Dossier: bodybuilding exercises

Bodybuilding exercises

Welcome to this special dossier on bodybuilding exercises!

A weight training program for building muscle should focus around a mix of different techniques, set and rep formats, and exercises designed to target a specific muscle. Among these exercises, some are polyarticular and others analytical. They can therefore target several joints and muscles, or a single muscle. A successful workout must therefore include both types of exercises. So here is a list of the main core and isolation exercises for each muscle group.




The squat

The squat for the quadriceps

This is a squat performed with a load on the shoulders. The bar should be placed in the middle of the trapezes, and the back must remain as straight as possible throughout the duration of its implementation. The squat is the basic exercise par excellence for the legs and it recruits: the quadriceps, the hamstrings, the glutes and the lower back.

The leg press

The leg press for quads

The leg press is an exercise which is performed in a seated position. The feet are placed on a plate (horizontal or vertical), and the back fixed against a backrest. This is a basic exercise that also involves the glutes and, to a lesser extent, the hamstrings and calves.


leg extension

Quadriceps Leg Extension

This exercise is performed in a seated position, and you place your ankles under a roll that transmits the load to the quadriceps. Just lift your feet up, contracting well the front of the leg. The leg extension is the king of isolation exercises for recruiting the quadriceps.




Straight Leg Deadlift

Straight Leg Deadlift

The straight leg deadlift is a variation of the deadlift which specifically targets the posterior chain. There is little to no knee movement in this exercise to ensure activation of the hamstring, glutes, and spine. The bar starts from the ground, then must be lifted until the body is completely straight. The legs should be very slightly bent, at 160° instead of 135° for a traditional deadlift.

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leg curl

Lying Leg Curl

Leg curl is performed the body face against the bench, lifting the load with the feet, towards the buttocks. This is an isolation exercise for the hamstrings. It can also be performed seated or standing unilaterally, depending on the device.




Standing Dumbbell Raises

Calf extensions

It is about lifting the weight of his body and the additional load to the strength of the calf. You can stand on a staircase, on a stepper or any other support allowing you to stretch the calf well without the heel touching the ground. If a weight is used, it is usually held in the hand(s). This is an isolation exercise for the calves; it particularly stresses the gastrocnemius muscle and also recruits the soleus muscle.

seated calf machine

Seated calves

Seated calf extension is performed by bending the feet to lifting a load held on the knees. This is an isolation exercise for the calves that places particular emphasis on the soleus muscle.




The bench press

The bench press for the pectorals

The barbell or dumbbell bench press is performed lying on a bench, pushing the load away from the chest. This is a core exercise that also involves the triceps and deltoids, but it also recruits the upper and lower back muscles, as well as the traps. The bench press is the king of all upper body exercises. and it is above all one of the most popular chest exercises in the world.

The dips

Chest dips

The dips are carried out with the weight of body or ballasted with a weight. It involves bending the arms, hands resting on two handles or parallel bars. To properly target the pectorals, it is advisable to tilt the bust forward. This exercise also recruits the triceps, the shoulders, and is an excellent core exercise.


Dumbbell Flyes

Dumbbell pecs fly

Flyes are performed while lying on a bench. The hands grasp the dumbbells, and it is a question of spreading the hands and bringing them closer to each other by contracting the pectorals well. Although this is an isolation exercise, it still engages the deltoids. This movement can be carried out with cables facing each other (cable cross-over).


The backbones


Vertical pull-ups, pull-ups

Pull-ups for lats

The pulling movement is performed using body weight, suspended from a bar. It is a question of pulling the body upwards with the simple force of the dorsals, the arms constituting the lever. This movement can also be achieved with a pulley. In this case, you sit on a chair and pull the pull-up bar towards your chest or behind your neck. This is a core exercise that also engages the biceps, forearms, and posterior deltoids.

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Rowing bar or dumbbells

Row bar leaning back

Bust leaning forward, it is a question of pulling the load towards the abdomen. This move can be done with a barbell or dumbbells, a variation that can be done face up against a benchideal for people who suffer from tension in the lower back. This is a core exercise that also engages the biceps, forearms, trapezius, and posterior deltoids.


The outstretched arms draw

Stretched back arms draw

The outstretched arm pull is performed using a high pulley, with a straight handle or a rope. It’s about bringing the load back to the knees keeping your arms straight and contracting your latissimus dorsi well. This isolation exercise lightly engages the triceps and the back of the shoulders.




The chin pull

Chin-shoulder pull

The draw is performed standing, lifting a load along the body at shoulder width and lifting it straight up to the collarbones. This is a basic exercise that also works the traps, upper back, forearms and biceps. The narrower the handle, the more the trapezius muscles are used.

Shoulder press

military press shoulders

The shoulder press is performed while sitting or standing, by lowering a load overhead to just above the shoulders and then lifting it up again. The movement can be performed with both arms, or just one at a time. This is a basic exercise that also involves the traps and triceps.

The military press is similar to the shoulder press, but is performed in a standing position. Unlike the seated shoulder press, the military press involves the majority of the stabilizing muscles to keep the body rigid and straight. It is therefore of a most effective basic exercise.


Lateral raises with dumbbells or pulley

Lateral shoulder raises

The lateral raise is performed while standing or sitting, with the hands grasping the load (dumbbells or pulley handles) and lifting them to the sides until they are in line with the shoulders. This is an isolation exercise for the deltoids that indirectly recruits the traps and forearms.


The arms are made up of smaller muscle groups than the rest of the body. Thereby, the majority of exercises targeting them are isolation exerciseswhich make very little use of the other muscles.



Extension of the triceps to the pulley, in pronation (pushdown)

Pulley Tricep Extensions

Pushing is performed in a standing position, pushing the load down. It is important to keep the elbows shoulder width apart and in line with the shoulders/legs. In other words, the position of the elbows should not change for the duration of the movement. This is a pure isolation exercise for the triceps.

Dumbbell or EZ Bar Triceps Extension

Dumbbell Triceps

The triceps extension is performed while standing or sitting, lifting and lowering a load overhead and fixing the elbows well. This move can be done with both arms, or just one at a time.

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the biceps

The desk curl

Bicep desk curl

This movement is performed standing or seated, hands holding weights (bar, dumbbells, pulley handle), bringing them up to the shoulders. It can be performed with both arms, or just one at a time.

The straight bar or EZ curl

EZ bar curl




Leg lift

Abdominal leg raises

One raises the legs by sitting on a bench or flat on the ground, raising the knees to the shoulders, or the legs in an upright position. This is a compound exercise that also involves the hip flexors. It can also be carried out suspended from a pull-up bar.


The crunch

Abominal Crunch

This movement is performed by lying with your back to the ground with your knees bent, rolling your shoulders towards the pelvis without lifting your lower back.

Guide to abs


Lumbar muscles


Back extension on a Roman chair

Roman chair bust lift

This extension is performed while lying down along a flat or inclined bench, so that the hips are supported and the heels are fixed. The flexion is at the level of the hip, which is blocked on the bench. It is a compound exercise that also involves the glutes.

The deadlift / deadlift

The lumbar deadlift

The deadlift is a very effective core exercise for strengthening the lower back, but it also engages many other major muscle groups including the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and abs. Warning, poor execution technique can cause serious injury. We grab a stationary bar on the ground while keeping your back very straight, and lift it so as to complete the movement standing, the bar at the level of the upper thighs and by contracting the erector spinae and lumbar muscles. When performed correctly, the arms should only be used to hold the bar : they do not have to bend to lift the weight. There is no movement more fundamental in bodybuilding than the deadlift.

The good morning

Good morning for the lower back

Bar held on the shoulders, you have to lean forward then raise the load to the starting position. The good morning bears this name because the movement resembles the inclination that one realizes to greet someone. It solicits the hamstrings as well as the glutes, but it is mainly used to strengthen the lower back. It can be done standing or sitting.


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