Best Weight Lifting Exercises – Free Weights, Machines & More!

One of (if not THE) most important parts of an effective workout routine are the weight lifting exercises it is comprised of.

There are literally hundreds of different exercises out there for you to choose from, so it can definitely be confusing trying to figure out which are best for your workout routine, your body and of course your exact goal.

To help you narrow it down a bit, here are some basic tips and general facts about various types of weight lifting exercises along with some recommendations for figuring out which will work best for you.

Machines vs Free Weights vs Body Weight Exercises

Weight lifting exercises can typically be done 3 different ways. You could use:

  • Free weights.
  • Machines.
  • Your own body weight.

Machines are… well… machines. Free weights mainly refer to exercises done using dumbbells or a barbell. And, body weight exercises are done using your own body weight as the resistance (like a push up or pull up).

While all 3 can definitely be effective, there’s a few things to consider when deciding which are best for you. In general, free weight and body weight exercises typically have an advantage over machines for building muscle and increasing strength. Here’s why…

Machines are designed in such a way that they do part of the work for you. They keep the weight stable. The machine puts everything in a constant stable position that allows you to only have to move the weight from point A to point B. Free weights on the other hand are just that… free weights. They are weights that aren’t being held in place by anything except, well, you.

Weight lifting exercises done with free weights or your own body weight require you to not only move the weight from point A to point B, but to also keep the weight stable throughout the entire movement. Doing so requires the use of additional stabilizer muscles which would not be used had you done the exercise on a machine.

Not to mention, the fixed position certain machines put you into might not be ideal or fit “just right” for everyone. When it does, then sure… machines can sometimes be just as good as free weights or body weight exercises. But when it’s not (which happens more often than people realize), the potential for injury increases big time.

So, while all 3 types of exercises can definitely be an effective and useful part of your workout routine, machines are usually best kept as a third option when free weight or body weight movements aren’t possible or preferred.

Isolation And Compound Exercises

After that, weight lifting exercises generally fall into 2 basic groups: isolation and compound.

An isolation exercise is an exercise that isolates one muscle group to perform the movement. Some examples are bicep curls, leg extensions, lateral raises, and tricep press-downs.

A compound exercise on the other hand recruits the use of more than 1 major muscle group to perform the movement. Some examples include squats, bench press, deadlifts, pull ups, dips, and rows.

While both types of weight lifting exercises are once again effective and able to be used in most workout routines, compound exercises are generally more effective when it comes to building muscle and increasing strength.

They allow more weight to be lifted, which means progression (which is the most important factor of all) is able to happen more often and more consistently than with isolation movements.

For this reason, compound exercises are usually the best first choice and should almost always comprise the majority of your workout routine.

Proper Form

Always use proper form. I know, it seems stupid that I’d have to say that, but I do. I think everyone on the planet is fully aware that proper form is not only important for the purpose of building muscle, getting the most out of each exercise, and actually training the target muscle group… but it’s also obviously important for safety.

We all know this, right? However, despite knowing this I still see tons of people in my gym using terrible form because they either don’t know how to do that exercise, or because they are lifting more weight than they are capable of lifting with proper form.

In the latter case, they think the key to increasing muscle, strength or just weight lifting in general is lifting heavier weight. Well, they are 100% right as long as they are lifting that weight and doing that exercise with the proper form.

They aren’t. Instead they are NOT going through the full range of motion and are therefore NOT getting the most (or sometimes anything) out of the exercise.

Not to mention, they are also putting themselves in a position to get injured. This is bad. Ignore your ego. Ignore what weight everyone else is lifting. Ignore everyone and everything. Worry only about yourself and only use weight that will allow you to perform an exercise with proper form.

Now, in the case of people just not knowing how to do an exercise properly, I give a brief description of some common weight lifting exercises for each muscle group at the links below…

Proper Programming

Possibly even more important than the exercises themselves is the way you program them into your workout routine. Meaning, doing the best exercises with the best form is definitely the right idea for success, but it won’t actually work if it’s not all set up correctly.

Read the free guide to weightlifting workout routines and take a look at some of my favorite workout plans and splits as well as my recommendations for workout frequency to ensure that everything is set up in a way that will work as effectively as possible.

Or, if you’d rather use the highly proven workouts I’ve used to help countless men and women completely transform their bodies, now you finally can.

The Ultimate Fat Loss & Muscle Building Guide contains the entire diet and workout system that I personally use and most often recommend. It contains all of the answers, details, and sample workouts you’ll need to get the best results as fast as possible. Learn more here.

Not getting the results you want?

Get the solution: The Ultimate Fat Loss & Muscle Building Guide