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Major Muscle Groups: Exercises for Each Muscle Group


Deciding what muscle groups to workout together can be confusing.

Some say workouts for muscle groups that function together are best, citing the popular pairing of chest and triceps as an obvious example.

Others say workouts for muscle groups that oppose each other make more sense since this ensures you don’t “carry” fatigue from one exercise into the next and can train harder as a result. 

Still others say there’s no such thing as the best muscle group combinations to workout together. Instead, your resistance training workouts should revolve around a single exercise, such as the squat, bench press, or deadlift. 

In truth, all of these stances are wrong—there are no “best” muscle groups to workout together. How you structure your strength training program largely depends on how much time you have to train and how quickly you recover. 

In this article, you’ll learn what muscle groups to work together based on your preferences, the best exercises for each major muscle group, how to put this information into practice, and more. 

What Are the Major Muscle Groups?

A “muscle group” is a collection of muscles situated close to one another that work together to perform a specific movement or function.

In the context of strength training, there are six major muscle groups:

  1. Chest
  2. Back
  3. Shoulders
  4. Legs
  5. Arms
  6. Core 

Categorizing the muscles in your body like this helps you better organize and prioritize your training. It also allows you to decide the best muscle groups to workout together to maximize your progress. 

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Major Muscle Group #1: Chest

The main muscle of the chest is the pectoralis major, or “pec” major.

Here’s how the pecs look:


Cable Crossover Muscles Worked


Major Muscle Group #2: Back

Multiple muscles make up the back, but the main ones are:

Here’s how they look:


Back Muscles (Anatomy)


Major Muscle Group #3: Shoulders

Your deltoids, or “shoulder muscles,” have three sections or “heads:” the anterior deltoid (“front delt”), the lateral deltoid (“side delt”), and the posterior deltoid (“rear delt”).

Here’s how they look:


Deltoid (anatomy)


Major Muscle Group #4: Legs

The upper legs comprise three muscle groups:

The only muscle group in the lower legs is the calves

Here’s how these muscles look:


Chris Barakat's Lower-Body Muscles


Major Muscle Group #5: Arms

Four primary muscles make up the arms:

Here’s how they look:


Arm Muscles


Major Muscle Group #6: Core

Your “core” is the group of muscles around your midsection. The main core muscles are the rectus abdominis and the internal and external obliques.

Here’s how they look:


Ab anatomy


The Best Muscle Groups to Workout Together

Deciding what muscle groups to workout together largely comes down how many times per week you can train and how well you recover.

Here’s a straightforward guide to the best muscle group combinations to workout together, depending on whether you’re training 3, 4, or 5 days weekly. 

The Legion 5-Day Workout Routine

The following workout schedule is ideal for building muscle mass and gaining strength.

It contains the perfect mix of volume, intensity, and frequency to drive progress while still allowing plenty of time for recovery. 

What’s more, it only involves training on weekdays, and you should be able to complete each session in under an hour, so it’s practical and easy to follow for most.

The only potential downsides are that it demands a significant weekly time commitment and is more intense than many other routines, which means you’ll need to focus more on recovery.

However, provided you can dedicate the time and manage recovery well (avoid excessive fatigue, stress, and injury), this plan will produce excellent results.

Here’s the schedule:

  • Day 1: Push
  • Day 2: Pull & Calves
  • Day 3: Upper Body & Core
  • Day 4: Legs
  • Day 5: Upper Body & Core

The Legion 4-Day Workout Routine

If you can’t commit to training five days per week or need more time to recover from your workouts, this 4-day schedule is a fantastic solution:

  • Day 1: Push & Core
  • Day 2: Pull & Calves
  • Day 3: Upper Body & Core
  • Day 4: Legs

The Legion 3-Day Workout Routine

The three-day routine is almost identical to a traditional push pull legs routine, except with more isolation work to bring up stubborn muscle groups like the shoulders.

It’s a great choice for beginners who want to ease into strength training, people who find training more often causes recovery issues, or those who are pressed for time:

  • Day 1: Push & Core
  • Day 2: Pull & Calves
  • Day 3: Legs

If you’d like to give these routines a whirl, just enter your email address in the form below, and I’ll send you 12 weeks’ worth of workout programming, including exactly what exercises to do and how many reps and sets you should do for each exercise. 

Now that you know what muscle groups to workout together, let’s look at what exercises you should use to train them.

The Best Exercises to Workout Each Muscle Group

You now know the best muscle group combinations to workout together for your circumstances. Now let’s look at the best exercises for training each muscle group:

Chest Exercises

To develop a full, proportionate, well-defined chest, focus on the following chest exercises:

And for five evidence-based chest workouts, check out this article:

The 5 Best Chest Workout Routines for Mass & Hypertrophy

Back Exercises

To develop a wide, thick, defined back, focus on the following:

For the best science-based back workout for mass, check out this article:

The Best Back Workouts for Mass & Hypertrophy

Shoulder Exercises

To develop proportional, “capped” delts, focus on shoulder exercises, such as:

For a full shoulder workout for “3D” delts, check out this article:

The Best Shoulder Workouts for Men, According to Science

Leg Exercises

To develop each lower body muscle group, focus on the following:

For a science-based workout that trains your entire lower body, check out this article:

The Best Leg Workout Routine for Building Mass & Hypertrophy

Arm Exercises

To develop each of the muscle groups in the arms, focus on the following:

For an arm workout containing all the best arm exercises, check out this article:

The Best Arm Workouts for Building Mass

Ab Exercises

To make your six-pack “pop,” focus on these core exercises:

  • Cable Crunch
  • Captain’s Chair Leg Raise
  • Ab-wheel Rollout
  • Air Bicycle
  • Hanging Leg Raise

To learn everything you need to know about getting six-pack abs, check out this article:

How to Actually Get Six Pack Abs

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Which Major Muscle Groups to Workout Together: FAQs

FAQ #1: What muscle groups should I workout together?

Deciding what muscle groups to workout together largely depends on how many times per week you can train.

As a general rule, the best ways to organize your training sessions are either by the “movement patterns” involved (i.e., whether exercises train your “pulling” or “pushing” muscles) or the body parts or muscles you’re working (i.e., an upper body or leg day).

FAQ #2: What are the 6 muscle groups to train?

The six major muscle groups to focus on for a balanced workout regimen are the chest, back, shoulders, legs, arms, and core. 

FAQ #3: Should I use supersets to train opposing muscle groups?

Using supersets to train opposing muscle groups (also known as “antagonist muscles”) is an effective and time-efficient way to train that involves allowing one muscle group to rest while the opposing group works. 

Examples include doing a set of the bicep curl followed immediately by a set of the triceps pushdown, or a set of the bench press followed by a set of barbell rows.

That said, training opposing muscle groups with supersets isn’t necessary. In fact, most find superset workouts highly taxing and prefer “straight sets” instead.

If you want to give supersets a try, learn how to do them effectively in this article:

The Complete Guide to Superset Workouts

+ Scientific References





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