Dr. Mike Israetel's 10 Necessary Muscle-Building Exercises | BarBend (2024)

Learn these science-backed exercises to build muscle.

Dr. Mike Israetel's 10 Necessary Muscle-Building Exercises | BarBend (1)

Written by Phil Blechman

Last updated on February 13th, 2024

There is no shortage of advice on how to build muscle. With so many different exercises and routines, it can be challenging to know which exercises to keep in one’s hypertrophy programming and which to cut.

In a video published on Chris Williamson’s YouTube channel on Feb. 6, 2024, Dr. Mike Israetel (Ph.D. in Sport Physiology) shared his top 10 exercises to maximize hypertrophy. His recommendations stem from a blend of personal preferences and stimulus-to-fatigue ratio — the principle that evaluates the effectiveness of an exercise based on the positive muscular stress it induces and the subsequent recovery demands.

This stimulus-to-fatigue ratio is a valuable gauge for recommended exercises that maximize gains and minimize injury risk or overtraining. Check it out below:

[Related: 4-Time Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler’s Guide to a Massive Back]

Editor’s Note:The content onBarBendis meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before beginning a new fitness, nutritional, and/or supplement routine. None of these supplements are meant to treat or cure any disease. If you feel you may be deficient in a particular nutrient or nutrients, please seek out a medical professional.

Dr. Israetel’s Top 10 Muscle-Building Exercises

Below are Dr. Israetel’s top 10 suggested exercises for hypertrophy:

1. High Bar Squats

High bar squats bias the quads, adductors, and glutes to build lower body strength and size.

The amount of fatigue from [high bar squats] is less than other types of squats like low bar squats.

Dr. Israetel could initially perform high bar squats comfortably but faces issues now as his arms have gotten too big to hold the bar safely and comfortably on his back. Using a safety squat bar can remove the required shoulder mobility for high bar squats.

2. Standing Overhead Barbell Press

Overhead presses are great for building raw upper body strength. They train the front delts, upper chest, and triceps. When trained through a full range of motion (ROM), athletes can establish a deep stretch in the bottom position, fully lengthening the front delts and upper pecs under load to promote hypertrophy.

[Related: Jeff Nippard Ranks the Best and Worst Back Exercises for Muscle Growth]

3. Barbell Skull Crushers

The barbell skull crusher is an isolation exercise that biases the long head of the triceps. They’re effective for adding size to the arms by training them in their shortened position.

[Related: Nick Walker’s First Back Training Day En Route to the 2024 New York Pro]

4. Pull-Ups

Pull-ups are a bodyweight exercise that biases the lats, biceps, and forearms. They help build upper body strength and symmetry. Dr. Israetel prefers pull-ups over chin-ups due to wrist mobility issues.

Bent rows and pull-ups take care of the rear delts.

Athletes can scale via assisted pull-up variations and progress to bodyweight pull-ups and, eventually, weighted pull-ups.

[Related: “Ramon Lit a Fire Under My Ass” — Chris Bumstead Returns to Training for 2024 Mr. Olympia]

5. Deficit Barbell Bent-Over Rows

Barbell bent-over rows are a compound exercise that loads the lats. Dr. Israetel discourages using a bench for bent-over rows, as it limits core engagement. He recommends performing the exercise from a deficit, as it allows for a deeper stretch and, therefore, greater muscle activation.

[Related: What Is BMR? Your Guide to Your Body’s Basal Metabolic Rate]

6. Stiff-Legged Deadlifts

This compound movement works the hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors, and the rest of the posterior chain. Directly training the posterior chain has been shown to help prevent chronic lower back pain. (1)

7. Cambered Bar Bench Press

A cambered barbell bench press delivers a deeper chest stretch. Again, the promotion of hypertrophy is greater when training muscles in their lengthened positions under load. (2)

Dr. Israetel acknowledges that this exercise can be more challenging than a standard barbell bench press but believes it to be more effective for muscle and strength gains.

8. Dips

Dips are a bodyweight exercise that targets the lower chest and triceps. Dips can also strengthen the shoulders to become more isolated from injury.

When considering progressions, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health suggests that “the bar dip is an appropriate progression from the bench dip due to the higher peak muscle activations.” (3)

In simpler terms, beginners should practice dips using a weight bench and progress to standard bar dips. Advanced athletes can progress to ring dips where “muscles activation intensities further.”

9. Super ROM Lateral Raises

This exercise focuses on the medial deltoids with a ROM that extends beyond the conventional dumbbell lateral raises. Super ROM lateral raises involve raising the arms overhead so the back of the hands almost touch each other.

The rationale is to move the medial delts through their full ROM, including their fully shortened position at the top of each rep.

10. Seated Incline Dumbbell Curls

Seated incline dumbbell curls are an isolation exercise that biases the biceps. Israetel favors them for the incline position maintains constant tension on the biceps in their fully stretched position.

By setting a weight bench at an incline, the torso remains supported while leaning slightly back. This position keeps tension on the biceps to maintain the dumbbells in the bottom position. This is different from a more upright position where holding the dumbbells in the bottom position holds no tension is a fully rested position.

More Training Content

  1. Hypertrophy vs. Strength Training: Key Differences + How To Do Both
  2. How To Do the Frog Pose for Better Hip Flexibility and Posture
  3. The 12 Best Partner Exercises to Try With Your Gym Buddy, Plus Workouts


  1. Tataryn, N., Simas, V., Catterall, T., Furness, J., & Keogh, J. W. L. (2021). Posterior-Chain Resistance Training Compared to General Exercise and Walking Programmes for the Treatment of Chronic Low Back Pain in the General Population: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.Sports medicine – open,7(1), 17. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40798-021-00306-w
  2. Pedrosa, G. F., Lima, F. V., Schoenfeld, B. J., Lacerda, L. T., Simões, M. G., Pereira, M. R., Diniz, R. C. R., & Chagas, M. H. (2022). Partial range of motion training elicits favorable improvements in muscular adaptations when carried out at long muscle lengths.European journal of sport science,22(8), 1250–1260. https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2021.1927199
  3. McKenzie, A., Crowley-McHattan, Z., Meir, R., Whitting, J., & Volschenk, W. (2022). Bench, Bar, and Ring Dips: Do Kinematics and Muscle Activity Differ?.International journal of environmental research and public health,19(20), 13211. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph192013211

Featured image: @drmikeisraetel on Instagram

Dr. Mike Israetel's 10 Necessary Muscle-Building Exercises | BarBend (2024)


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