News flash; bodybuilding exercises aren’t just for bodybuilders.  In fact, all lifters can, and do, benefit from these exercises. 

Because ultimately, the aesthetic and muscle building potential is most prominent in the various training methods outlined below. 

If you’re more about strength, see; Powerlifting exercises.  And if you're new to weightlifting see; Weightlifting For Beginners.

Back to bodybuilding:  Rather than offer a blanket weightlifting routine that may or may not fit your objectives.  I’m going to offer you an introduction into the most common and the more advanced training methods used by bodybuilders.  With a view to helping you find your own way.

Firstly; don’t ever expect to find one single workout that will achieve the results of the pros.  Bodybuilding is a process that takes consistent effort and patience, combined with trial and error. 

What are bodybuilding exercises?

Fundamentally; a bodybuilding exercise is one that builds a muscle.  So yes, that’s all weightlifting exercises. 

However, it’s not that simple: Bodybuilders use a combination of methods to build and accentuate their target muscle groups.

Beginner training methods

For anyone just starting out; full body workouts, or an upper/lower body split, are the most commonly used methods. 

They’re pretty self-explanatory; you either train full body, or split upper and lower body parts. 

From there you can move onto muscle group rotation; by splitting muscle groups across the week.  For example; chest and biceps - legs & abs - back & shoulders.

Generally speaking, you should use mid rep/mid weight sets, combined with low rep/high volume.

This is an ideal starting point for any new lifter.   All you need to do is base your bodybuilding exercises around the muscle groups you want to accentuate.  

Reps & sets


Target muscles


As you progress, you will need to look to other methods in order to see continued results. 

Below are some of the more advanced, yet most rewarding, training methods used by bodybuilders.

Advanced training methods

Half reps (aka Partial reps)

It’s not uncommon to see lifters get trash talked for using partial reps, but the joke is on the trash talkers, because this is a legit technique.

Bodybuilding exercises performed as half/partial reps are used to speed up the muscle growth.

The method here is to load the strongest part of the lift, so that you can move more weight, and in-turn, build muscle faster.

For example; we all know that the hardest part of a squat is coming back up from below parallel:  But if you take this part out of the lift all together, (so squat to just above parallel), you should be able to manage a heavier load than you would if you went to full depth.

And you guessed it; simply load the top part of the lift with more weight and get those gains.

This method isn’t recommended for everyday training, but can be utilised intermittently for a quick boost in mass.  

German volume training

See our dedicated article; German volume training, for a more detailed explanation of this method.

To summarise; this is a pretty intense training style used mostly by bodybuilders in order to pack on as much muscle as possible.  Usually within a 12 week timeframe. 

This method is based on 10 sets of 10 reps of your key bodybuilding exercises, using a weight that is around 60% of your one rep max.

It’s not for the faint hearted, but if you want to build muscle mass fast; German volume training should be considered.

5X5 Program

The 5x5 method is another training style used by experienced lifters who want to gain mass fast.  It works on the basis of two workouts consisting of just 3 lifts. 

These lifts will target all the main muscle groups.  And for rapid growth, you must perform 5 sets of 5 reps of each exercise.

The first workout consists of:  Squat, bench press, barbell row.

And the second consists of:  Squat, overhead press, deadlift.

We haven’t covered this method in detail yet, so here is an excellent resource from Stronglifts.

FST-7 Training Program (Fascia Stretch Training)

FST-7 training was developed by Hany Rambod after years of research and extensive trial and error on his clients.  As a result, he now uses this method exclusively to build winning physiques. 

The basis of this method is to stretch the fascia tissue (the soft connective tissue surrounding your muscles).  Put simply; by stretching this tissue, you increase muscle growth.  

However, there are several contributing factors applied both inside and outside of the gym.  So if you want to use this advanced method, I suggest you do your research.

Simply Shredded have covered this training method in great detail, I recommend checking it out: FST-7 Workout Routine and Nutrition Guide.

Who else uses bodybuilding exercises?

Powerlifters, strongwomen and general weightlifters, will most likely, at some point, adopt the bodybuilders style of training; intermittently. 

The objective here is to assist in building more overall strength.  Isolated training is also a productive use of these lifters down time between core training sessions.

Bodybuilding exercises for you

Before you build your workout plan you need to have a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve. 

If you intend to compete, take an honest look at your current physique and decide which bodybuilding category you want to fit.  Or perhaps more appropriately, decide which category best fits your natural shape.

If your natural physique is more athletic, you should consider the fitness or physique category. 

For women with a rounder bum and thighs; wellness and bikini categories should be considered. 

And if you already have a strong and built physique, you may want to consider going all in on the bodybuilding category.

It’s important to keep in mind that whichever category you start in doesn’t have to be your end point.  Many women enter into the sport at bikini level but then move into other categories.  Wellness is still a relatively new category, and is a great entry level into the sport.

Once you know what you’re aiming for, you can build a plan around that.  Start with your key compound exercises for overall strength, and group those with exercises that will isolate the muscles you want to accentuate.

To begin with you should focus on building the muscle.  This will take time and is a necessary part of the process.  Fat loss comes after.  See; Bulking and cutting for women.

Bodybuilding exercises concluded

In bodybuilding attention is focused on muscle size, symmetry and definition.  Outside of the gym; diet is the number one priority for a bodybuilder.

The point I want to make is that you can do all the bodybuilding exercises you want; but if you fail to cut the fat and reveal the body you have built; you’re in the wrong sport. 

There’s nothing wrong with that by the way, do and be what you want.  The choice is always yours.  You will still benefit from these workouts regardless.

Finally, take the information in this article as an introduction.  To build your workouts, you can browse our exercise categories and if you don’t want to build your own; check out the pre-built workout plans we have on offer.

Finally, remember that it would be impossible for anybody to provide an extensive blueprint to bodybuilding.  The only way for you to develop is to move yourself into this space.  Put the work in and monitor your results, because there is no ‘one for all’ approach to this.  What works for one, may not work for another.  It is your body to build, so own it!

Beginners see:  The ultimate guide to weightlifting for beginners

If you are a more advanced lifter and you intend to go pro, you should consider getting a dedicated coach/trainer who is experienced in achieving the results you seek.  Not just on themselves, but also on their clients.