Which Muscles Work Together for Bodybuilding?

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Work similar body parts together for bodybuilding.
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If you're new to weight lifting, you might be wondering which muscle groups to work together. While it's possible to do a full-body workout every time you go to the gym, you can better focus on building the body you want by breaking your workouts up into certain muscle groups.

Tip

If you're looking to build a muscular physique, consider grouping your workouts by body parts — chest and back, legs, and shoulders and arms.

Read more: A Full-Body Weightlifting Workout for Weight Loss

Designing Workout Combinations

When deciding which body parts to work out together, you'll first need to figure out a schedule. In order to build muscle, you'll need to focus on lifting heavy weights. Each exercise should be performed for six to 12 repetitions for three to six sets, as advised by the American Council on Exercise. Rest between sets should be limited to 30 to 90 seconds.

In order to allow your muscles to recover and reduce your risk of injury, you'll need at least one day of rest between workouts that target the same muscle groups. Additionally, if you're also participating in aerobic exercise, you'll need to take into account which muscles are being used.

For example, you might want to avoid going for a run the day after you've worked your legs in the gym. Consider strength-training three times per week to allow for rest days between workouts and additional opportunities for cross-training, if desired. Working different body parts on different days is called a split schedule.

One of the common workout combinations includes working your chest and back on day one, your legs on day two and your shoulders and arms for your third workout of the week, as suggested by ExRx.net. Your abdominal and core routine can be added to whichever day is most convenient.

Combining muscles into workout groups helps keep extra blood flowing to the same area of the body as you exercise. It can also make your workouts more efficient — particularly if you're exercising in the gym where you have to transition between different types of equipment.

Choosing Your Split Workout

ExRx.net recommends that you perform between five and seven exercises in each split workout. The types of exercises that can be performed are virtually endless. You can use dumbbells, cable resistance machines, barbells or even your own body weight to strengthen all the muscles in your body.

Perform six to eight repetitions of each of your chosen exercises, working up to between three and six sets. Consider alternating exercises between sets to give your muscles a brief rest without adding extra rest time to your workout. Change up your exercises at least once a month to challenge your muscles differently and help prevent boredom.

Sample Chest and Back Workout

For your first muscle workout of the week, focus on a chest and back workout. Exercises typically include a variety of pushing and pulling movements during this workout.

Move 1: Bench Press

  1. Lie on a flat weight bench with a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and raise your upper arms out to your sides until they are in line with your shoulders.
  3. Press the dumbbells up toward the ceiling, bringing your hands together as your elbows straighten.
  4. Lower the dumbbells back down toward your chest at a controlled speed.

Move 2: Chest Fly

  1. Position the weight bench at a 45 degree incline.
  2. Lie down on your back with a dumbbell in each hand.
  3. Straighten your elbows, but don't lock them in position.
  4. Lift your arms out in front of your chest and bring your hands together. Your palms should be facing toward each other. This is the starting position.
  5. Keeping your elbows straight (but unlocked), slowly lower your arms out to your sides. At the bottom, your arms should form a "T" with your torso.
  6. Lift your arms back up, bringing your hands together to complete one repetition.

Move 3: Shrug

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart with a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Keeping your arms by your sides, shrug your shoulders up toward your ears as high as possible.
  3. Slowly lower them back down.

Move 4: Pullover

  1. Hold one dumbbell in a vertical position with both hands.
  2. Lie on your back on a flat weight bench.
  3. Keeping your elbows straight, lift the dumbbell up and over your head as far as possible. Keep your abs tight and don't let your lower back lift off the bench.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position.

Move 5: Single-Arm Row

  1. Hold a dumbbell in one hand.
  2. Kneel on a weight bench with the opposite knee.
  3. Lean forward and place your hand on the bench to support your body weight.
  4. Let your arm that is holding the dumbbell hang loose. This is the starting position.
  5. Keeping your arm close to your side, bend your elbow and pull the weight toward your chest as high as possible.
  6. Slowly lower back down.

Sample Leg and Core Workout

Target muscles in your hips, buttocks, thighs and calves on leg day. If desired, include your core workout exercises, as recommended by Princeton University Athletic Medicine, on this day.

Move 1: Dumbbell Squat

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart with a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Lift the dumbbells to your shoulders. Rest one end of the dumbbell on each shoulder.
  3. Hinge forward at your hips and push your buttocks back as if you are going to sit in a chair.
  4. Keeping your chest up, bend your knees.
  5. Lower down until your hips are below your knees.
  6. Push down through your heels and stand back up.

Move 2: Weighted Lunges

  1. Stand with a dumbbell in each hand and your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Step one leg forward about 18 inches.
  3. Bend both knees at the same time, lowering yourself straight down toward the floor. Do not lean over your front leg.
  4. If desired, lightly touch your back knee to the floor.
  5. Stand back up.
  6. Step forward with the opposite leg and repeat.

Move 3: Weighted Bridges

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
  2. Hold one dumbbell with one end in each hand.
  3. Rest the dumbbell across the front of your hips.
  4. Squeeze your buttocks and lift your hips off the ground as high as possible. Keep your shoulder blades on the ground.
  5. Slowly lower back down.

Move 4: Standing Calf Raises

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, resting your arms by your sides.
  2. Stand on the edge of a step on the balls of your feet.
  3. Lower your heels below the edge of the step. This is the starting position.
  4. Raise up on your toes as high as possible.
  5. Slowly lower back down.

Move 5: Supermans

  1. Lie on your stomach with your arms straight out overhead.
  2. Keeping your arms and legs straight, tighten the muscles along your back and buttocks.
  3. Lift your arms and legs off the ground a few inches.
  4. Slowly lower back down.
  5. As your strength improves, hold a light dumbbell in each hand.

Move 6: Forearm Plank

  1. Lie on your stomach.
  2. Bend your elbows and prop your upper body on your forearms. Position your hands in line with your shoulders.
  3. Tighten your abs, buttocks and thigh muscles and lift your torso off the ground so that you are supporting yourself on your forearms and toes.
  4. Hold for 15 seconds to one minute.
  5. Repeat five to 10 times.

Move 7: Side Plank

  1. Lie on one side with your legs straight and stacked on top of each other.
  2. Prop your upper body up on your forearm.
  3. Lift your hips off the ground until your body weight is supported only by your forearm and the side of your bottom foot.
  4. Hold for 15 seconds to one minute.
  5. Repeat five to 10 times.

Read more: 9 Weight-Lifting Myths It's Time to Stop Believing

Sample Arms and Shoulders Workout

Arm and shoulder exercises can be performed one side at a time. Or, you can try exercising both arms simultaneously to give your core a bonus workout.

Move 1: Lateral Raises

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart with one dumbbell in each hand, palms facing your sides.
  2. Squeeze your shoulder blades together to stand upright. Maintain this posture throughout the exercise.
  3. Keeping your elbow straight, lift one arm out to the side, up to shoulder height.
  4. Slowly lower back down.
  5. Repeat on the opposite side.

Move 2: Front Raises

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Rest the dumbbells at the front of your hips.
  3. Lift one arm straight out in front of you, up to shoulder-height.
  4. Slowly lower back down.

Move 3: Biceps Curls

  1. Stand or sit up straight with your arms by your sides, one dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Rotate your forearms until your palms are facing forward.
  3. Bend one elbow as far as possible, then slowly lower back down.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side.
  5. Repeat this exercise with your palms facing down and again with your thumbs pointed forward.

Move 4: Triceps Dips

  1. Sit on the side of a weight bench.
  2. Place your hands on either side of your thighs and grasp the edge of the bench.
  3. Keeping your elbows straight, walk your feet out in front of you, bringing your buttocks off the bench. Rest your heels on the ground. This is your starting position.
  4. Slowly bend your elbows, lowering your buttocks toward the ground, as far as you comfortably can.
  5. Press down through your palms (using your heels to assist) and return to the starting position.

Move 5: Overhead Press

  1. Sit up straight with a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and raise your arms out to the sides to shoulder height. Your palms should be facing forward. This is the starting position.
  3. Press the weights straight up overhead, bringing the dumbbells toward each other at the top.
  4. Slowly lower back down to the starting position.
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