The most important weightlifting exercises involve compound movements that involve multiple joint articulations, according to the National Federation of Personal Trainers. Compound weightlifting exercises that require balance and stabilization, such as free weight exercises, are also among the most important weightlifting exercises. Exercising with free weights is more efficient than working with machines, because stabilizing the movement activates more muscle groups simultaneously.
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Compound exercises that activate anterior torso muscles are among the most important weightlifting exercises. Upper body pushing exercises, such as the bench press, work the sternal head of your pectoral muscles, which are the largest anterior torso muscles. Compound exercises pushing, such as the bench press, also activate the clavicular head of the pectorals, the anterior deltoids, triceps and biceps. The bench press is the most important exercise for developing your chest with functional power.
Posterior torso exercises help develop your back muscles. Upper body pulling movements are the most important weightlifting exercise for developing the anterior torso. Compound upper body pulling exercises, such as weighted pullups or bent-over rows, involve shoulder, scapula and elbow joint movements. Pullups and rows work more than a dozen different posterior torso muscles. Electromyography data published in March 2010 by strength and conditioning specialist, Bret Contreras, suggests that weighted wide-grip pullups are particularly important for the latissimus dorsi muscle, and dumbbell bent-over rows are ideal for the trapezius.
Lower Anterior Chain
Your primary lower anterior chain muscles include the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius and vastus medialis. These four muscles are collectively known as the quadriceps. Compound lower body pushing weightlifting exercises are ideal for training the quadriceps. Lower body pushing movements, such as the squat, involve knee and hip joint movements. Variations of the squat, such as the full squat and parallel squat are the most important weightlifting exercises for your lower anterior chain muscles. Squatting exercises also activate the abdominal muscles.
Lower Posterior Chain
The lower posterior chain muscles include the gluteus maximus, and the four muscles that make up your hamstrings. Lower body pulling movements that extend your hips are among the most important weightlifting exercises for your posterior chain muscles. Hip thrusts are among the most important compound weightlifting exercise for your lower posterior chain, because they target your gluteus maximus, which is one of the largest muscles in your body. The gluteus maximus must be strong enough to help you maintain an erect posture and help move your body against gravity, such as climbing stairs. Other lower posterior chain compound exercises include straight-legged deadlifts and hyperextensions.