Whether you’ve been working hard to get that scale lower or you’re looking to put on muscle, there’s a set of exercises to fit every gym-goer’s needs. Many of us are quick to head to the treadmills and ellipticals when we’re at the gym, but for those who are looking to put on mass and tip the scale forward, cardio isn’t ideal. Lifting weights is sure to bring about muscle gain, but lifting also helps to decrease body fat, which can result in a slimmer physique overall. So, in a fitness world dominated by exercise enthusiasts chasing weight loss, what do you do when you’re trying to add pounds back on? We have seven exercises that you have to try when you’re working on gaining weight — and remember, lift as heavy as you can while retaining proper form with only a few reps in each set for maximum muscle and weight gain. On the opposite side of the coin, if you’re looking to lose weight, these exercises are a few that you may want to avoid.
1. Standing military press
You’ll feel this exercise primarily in your upper back, triceps, and shoulders, and if you’re using a heavy weight with few reps, you’re sure to gain weight and mass in these areas. Bodybuilding.com explains that once you’ve grabbed a barbell and selected your weight, raise the barbell to chest height, making sure your palms are facing upward. You should be holding the bar slightly wider than your shoulders, and your knees should be slightly bent. When you’re ready to lift, bring the bar up to your collarbone, and then press overhead. Lower the bar back down to your collarbone and then all the way down to your waist with arms fully extended, and repeat.
2. Weighted hip thrust
We’re all familiar with squats as the go-to exercise for our glutes, but when you’re trying to gain weight, your average squat just might not cut it. Try the weighted hip thrust — you’ll need a barbell with heavy weights attached (not too heavy, as you don’t want to compromise form) and a low bench to perform this move, Stack explains. To get into position, sink down in front of your bench so that you’re leaning against the bench pad right below your shoulder blades. Your barbell should also be across your lap, and your feet should be right under your knees. Then, lift your glutes and your core when you’re ready to begin, making sure that your knees make 90-degree angles. Lower back down to complete one rep, and repeat.
3. Incline barbell bench press
You’ll definitely see a massive difference in your chest, shoulders, and triceps when you perform any kind of press with heavy weights, and the incline on this one really targets your upper body for maximum weight gain in this region. Muscle and Fitness says that to start this move, you’ll need an incline bench that’s set between a 30- and 45-degree angle, and a barbell with heavy weight. Sit on your bench and grab your barbell with palms facing downward, hands shoulder-width apart, and bring the weight to your chest. When you’re ready, press overhead, fully extending the arms at the top before lowering it with control back down to your chest. Leave the weight at chest-height until you’re ready to press overhead once again for your next rep.
This full-body exercise is great for working the core and the hamstrings, and when you’re doing deadlifts with heavy weights, you can expect to gain some weight in your legs and glutes, too. The American Council on Exercise explains that to start this exercise, you’ll need a barbell in front of you on the floor, and your feet will be about shoulder-width apart. As you bend down to grab the bar, make sure you sit slightly back into your hips while keeping the back straight and chest lifted. Grab the bar with palms facing down, and slowly raise to a standing position, squeezing the glutes and hamstrings on your way up. Once you’re standing, slowly lower the weight back down with a flat back, sinking back into the heels and bending the knees as much as you need. You’ll know you’re properly performing this move when you feel it in your legs and not in your back. Repeat for as many reps as you can.
5. Barbell hack squat
You’re probably used to having the weight in front of you when you’re lifting heavy, but for these barbell hack squats as demonstrated by Muscle and Fitness, you’ll actually have the weight behind you this time to train your quads, hamstrings, and glutes for maximum gain. To begin this exercise, start with a barbell with a weight of your choice directly behind you on the ground. Start in a squatted position — your thighs should be parallel to the floor, and from here, you can reach back to grab your barbell with your palms facing up and away from you. Make sure to keep your core tight and your lower back slightly arched, and lift up from the knees. Lower back down into your squat and lift again for another rep, and repeat.
6. Weighted hanging leg raises
Leg raises are tough without the weights added in, and they’re great for toning your abs and strengthening your core and back muscles. For this exercise, you’ll need access to a pull-up bar or any type of sturdy high bar that you can hang from, and you’ll need a dumbbell that you can grasp between your ankles, says ExRx.net. When you’re ready to begin, hold the weight between your ankles and grab onto your bar. From here, you’ll lift your knees upward and straighten the legs back out for one rep. The added weight here will help you to put on weight rather than just tone, and if you want to make the exercise even more difficult, you can add in a twisting motion with your knees to work the obliques.
7. Bent-over row with bicep curl
Bent-over rows are excellent for building muscle along the lats in your back, and they can be key in gaining weight in this large muscle group. According to MensXP, you can get the most out of this exercise by combining it with a bicep curl. To begin, hold a dumbbell in each hand, making sure that your palms are facing down. Bend your knees and lean forward, flattening your back while you bend at the waist until your back is nearly parallel to the floor. Hold your weights in front of you with straight arms, and pull your elbows tight into your sides as you row. After one row, stand up straight and perform one bicep curl. Repeat this sequence using heavy weights for maximum weight gain.