Lifting weights is good for you, but not all exercises are created equal. There are a few exercises that most people tend to ignore, despite the fact that they’re probably some of the best exercises available to build muscle and get stronger.
I’ve picked some of the most underrated lifting exercises that you know about them but you’re not doing, for example, the deadlift, IYT raises, and farmer’s walk. Such exercises are excellent for transforming your physique and scaling your fitness to the next level. However, they are challenging and require you to push your limit.
Let’s find out which are the most underrated gym exercises and why you should be doing them.
7 Most Underrated Lifting Exercises You Can do in the Gym
- Barbell Deadlift
- Free Weight Barbell Squat
- Barbell Jammer
- Farmer’s Walk
- Dumbbell IYT Raises
- Weighted Step-up
- Weighted Push-up
These underrated gym exercises are good for building muscles and increasing weight loss and helping you achieve your best physique.
The best thing is you don’t need fancy gym machines to perform them. They are free weight exercises and require only barbells, weight plates, dumbbells, and a workout bench.
1. Barbell Deadlift
The barbell deadlift is an effective exercise that hit multiple muscles throughout the body, particularly the hamstrings, quadriceps, core, calves, glutes, and back. It can help you build muscles and decrease fat simultaneously (if you’re overweight).
Many people scare of deadlifting because they think they can’t do it or if they try, their lower back could hurt. And eventually, they end up doing isolation exercises instead of the compound deadlift.
The deadlift has been used by bodybuilders for years. It’s a great compound lift that works a variety of muscles. I bet you haven’t seen a bodybuilder who hasn’t performed this movement.
It is difficult but useful and can help you put on lots of muscles while shedding the excess fats.
So, whether you’re a beginner or intermediate, male or female, if you’re not doing it, now is the best time to learn and start doing it.
- Place a loaded bar on the floor and stand upright with your feet hip-width apart and shin close to the bar.
- Bend at your hips with your knees slightly bend and grab the bar with an alternate or hook grip, hands just outside your knees.
- Hold the bar firmly, maintain a neutral spine position and make sure your hip is higher than your knees relative to the floor but lower than your shoulder.
- Brace your core, thighs, and glutes. This will be your starting position.
- To execute the movement, inhale deeply and lift the bar with your full strength, engaging your lats muscles and pushing your feet into the floor.
- Keeping your spine in a neutral position, raise your hips and shoulders at the same time and range of motion. Once your hip is fully extended, lower the bar to the starting position.
- Perform as many reps and sets as you can.
- Use a gym belt because it can protect your lower back from cramps and injuries.
- Keep your arms straight throughout the movement.
- Keep the barbell close to your body during the entire movement.
You can try different variations of deadlift to build up your strength.
2. Free Weight Barbell Squat
Most people shy away from squats but they are a great lower-body exercise that can help you build muscle and lose fat at the same time.
A barbell squat helps tone and strengthen the thighs, hips, and buttocks as well as the core.
It improves balance, flexibility, and muscle coordination and maximizes your lower body performance.
Several studies suggest that the squat is an excellent exercise to add strength and size to the lower body, especially the quadriceps.
Yet, people fear squatting because they think it can hurt their knees and lower back and they are knowingly skipping the testosterone booster exercise.
Free weight barbell squats may be challenging but you need to learn the proper form and start performing as soon as you can.
So, no matter who you are, from beginner to pro, from long-distance runner to powerlifter, doing squats will take your physique and your athleticism to the next level.
How to do it:
- Put the suitable weight into the barbell and wear a waist belt.
- Get under the bar so its middle part rested on your upper traps.
- Unrack the barbell, take a few steps back and stand tall in the shoulder-width stance with your toes pointing slightly out.
- Keep your back straight, chest up, and core tight. This will be your starting position.
- Pushing your hips back, bend your knees to squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. You can go deep if you like.
- Now, pressing through your heels slowly return to the standing position.
- Aim for four sets of 10 to 15 reps.
3. Barbell Jammer
The barbell jammer is an effective exercise that targets multiple muscles from the upper to the lower body, such as quads, calves, hams, glute, shoulder, chest, triceps, and core. It is an excellent workout to ramp up strength, endurance, and muscle growth.
It also burns decent calories and gives you a quick full-body workout in a short duration and saves you time. However, it is one of the most underrated exercises of all time. Many people haven’t heard the name of this exercise.
It will be challenging at first but once you practice a couple of times, you’ll be able to do it efficiently.
- Place the end of the bar in a corner of a wall or something so it stays intact.
- Put the desired weight into another end.
- Stand upright with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and toes pointing out. The bar will be between your legs.
- Lower into a squat position and grab the bar firmly with both hands and hold it to your chest level with your elbows bent. This will be your starting position.
- Pushing through feet into the floor, drive your hips forward as you return to the standing position.
- Once you’re in the standing position don’t stop, instead, raise your heels off the ground and press the bar in front of your head simultaneously until your arms are fully straight.
- Return to the start. That’s your one rep!
4. Farmer’s Walk
The farmer’s walk is a total body exercise that helps develop stamina, strength, and muscles, and shed off significant calories in a quick time.
It helps strengthen and tone various muscles of your body, from head to toe. Many powerlifters, Crossfitters, and bodybuilders use this move to enhance their overall performance.
It looks pretty simple as you have to carry the weight and walk a few steps to perform this exercise. However, it is a lot more effective than you may think.
Several studies have demonstrated that the farmer’s walk has the potential to maximize muscular strength and power and improve grip strength.1Hindle BR, Lorimer A, Winwood P, Keogh JWL. The Biomechanics and Applications of Strongman Exercises: a Systematic Review. Sports Med Open. 2019 Dec 9;5(1):49. doi: 10.1186/s40798-019-0222-z. Erratum in: Sports Med Open. 2020 Feb 5;6(1):8. PMID: 31820223; PMCID: PMC6901656,2Woulfe, Colm Master of Sport & Exercise, MSc1; Harris, Nigel PhD1; Keogh, Justin PhD2; Wood, Matthew MHSc1 The Physiology of Strongman Training, Strength and Conditioning Journal: December 2014 – Volume 36 – Issue 6 – p 84-95 doi: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000104 That’s why it’s one of the favorite exercises of strongmen’s workout regime.
Despite having so many advantages, the farmer’s walk is one of the most underrated exercises that you should be doing, if you want to achieve your best fitness.
How to perform:
- Grab a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip and hold it at your sides with your arms straight and palms facing in.
- Walk a few steps ahead and then return back and repeat.
You can also perform the farmer’s walk by carrying a pair of kettlebells.
5. Dumbbell IYT Raises
The dumbbell I-Y-T raises is one of the highly effective upper body exercises that build up several muscles at once, particularly the back and shoulders.
I found this exercise in the ACE study last year when I searched for the best dumbbell back exercises backed by science. The study has shown that I-Y-T raises highly activates the traps, infraspinatus, and deltoids and can be an excellent exercise to incorporate into your workout routine.
Even though it is super effective for muscle building, it is one of the most underrated exercises in the fitness community and you rarely see anyone doing it in the gym.
However, if you want to maximize your muscle growth and tone upper body muscles, specially delts and traps, you can include IYT raises in your workout program.
How to do it:
The IYT is made up of three movements, I raise, Y raise, and T raise. Let’s see how to do them step by step.
- Holding a pair of dumbbells, lie prone on a 30-45 degree incline bench with your face down, chest rested on its edge, and your arms hanging straight downward. It is your starting position.
- Raise your arms in front of you as high as possible, pause for a moment, and then return to the start.
- Now, raise your arms slightly outward, making a Y shape, until you feel the full contraction in your medial and posterior delt and upper back. Hold for a couple of seconds and then lowered the dumbbells to the starting position.
- To perform the last move, raise your arms out to the sides until your arms are parallel to the floor.
- Pause for a moment and lower your arms to complete the first rep.
6. Weighted Step-up
The weighted step-up helps increase power, endurance, strength, and mobility. It works on multiple lower body muscles, including quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
Besides strengthening the lower body muscles, it increases your hip and knee mobility and muscle coordination.
Weighted step-up can also help you build muscles while losing weight as it burns reasonable calories in a quick time and increases lean mass.
Regardless of many benefits, step-up is one of the most underrated exercises you’re not doing it.
- Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand upright in front of the box with your arms straight at your sides and feet together.
- Step up with the right foot on the box and press through the heel to bring your left foot. Now your feet are together.
- Reverse the movement and complete your first rep.
You can try multiple variations of step-ups, such as lateral and single-leg to target your lower body muscles from different angles.
7. Weighted Push-up
The pushup is a popular exercise but the weighted pushup is one of the most underrated exercises you might be not doing.
Many people start their fitness journey with bodyweight pushups but once they develop strength and join the gym, they forget about them, particularly the weighted ones.
The weighted push-up is an excellent exercise to put on muscles and maximize strength. It works on many upper body muscles, especially the chest, triceps, and shoulders.
A meta-analysis published on the National Institute of Health (NIH) website has suggested that loaded pushup contracts the chest muscle as efficiently as the bench press and you can use it interchangeably when your upper body.3Tillaar RVD. Comparison of Kinematics and Muscle Activation between Push-up and Bench Press. Sports Med Int Open. 2019 Sep 5;3(3):E74-E81. doi: 10.1055/a-1001-2526. PMID: 31508485; PMCID: PMC6728153
So, if you truly want to scale up your strength and build beefy muscles, you can do weighted push-ups consistently.
You can do weighted pushups using vests, weight plates, or asking your partner to sit on your back, whichever suits you the best.
How to do it:
- Begin in a high plank position with your arms straight beneath your shoulders and back flat.
- Ask your gym partner to put the appropriate weight on your back.
- Brace your core and start lowering your torso down until your chest is close to the floor.
- Pause for a second and then slowly push back until your arms are extended. That’s one rep.
- Shoot for a couple of sets and perform at least 10 reps each.
The Final Words
Whether you want to increase your mass or lose weight effectively, compound exercises are the key. They engage multiple muscles at once and boost the testosterone hormone.
There are various compound exercises that can help you build muscle and improve your physique. But the above exercises are the most underrated lifting exerciss you might be not doing, despite their popularity in the fitness community. And if you do them, they’ll help you achieve your best physique.
Till now, you’ve seen some of the most underrated lifting exercises but do you know what exercises are useless? Useless means not very effective. Skipping the least effective exercises is pretty important (if not equally) than doing the best exercises for achieving ultimate results.
The top five exercises you shouldn’t do more than once a month are: 1. Decline bench press 2. Russian twist 3. Standing Lat pulldown, 4. Standing dumbbell fly, and 5. Behind the neck overhead press.
Please note: These exercises are for physically active people and you should do them at your own risk.
- 1Hindle BR, Lorimer A, Winwood P, Keogh JWL. The Biomechanics and Applications of Strongman Exercises: a Systematic Review. Sports Med Open. 2019 Dec 9;5(1):49. doi: 10.1186/s40798-019-0222-z. Erratum in: Sports Med Open. 2020 Feb 5;6(1):8. PMID: 31820223; PMCID: PMC6901656
- 2Woulfe, Colm Master of Sport & Exercise, MSc1; Harris, Nigel PhD1; Keogh, Justin PhD2; Wood, Matthew MHSc1 The Physiology of Strongman Training, Strength and Conditioning Journal: December 2014 – Volume 36 – Issue 6 – p 84-95 doi: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000104
- 3Tillaar RVD. Comparison of Kinematics and Muscle Activation between Push-up and Bench Press. Sports Med Int Open. 2019 Sep 5;3(3):E74-E81. doi: 10.1055/a-1001-2526. PMID: 31508485; PMCID: PMC6728153