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Mass Making: 9 of the Best Mass Building Exercises to Get You Huge

best mass building exercises

People get into weight lifting for many different reasons. Some want to get toned or lose weight while others are looking to increase functional strength to improve their quality of life.

But if you’re reading this article, you’re lifting weights for an entirely different reason. You want to use weight lifting as a platform for building strength and mass. We commend your goals and want to help.

Building size is a science – one that requires patience, dedication, proper nutrition, and of course, the best mass building exercises. Keep reading for everything you need to know about building size and strength, including a list of the top nine important exercises.


First, we must talk about diet. What (and how much) someone eats is just as important for gaining weight as it is for losing weight. However, in this case, the weight you’re going to be gaining will be primarily muscle mass.

Regardless of what mass building lifts you do, you won’t increase your size or get stronger unless you’re consuming a surplus of calories. In other words, you have to consume more calories each day than you burn. Otherwise, your muscles won’t have enough fuel to recover, grow, and get stronger.

To get a clear picture of how many calories you burn each day, use a BMR calculator. We recommend using the version that uses your bodyfat percentage as a factor, which will provide a more accurate depiction. 

Once you have your BMR number, aim for a 300-500 calorie surplus per day. Be careful, however, as too much of a surplus will lead to excess fat storage. 

Sets and Reps

Next, let’s talk about your workout strategy. Even the best mass building exercises will be ineffective if you don’t know what you’re doing in terms of programming. You need to avoid common weight lifting mistakes.

For example, if you do the same sets, reps, and weight for each exercise for months on end, you absolutely will not grow or get stronger. The key to continued growth is progressive overload.

Progressive Overload Theory

Progressive overload paired with using the right exercises to increase muscle mass (and eating enough calories) is guaranteed to help you build size and strength. But what is progressive overload?

The best illustration is the story of a young boy who must carry a baby calf up a hill each day for food and water. Each week, the calf gets a little heavier and the boy gets a little stronger as his body adapts to meet the physical demands. Fast-forward a few years to see a heavily-muscled young man carrying a full-grown cow up a hill.

To put this theory into practice, ensure you’re making small improvements each week. Over time, this will result in significant improvements in strength and size. Here are some examples of progressive overload in weight lifting:

  • Keep the same weight, but do at least one or two more reps on each set 
  • Do the same reps, but add a little weight to the bar for each exercise
  • Do the same reps and weight, but do an extra set for each exercise

In order to accurately and consistently incorporate progressive overload, you must write everything down. For each exercise, note the weight used as well as the sets and reps completed.

Compound Movements – The Best Mass Building Exercises

Let’s get to the good stuff. Now that you have a better understanding of how to program, let’s talk about the best exercises for mass. The foundation of your workout should center around compound movements.

Compound movements are those that require multiple joints and muscle groups to engage. These call upon the most muscle fibers and demand the most strength. Here are the top nine movements you should be concerned with.

1. Barbell Squats.

Of all the best mass building exercises, barbell squats deserve to be at the top of the list. This exercise incorporates:

  • Upper and lower legs
  • Glutes
  • Core (abdominals and lower back)
  • Upper back
  • Shoulders

During barbell squats, keep your core tight and your back straight. Your feet should be roughly shoulder-width apart or slightly wider. Ensure that your knees stay over your heels, not your toes.

2. Barbell Deadlifts

Barbell deadlifts are all about pulling power. While squats put an emphasis on your quadriceps, deadlifts focus on your hamstrings. Here’s what they’ll hit:

  • Upper and lower legs
  • Glutes
  • Core
  • Grip strength
  • Upper and middle back

While performing a deadlift, be sure to keep a neutral spine to prevent lower back injuries. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Grip the barbell with your arms just outside your knees and drive the weight up by powering through your legs.

3. Barbell Bench Press

One of the best muscle building exercises for the upper body is the famous bench press. Although many lifters get too fixated on their bench press, it’s still an important exercise. The bench press targets:

  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Triceps
  • Core

During a bench press, be sure not to allow your elbows to flare out (toward your head) too widely. This will put excess pressure on your shoulders which could lead to injury. Maintain a tight core and bring the bar down to the center of your chest, near your sternum.

4. Pull-ups/Chin-ups

While some bodyweight movements like pushups and bodyweight squats aren’t ideal for building mass, pull-ups and chin-ups are quite different. To perform these, you must lift the entire weight of your body with your upper body alone. They are especially beneficial when you reach the level of weighted chin-ups and pull-ups.

Pullups work:

  • Back
  • Biceps
  • Core

Pull-ups are performed with your hands in the pronated position (palms facing away from you) with a wider grip. Chin-ups are performed with a supinated grip (palms facing you) with a narrower grip. During both exercises, keep your core tight and focus on pulling with your back muscles, not your arms.

5. Military Press

One of the best mass building exercises for shoulders is the military press, otherwise known as a barbell shoulder press. This movement can be performed standing or seated. It works:

  • Shoulders
  • Triceps
  • Core
  • Legs (when standing)

During a shoulder press, bring the bar down directly in front of your face. You can practice ful-range of motion by bringing the bar down to your shoulders or stop anywhere after your elbow hits a 90-degree angle. Keep your core tight and your back straight.

6. Bent-Over Barbell Rows

Bent-over barbell rows are a great exercise for building up your middle back (or lats). These are the muscles that give weight-lifters the coveted v-shape in their upper body. Bent-over barbell rows target:

  • Upper, middle, and lower back
  • Biceps
  • Core
  • Legs

While performing bent-over rows, maintain a neutral spine. Be sure to control the weight without allowing your body to bounce as you perform the reps. You should not be generating power with your legs.

7. Barbell Front Squats

Another one of the best mass building exercises for legs it the front squat. In this version of the squat, the barbell is balanced across the front of the shoulders and upper chest (clavicle area) rather than across the back. This places a great emphasis on the core and quadriceps as well as improving balance.

Front squats work:

  • Upper and lower legs
  • Glutes
  • Core 
  • Shoulders

When doing front squats, place your hands on the bar roughly shoulder-width apart or slightly wider. Walk under the bar, allowing your elbows to point out in front of you to achieve the front rack position. Keeping your elbows high, your head up, and your back straight will help maintain the balance of the bar across the front of your shoulders.

8. Barbell Cleans

Barbell cleans may be one of the most technically demanding movements in weightlifting, second only to the barbell snatch. However, this exercise is one of the best for increasing strength, power, and explosiveness. In terms of size, the barbell clean is great for building up legs and traps. 

It targets:

  • Upper and lower legs
  • Glutes
  • Core
  • Grip strength
  • Shoulders
  • Traps

Barbell cleans require moving the bar from the floor or hang position to the front rack position in a swift and explosive movement. Typically, cleans have you drop under the bar as you pull it up, landing in a low front squat. The move is complete when you stand up out of the squat.

Power cleans require only a slight dip to catch the bar, but cannot be done with as much weight. We recommend looking up videos or working with an experienced lifter to master this technical exercise.

9. Dips

Finally, another bodyweight movement that is deceptively effective at building mass is the dip. Like pull-ups, this movement is much more effective when done with added weight. Dips target:

  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Triceps
  • Core

Be careful not to go down to low, especially as a beginner. This can lead to shoulder injuries. It’s also important to keep your elbows in, as allowing them to flare out widely can also be dangerous.

Keep your core tight, lean forward slightly, and push through your chest and triceps.

Looking for More Help With Health and Nutrition?

If you’re here because you’re looking for the best mass building exercises, it’s important to note one more thing – you have to put in the work. Make training a priority as consistency is necessary for growth in any field. Additionally, you must push yourself with challenging weights and difficult programs.

Good luck with your venture and be sure to check out our supplements to assist you with your goals. Proper diet and programming are essential, but it never hurts to have a little help!

Fitness, Muscle Growth

These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners. Please consult your health care professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product.

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