There are numerous reasons why you should want to build more muscle, including making your metabolism and fat loss incredibly efficient, building a strong posture, being much less likely to suffer a muscular or skeletal injury, being a strong and functional person who can move nimbly, and not to mention looking lean, fit, and sexy.
Building muscle does not mean getting big and bulky. Muscle is heavier than fat, but it also takes up a lot less space than fat, and it uses up more calories, which means you can drop a lot of size, become considerably leaner, and not see much change in your weight and also be considerably stronger than before. Building muscle is literally your body becoming more efficient.
The best way to build muscle is through compound lifting movements that utilize several muscles and movement patterns. Both men and women should lift weights and perform strength training. Here are the best lifting exercises every relatively healthy adult should learn and do.
1. Sumo or Conventional Barbell Deadlifts
Doing deadlifts properly and getting good at them is probably the fastest way to pack muscle onto your body. Your calves, hamstrings, glutes, abdominals, entire upper back, and your forearms will all see considerable growth. The only way this growth will happen, though, is by being able to perform multiple sets at a moderately large amount of weight with PERFECT form. Lifting heavy weight or even light weight for that matter with improper form will wreak havoc on your spine, but with proper form there is very little chance for injury.
For example, if you can lift 2x your body weight for a set of 3 with perfect form, chances are you’ve built a relatively impressive amount of muscle. Learn perfect form through online resources and continual repetition and practice, start light and gradually progress higher, and research lifting routines.
2. Barbell Back Squats
Squats will turn your legs and core into Greek god-like shape. Again, like deadlifts, perfect form is vital, so take the time to learn and practice. There’s no need to immediately go super heavy, rather start light with lots of volume (sets & reps), and work your way up until your form begins to break down, but most of your reps should be done at a moderate difficulty level where your form is still near-perfect.
Squats will grow your quadriceps, glutes, inner thighs, abdominals, calves, and hamstrings. You’ll be more athletic, strong, and flexible. Squats will pack muscle onto your body and increase the level of testosterone in your body, leading to enhanced muscle growth elsewhere too.
3. Overhead Shoulder Press
These can be done with dumbbells or a barbell. With dumbbells stability will be worked more, and with a barbell total strength will be worked more. Dumbbells are preferable if you have shoulder impingement. Do these standing, focus on keeping your abdominals and glutes flexed and ribcage down – don’t allow your ribcage to protrude and your back to arch. These will work your shoulders, triceps, as well as the stability of your core and upper back.
4. Barbell Bent Over Rows
Barbell rows will pack muscle onto your forearms, biceps, and especially your latissimus dorsi and upper back muscles. It's important to do these and similar upper back exercises in order to balance out the pushing and pulling muscles. These can be done with dumbbells as well, which are effective in keeping both sides equally strong.
With bent over rows you want to get into a position similar to a conventional deadlift – glutes pushed back, hamstrings engaged, the lower back flat, the abdominals flexed hard, and the torso at an angle slightly above horizontal. From there you want to keep your weight centered on the middle of your feet, the barbell or dumbbells in a range of motion that is directly above the middle of your feet, not in front of them (adds unneeded stress to the lower back), keep your shoulders pinned back and chest pushed out, your chin tucked into your neck, and from there you pull the barbell into your belly button using your latissumus dorsi.
5. Pullups and Pushups
Pullups and pushups are great upper body bodyweight exercises that can easily be done at home and build a lot of muscle and strength. As you get good at these you can also learn and try weighted versions.
Prioritize your compound movements, prioritize perfect form and weekly gradual progression, research what proper form looks like, look into exercise variations that meet your needs, and utilize some of the most successful weight lifting programs and resources out there.