What are Different Types of Muscle Exercises?

Shelby Miller

The different types of muscle exercises, collectively known as strength training, can be classified according to kind of equipment used. Free-weight exercises utilize dumbbells, barbells, or other weighted items. Weight-machine exercises are designed to work specific muscle groups and involve loading weight plates manually or inserting a pin into an attached stack of weights. Resistance-band exercises use rubber bands or tubing to challenge the muscles in two directions at once; body-weight exercises, which may or may not incorporate other types of equipment, involve using one’s own body weight for resistance. Depending on the goal of the exerciser, some muscle exercises may be more beneficial than others.

Doing push ups with elevated legs can strengthen the pectoral muscles and biceps.
Doing push ups with elevated legs can strengthen the pectoral muscles and biceps.

Free-weight exercises carry numerous advantages, not the least of which is that people who exercise with dumbbells and barbells learn to stabilize their joints and build core strength. Many muscle exercises using free weights require standing or performing body-weight maneuvers, so they are recommended over sitting on machines for individuals trying to lose weight. Free weights are also a good choice for building muscle mass when performing a low number of reps using heavier weights; as a result, they are popular with anyone trying to achieve hypertrophy, or an increase in size.

Some people use free weights.
Some people use free weights.

Machine exercises, on the other hand, are recommended for novice exercisers, highly unfit individuals, and in some cases people recovering from injury. The advantages of using machines are that they take users through a specific range of motion and do not require much joint stabilization, which may prevent inexperienced exercisers from hurting themselves. Muscle exercise with machines also tends to be user-friendly, which may appeal to the beginner who is not knowledgeable in a variety of movements. Additionally, individuals looking to gain mass may incorporate machine exercises into their free-weight workout; once they have fatigued their stabilizer muscles with dumbbell exercises, they may turn to machines to exhaust their larger muscle groups without having to steady the weights.

Weight-machine exercises work specific muscle groups.
Weight-machine exercises work specific muscle groups.

Resistance-band and body-weight training are both favored by personal trainers, as they offer a more athletic, full-body style of strength training and could be a viable option for anyone looking to lose weight and tone up. Both categories of muscle exercises call for balance, coordination, and recruitment of multiple muscle groups at once, as opposed to the isolated muscle training called for by most mass-building workouts. Examples include walking horizontally with a resistance band around the knees, lunges, and push-ups. These training styles usually are recommended for novice and advanced exercisers alike, and can even be useful as a supplement to traditional mass-building muscle exercises.

A person must lift heavy weights in low repetitions in order to build muscle mass.
A person must lift heavy weights in low repetitions in order to build muscle mass.
Exercise bands stretch -- like giant rubber bands -- to provide resistance when used for working out.
Exercise bands stretch -- like giant rubber bands -- to provide resistance when used for working out.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


I used to do a lot of exercises involving free weights, but I felt like my triceps weren't getting the benefit that my biceps were. I decided to try an exercise focused on the triceps.

I sat on a wooden bench and placed my palms face down at my sides. I slowly lowered myself down by my arms, and I raised myself up just as slowly. I did this several times, until my muscles were starting to get weak.

I could feel the burn and the strain quickly, so I knew it was working. This is the best triceps exercise that I know of, and it is really the only one I feel that I need in my workout.


@seag47 – I have quit doing both crunches and situps. I have found a much better way to build my abdominal muscles, and it doesn't involve strenuous grunting on the floor.

There are dance workouts you can do that focus almost entirely on the abs. It's all in the way you move. You are basically crunching your muscles standing up.

You do a full range of motions that tones your obliques as well as the front of your abs and your back. I have gotten better results with dancing than I ever did with crunches. After just a few months of ab dancing, I have achieved a very well defined six-pack.


Are crunches and situps really the best types of abdominal muscle exercises? They are the only kinds that I have ever done, but I have heard about others.

I have heard that working out using a stability ball can give you a better workout than crunches alone, because you have a wider range of motion. You have to use more abdominal muscles than you do when you are lying flat on the floor and lifting your head and neck.

I have also heard that situps are not very safe. People say that you can easily injure your back while doing them.


I have been using a weight machine for years. I love being able to adjust the amount of resistance with just the positioning of the pin, and since I am accident-prone, it is good for me to sit with my back propped against a support while working out. I have yet to injure myself on this machine, but I have injured myself many times with free weights.

Since my bottom and my back are pressed against a surface, I can fully concentrate on working out my arms. I can feel my abdominals getting involved a little, but that shouldn't hurt anything.

I also like using the stair stepper that is attached to the weight machine. I can hold onto the railings for support while working out my glutes and thighs.

Post your comments
Forgot password?