T Nation

Best Exercises For Each Bodypart?


let's hear it. the best 3 exercises for the: chest, biceps, triceps, abs, quads, hamstrings, calves, upper back, shoulders, and lower back. I think this would be a great post for beginners, or anyone with a time squeeze, but wants to work ____ today, but especially beginners, to get rid of people doing some almost-useless exercises in the weight room.

this started when I saw a couple posts about best biceps exercise, then another one about chest, so why not make one on all?

please post like so:
upper back:
lower back:
(another one or two of your choice if you must):

I look forward to seeing the responses to this, as in the summer my job will no doubt limit my time in the weight room on some days.


Chest: Mass- DB bench, MXS (Max strength)- Barbell bench

Upper back- 1 arm DB row

Shoulders- DB military press

Biceps- BB or EZ bar curl

Triceps- Close grip bench

Abs- IDK. I just do a lot of them.

Quads- Front squat (or close stance back squat)

Hamstrings- Deadlift

Calves- Standing calf raises on a platfrom

Lower back- Deadlift

***These are just my opinions. I am also looking forward to the other answers.


chest: Flat wide grip bench press
upper back: Bent over rows/chins
shoulders: military press
biceps: standing barbell curls
triceps: dips
abs: olympic lifts
quads: squats
hamstrings: Deadlifts
calves: donkey calf raise
lower back: deadlifts/lympic lifts


It's gonna vary from individual to individual (different limb lengths, bone structures, etc...)

Chest: Incline BB bench, Incline DB, flat DB

Upper back: Rack deadlifts, floor deadlifts, T-bar rows

Shoulders: Standing military, seated military, DB military

Biceps: Standing BB curl, incline DB curl, alternating DB curl

Triceps: Close grip bench, dips, reverse grip bench

Abs: Overhead squats, planks, hanging leg raises

Quads: BB back squat, BB front squat, leg press

Hamstrings: RDL, Sumo leg press, lying leg curl

Calves: Donkey calf raise, seated calf raise, leg press calf raise

Lower back: Good mornings, floor deadlifts, olympic lifts

Middle back (lats): chins/pull-ups, pull-downs, rack chins/pull-ups


chest: incline barbell
upper back: chin up
shoulders: push press
biceps: barbell curl
triceps: dips
abs: squats and deadlifts/ the treadmill
quads: front squats
hamstrings: straight-leg deadlift
calves: donkey calf raise
lower back: deadlifts

bang for your buck: deadlift, power clean and press


I'm suprised with the incline bench suggestion, I only feel my shoulders when inclining, but flat wide grip flat seems to be mostly chest for me.


squats. snatch. c&j.



I'm KISS. 4 exercises are enough, especially for beginners.

Chest: Dips
Upper back: Chins
Shoulders: Dips
Biceps: Chins
Triceps: Dips
Abs: Deadlifts
Quads: Squats
Hamstrings: Deadlifts
Calves: Squats
Lower back: Deadlifts


I agree, just...

Chest: cleans
Upper back: cleans
Shoulders: cleans
Biceps: cleans
Triceps: Jerks
Abs: jerks
Quads: Squats
Hamstrings: Squats
Calves: cleans
Lower back: cleans


Chest: Milk
Upper back: Milk
Shoulders: Milk
Biceps: Milk
Triceps: Milk
Abs: Squats
Quads: Squats
Hamstrings: Squats
Calves: Squats
Lower back: Squats



Because Incline puts less stress in the Pecs in favor of more stress on the Delts.

I think whoever suggested incline actually meant decline Bench.

As for the OP:

something like that. I like to add one vertical pushing exercise though (unless you're doing some kind of Oly lift).


I like to focus on compound exercises for a while then switch to isolation movements. The switch/variation seems to work well for mass.

chest: bench press, flies
upper back: Heavy Rack Pulls (works wonders for me), pullups with slow eccentric part
shoulders: military press, side raises
biceps: close grip supinated pullups, band curls, hammer curls
triceps: dips, skullcrushers, band extensions
abs: front squats, leg raises
quads: close stance squats (atg)
hamstrings: one legged deadlifts, bulgarian squats (glutes + hams)
calves: slow tempo calf raises with long pauses
lower back: squats, deadlifts


Nope. I personally said and meant incline, not decline (though declines are good as well). Those who feel inclines more in their shoulders should try 1 of two things:

1) using a low incline (something like 30 degrees) rather than the usual high incline (which is about 45 degrees)

2) learning how to bench with your chest. It might just be that you lack the neuromuscular coordination to activate the pecs at will. It may also have to do with your form on bench.

Also, am I the only one who noticed that the OP asked for the "best 3" exercises for each muscle group?


Actually, the incline puts more tension on the shoulders by the very function of the anterior deltoid itself. It is a shoulder abductor and an incline will increase the need to abduct the shoulder. To involve the pecs more, shoulder abduction should be minimized. The best way to do this is to do a decline. It also involves the pectoralis minor, a more "chest-ish" muscle than deltoids.

As for selecting the "best 3" I think undeadlift is making a point. Beginners need to KISS. Mentioning too many exercises for them would be unwise.


chest: flys
upper back: shrugs
shoulders: bb press
biceps: bb curls
triceps: skullcrushers
abs: hanging leg raises/crunch machine
quads: squats
hamstrings:stiff legged deadlifts
calves: donkey calve raises


I understand the caution to not confuse beginners, as I see this has already become an amazing assortment of lifts, most of which are common from reply to reply, which is good (kind of like that high school drawing of three circles overlapping?). I myself am not a beginner, but I hope that this becomes a good go-to point for beginners. Sentoguy, thanks for reading what I wanted, but the intentions of the other guys are good as well.

oh, and by the way, I'm sure you can see my pic, so...
does anyone know how to "correct" that off side of abs? I heard that it's a muscle, and can only be bigger or smaller, but can't "shift." is that true? and if not, how do I fix it? and why is it like that? just curious...


The joint action during incline bench is not shoulder abduction though. It is horizontal shoulder abduction/flexion which the pectoralis major is the prime mover. Yes, the higher the incline the more stress is placed on the shoulders due to less and less pec fibers being in the line of pull. But then all variations of bench will place stress on the pecs, delts and triceps.

A low incline bench will place the majority of stress on the pecs and since most people need to work more on their upper pectorals than their lower pectorals (and because inclines tend to be less injury prone than flat benching) I suggested inclines as among the best chest exercises.

I agree, beginners should stick to the basics and not overcomplicate things. They don't need to do 3 different exercises per muscle group.

But, I saw this thread as more of an encyclopedia of exercises, kind of a reference for them to refer to if they need a new exercise for a specific body part. And Eppert did ask for the "best 3", so that's what I personally listed (IMO).


Jay Cutler has a similar problem with his abs. The best you can do is make them bigger and see what happens.


sentoguy is right on, and took the words right out of my mouth. I wanted this to a reference point for beginners and anyone short on time. I was hoping that most of T-Nation's finest would have similar ideas, and I was right. If anyone looks at this thread, they can see several lifts repeat from lifter to lifter, so maybe that'll help them see that it's a good lift.

I thought asgardian's post was funny, by the way. haha


Those abs, as they are, would look impressive if paired with bigger chests and arms.