They are an excellent choice for beginners as they provide a foundational upper-body workout without the need for equipment, helping to develop strength and endurance.

Begin in a plank position with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Lower your body by bending your elbows until your chest almost touches the ground. Push through your palms to return to the starting position. Aim for three sets of 10 to 15 reps, adjusting as needed based on fitness level.

Deadlifts

barbell deadlift
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Deadlifts target the muscles in the back, glutes, hamstrings, and core. This compound movement not only promotes muscle growth but also enhances posture and stability. For beginners, starting with light weights and focusing on proper form is crucial to reap the benefits safely.

Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a barbell with an overhand grip. Bend at the hips, keeping the back straight, and lower the barbell to mid-shin level. Lift the barbell by extending your hips and knees, maintaining a straight back. Begin with three sets of eight to 10 reps, gradually progressing to heavier weights.

RELATED: 10 Best Balance Exercises To Keep You Active & Mobile as You Age

Bench Press

barbell bench press illustration
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The bench press is a classic upper-body exercise that targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps. For beginners, it provides a controlled environment to develop upper-body strength while also enhancing stability and coordination.

Lie on a flat bench with your feet flat on the ground, and grip the barbell slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Lower the barbell to your chest with control. Push the barbell back up to the starting position. Start with three sets of eight to 12 reps, adjusting weight based on comfort and form.

Pull-ups

woman doing pull-ups
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Pull-ups are an effective bodyweight exercise that targets the upper back, biceps, and shoulders. While challenging, they can be adapted for beginners using assisted variations or resistance bands.

Grab a pull-up bar with your palms facing away from you. Pull your body upward until your chin clears the bar. Lower your body back to the starting position with control. Aim for three sets of five to 10 reps, adjusting assistance as needed.

RELATED: 7 Yoga Exercises a 69-Year-Old Instructor Does To Look Half Her Age

Overhead Press

illustration of overhead press exercise
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The overhead press targets the deltoids and trapezius muscles, contributing to overall shoulder strength and development. For beginners, starting with light dumbbells or a barbell is recommended to focus on proper form.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding dumbbells at shoulder height. Push the weights overhead until your arms are fully extended. Lower the weights back to shoulder height. Start with three sets of eight to 12 reps, adjusting weight as needed.

Barbell Rows

illustration of man doing barbell row, concept of muscle-building exercises for beginners
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Barbell rows are excellent for targeting the muscles of the mid-back, including the lats and rhomboids. This exercise contributes to a well-rounded upper body strength routine for beginners.

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a barbell with an overhand grip. Pull the barbell toward your lower chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Extend your arms to lower the barbell back to the starting position. Aim for three sets of 10 to 12 reps, emphasizing control and proper form.

Lunges

reverse lunges exercise, concept of muscle-building exercises for beginners
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Lunges are a versatile lower-body exercise that targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. They also engage the core for stability, making them an ideal choice for beginners working on leg strength.

Stand with your feet together. Take a step forward with one leg, lowering your body until both knees are bent. Push off the front foot to return to the starting position. Start with three sets of 10 to 12 reps per leg, gradually increasing intensity.

RELATED: 5 At-Home Strength Workouts for Belly Fat

Planks

planks, concept of muscle-building exercises for beginners
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Planks are a simple yet effective exercise for building core strength and stability. They engage the abdominal muscles, lower back, and shoulders, making them an essential addition for beginners focusing on overall muscle development.

Begin in a plank position with your forearms on the ground and toes on the floor. Keep your body in a straight line from head to heels, engaging your core. Maintain the plank position for the desired duration. Start with three sets, holding for 30 seconds to one minute, gradually increasing duration.

Curls

man dumbbell bicep curls, concept of muscle-building exercises for beginners
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Bicep curls target the muscles of the upper arm and are an excellent isolation exercise for beginners looking to enhance arm strength and definition.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding dumbbells at your sides. Flex your elbows, bringing the weights toward your shoulders. Extend your arms to lower the weights back to the starting position. Aim for three sets of 10 to 15 reps, focusing on controlled movements.

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