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The 'Show' Muscles: What Exactly Are They and How Do You Get Them?

Updated: Jan 24, 2022

When it comes to bodybuilding and general fitness, you'll hear the term 'show muscles' being talked about quite often.

We've even talked about them here on our blog.

But we realize that many people reading these posts will not actually know what the 'show' muscles are, let alone how you would go about training and developing them to look good.

That's exactly what we'll be covering in this post.

So if this is something that you want to learn more about, keep on reading below!

Fit and ripped man shows off his big muscles.


Why Are The 'Show' Muscles Important?

The 'show' muscles are the muscles that you see in the mirror when you look from the front.

They're generally the muscles that most people see look to and first on a person that's got a developed physique.

In order to make a good first impression, these muscles have to be well developed and big, but also defined and lean.

Pretty much every time you take your shirt off or wear a bikini, these 'show' muscles are going to be the ones that people look at first.

And often, they'll be the ones that you look at first as well when you're looking in the mirror.

In terms of functionality and athleticism, many of the 'show' muscles don't actually contribute a whole lot.

They're not all that important in regular athletic positions and activities.

Really, the muscles in the posterior chain (the back of the body) are going to contribute more and be much more important for athletic function than the 'show' muscles would be.

However it's important to note that some of the muscles in the posterior chain can actually be 'show' muscles as well.

The posterior chain helps to provide your body with the majority of your stability, strength and total body power.

But we won't get into too much more about that in this post. We're focusing on the 'show' muscles.

The Key Takeaway: The 'show' muscles are extremely important for aesthetic purposes if you're wanting to look good and impress the others and yourself when you look in the mirror. They're the first muscles that people see and look at, so it's important for them to be developed and defined.

Which Muscles Are the 'Show' Muscles?

The 'show' muscles are the muscles that you'd be able to see from someone viewing your physique from the front.

We'll list them out (from top to bottom), and then give you a brief run down as to why they're important and considered 'show' muscles.

They are as follows:

  • Trapezius (Traps)

  • Front and Lateral Deltoids (Shoulders)

  • Pectorals (Chest)

  • Latissimus Dorsi (Lats)

  • Biceps

  • Rectus Abdominis (Abs)

  • Obliques

  • Quadriceps


Muscular man showing off his neck and trap muscles, ripping his shirt apart.

The traps are the muscle that sits at the base of your neck and runs across to the shoulders.

If these are well developed, they will instantly help you look bigger and more muscular, whether it's from the front or the back.

They help to round out your physique and would be one of the first things that people see if they were to look at your body from top to bottom.

Front and Lateral Delts

Fit and muscular man wearing singlet showing off his muscles in the gym.

These two heads of the deltoid are visible from the front, and help to create a wider and fuller looking upper body if they're well developed.

In fact, they're actually one of the most important body parts to have in check if you're wanting to look big and muscular.

No matter how big you are, your physique isn't going to look great if your shoulders aren't well developed.

Notice how we left out the rear delts.

They're also extremely important muscles to train, but aren't considered 'show' muscles due to the fact that they sit on the back of the shoulder and aren't visible from the front.


Strong man shows off his upper body muscles including a big chest and defined abs

It's pretty clear why the pectorals (muscles of the chest) are important to develop and are considered 'show' muscles.

They're also one of the first muscles you see, and are the largest muscle group in the front of the upper body.

Having a well developed chest is absolutely crucial to having an impressive looking physique.

Latissimus Dorsi

Big bodybuilder shows off his wide back muscles and vascular upper body

The lats are also considered a 'show' muscle by many.

However, this muscle is slightly different as it actually can't be seen from the front unless they're really big and built.

They're the widest muscle group on your body and they sit under your armpits on your back.

If they're muscular enough, they can help to widen your frame and make you look significantly bigger. But that's only if they're big.

Otherwise, they wouldn't be visible at all from the front.


Strong bodybuilder shows off his bicep muscles and upper body muscles

The biceps are the muscle group that sits on the front of the upper arm, and are extremely important to have developed if you want to look muscular and impressive.

This is one of the main muscles that many people would use to determine whether or not a person's physique is impressive or not.

If your biceps are filling out your sleeves and are looking big and strong, there's no doubt that's going to contribute heavily to you looking good.

Rectus Abdominis

Fit and muscular man shows off his abs in dark room with good lighting

The abs are often the most attractive muscle group to women on a man, and they're extremely important to have in check if you're wanting to look muscular and physically fit.

Having lean, defined abs on tops of a muscular physique is one of the best signs of strength and fitness.


Fit man shows off his chest and ab muscles, opening his jack and showing ripped body

The obliques are the gill-like muscle group that run along the side of your abs.

When well developed, the obliques can top off your physique and help take it to the next level by making you look even more muscular and defined when viewed from the front.

They're not AS important as the chest, shoulders, biceps or abs, but they're still considered 'show' muscles that you should definitely try to have in check if you're wanting to look impressive from the front.


Muscular man shows off his leg muscles and veins, very well defined and in a gym next to a dumbbell rack

This is really the only main muscle group that can be viewed from the front on the lower body.

However, they're extremely important to have in check if you want to look big and strong.

Yes, even for guys.

Having big quads is going to help you look stronger overall, and many people will actually use them to determine whether or not your physique is something that they find impressive, even if your upper body looks good.

Definitely one of the major 'show' muscles that you need to have developed.

Now that you know what the 'show' muscles are, we'll get into how you can train and develop them!

The Best Exercises to Train Your 'Show' Muscles

The main thing that you need to do to develop these muscles and have them looking good is to build size in them, and then lean out a little to have them looking defined.

You will need to do this by lifting heavy and intensely, as well as keeping your body fat in check and making sure that your muscles aren't being covered under too much fat.

We'll now show you a few of the best exercises you can do for each of these 'show' muscles and how to do them.



  1. Start with the bar on the ground.

  2. Place your feet slightly less than shoulder width apart at the center of the bar and make sure they're pointing straight forwards.

  3. Have your arms hanging straight down under your shoulders.

  4. Bend down towards the bar by pushing your hips back, with knees slightly bent.

  5. Once you can't reach down any further, bend at the knees for the rest of the distance until you can grab onto the bar with a strong, comfortable grip.

  6. Keep a neutral (straight) spine.

  7. Take a big breath in a hold it, bracing your core to prepare for the lift.

  8. Keeping the neutral spine, drive your feet into the ground hard, and push your hips forward until you're standing straight up. That's your finished lockout position.

  9. Lower the bar back down onto the ground with slight guidance from your hands (drop it, but keep the bar in your hands).

See the great demonstration video by Rogue Fitness!

Barbell Shrugs

  1. Grip a barbell just outside of shoulder width with a double overhand grip.

  2. Stand up straight like you would be in the lockout position of a deadlift.

  3. Keeping your arms straight, simply shrug the barbell up by raising your shoulders up towards your ears.

  4. Lower the weight back down with full control.

  5. Repeat.

Check out the video below by StrengthLog to see what this looks like!

Front and Lateral Delts

Barbell Military Press

  1. Either sit on a bench or stand at a squat rack.

  2. Get your hands under the barbell with palms facing up.

  3. Grip onto the barbell with a grip just outside of shoulder width.

  4. Brace your core and arch your back slightly.

  5. Press the weight up with force by driving your hands up into the air.

  6. Lockout the elbows at the top and poke your head forward through your arms.

  7. Lower the weight back down with control until the bar reaches your collarbone.

  8. Repeat.

Check out the video below by Scott Herman to see a demonstration of this exercise!

Cable Lean-Away Lateral Raises

  1. Set the cable low by your feet.

  2. Grab onto the cable machine/pole with one arm.

  3. Lean away from the cable machine, but keep your feet fixed in position.

  4. With the arm that's not grabbing onto the cable, grab the handle with an overhand grip.

  5. Bend the arm slightly.

  6. Keeping everything in the same position, raise your arm out to the side until it's in line with your shoulder.

  7. Squeeze the medial delt hard at the top of the movement.

  8. Lower the weight back down with control.

  9. Repeat.

Check out the video by Ryan Treadaway to see what this looks like!


Bench Press
  1. Lie down comfortably on the bench, with your head/neck and glutes on the bench, and feet on the ground.

  2. Grab onto the bar with a grip just outside of shoulder width, and wrap your thumb around the bar.

  3. Arch your back slightly so that it creates a gap between you and the bench (keep glutes on the bench).

  4. Lift the bar off the rack and bring it above your collarbone.

  5. Lower the bar down to your sternum in a controlled manner until it just touches your chest, and then press it back up with force.

  6. Keep three points of contact (head/neck and glutes on bench, and feet on the ground) throughout the entire range of motion.

  7. Repeat.

Check out the video below by CrossFit® to see a demonstration of this exercise!

Incline Bench Press
  1. Set the bench angle to anywhere between 15-30 degrees.

  2. Lie on the bench, and keep your three points of contact the same (head, glutes and feet).

  3. Kick the dumbbells up into your start position, which is with the dumbbells sitting in your hands next to your chest. (Bottom position)

  4. Arch your back to create that gap between you and the bench.

  5. Press the weight up, and squeeze the chest hard at the top.

  6. Bring the dumbbells a little closer together for a better contraction.

  7. Lower the weight back down with control until the dumbbells reach your chest level.

  8. Repeat.

See the awesome video below by Scott Herman to see what this looks like!

Cable Flyes

  1. Grab the cable handles and bend your arms slightly. Walk out away from the machine holding the handles until you feel a stretch at the starting position.

  2. Allow the weight to stretch your chest by pulling your arms back a little.

  3. Drive the weight forcefully by bring your arms across towards the mid line of your body, keeping your elbows slightly bent.

  4. Squeeze the chest as hard as you can. You can aid this by bringing the weight together.

  5. Lower the weight back down with control over 1-2 seconds.

  6. Feel the stretch in your chest.

  7. Repeat.

Watch this video by Scott Herman to see a demonstration of the cable fly!

Latissimus Dorsi

Pull Ups

  1. Start by hanging on the bar, completely relaxed. Hands should be just outside of shoulder width to start.

  2. Pull your shoulder blades back and down, retracting the scapula. You should no longer be in a relaxed position.

  3. Pull yourself up by thinking about drawing the elbows downwards.

  4. Keep your scapula retracted.

  5. Go up until your chest reaches just below the bar, and think about squeezing your back muscles.

  6. Lower yourself back down with control.

  7. Ideally you should go fully back down to a dead hang. That's a full rep.

Check out the video below by CalisthenicMovement!

Chest Supported Rows

  1. Sit comfortably on the machine, with the support pad comfortably on your chest.

  2. Grab onto the handles/bar with a strong grip.

  3. Drive your elbows back behind your body, keeping your chest on the support pad.

  4. Squeeze the shoulder blades together.

  5. Lower the weight with control.

  6. Repeat.

Check out the video by The Gym at Milford & Norton to see what this looks like!


EZ Bar Curls
  1. Grab the bar in the part that curves downwards and into the center of the barbell.

  2. Stand up and lean on your back against a wall. Ensure that you can't cheat or use your back in any way to bring the weight up.

  3. Curl the weight up by flexing hard and forcefully at the elbows.

  4. Keep your elbows more or less in the same position throughout the entire movement. You can bring them upwards a little as you bring the weight up to achieve a better contraction if you want.

  5. Squeeze the biceps hard at the top.

  6. Lower the weight back down with full control, ideally over 1-3 seconds.

  7. Repeat.

See the video below by nptitim1 for a demonstration of this!

Standing Hammer Curls

  1. Grip the dumbbells with a neutral grip, meaning your palms are facing towards each other.

  2. Start in a standing position, holding the dumbbells. You should feel a stretch in your biceps.

  3. Using as little momentum as possible, curl the weight up by flexing hard and forcefully at the elbows.

  4. Squeeze the muscles of the biceps hard at the top of the movement.

  5. Lower the weight back down with control.

  6. Repeat.

ActiveID Training Systems has a great video below showing you how to do this!



  1. Assume a high plank position like you would be at the top of a push up

  2. Keeping your body in a straight line, bend your arms and rest on your elbows instead of your hands. Feet should remain in the same place.

  3. Your shoulders should be in line with your elbows. Adjust as needed.

  4. Simply keep your body in a straight line and hold yourself in that position for as long as you can. Try not to allow your hips to rise or sag. This is going to make the exercise easier.

Check out the video below by Scott Herman below to see a demonstration!

Ab Wheel Rollouts

  • Grab onto the handles of the ab wheel or grab the barbell with a double overhand grip shoulder width apart.

  • Start with your feet on the ground and the wheel on the ground in front of you.

  • Fix your body into a straight line and roll the wheel or barbell out until you're in am extended plank position, holding yourself up from falling down.

  • Roll the wheel back in and repeat.

  • If this is too difficult you can do them on your knees and slowly build up your strength.

See the video demonstration below by Pike Fitness below!


Russian Twists

  1. Sit on the ground with your feet in front of you.

  2. Bend your legs slightly and rock back onto your glutes until you're holding your bodyweight. Your body should look somewhat like a 'v'.

  3. Keeping your core tight, twists from side to side and either touch the ground with your hands or with the weight you're holding.

  4. Go from side to side for desired reps.

Check out the video below by Project Drop to see what this looks like!


Heel Elevated Front Squats

  1. Grab a pair of 1.25 or 2.5kg (2.5 or 5lb) plates, and put them flat on the ground, spaced out how your feet would be during your squat.

  2. Set the squat rack to shoulder height.

  3. Step under the bar and grab onto it with your index and middle finger, palms facing up.

  4. Bring your shoulders up and forwards, until the bar sits comfortably between your shoulders and your collarbone.

  5. Walk the bar out slowly, one foot at a time.

  6. Walk out until your heels are comfortably elevated on the plates.

  7. Take a big breath in, brace your core and lower yourself with control until your thighs reach parallel with the ground (preferable if you can).

  8. Press back up by driving your feet hard into the ground. Push your knees out towards your small toes.

  9. Breathe out at the top.

Check out the video by T Nation to see what this looks like!

Sumo Deadlift

  1. Start with the bar lying on the ground.

  2. Approach the bar and set your feet at a 2 times shoulder width to start.

  3. Turn your feet out at a 30-45 degree angle, wherever it feels the most comfortable.

  4. Bend at the hips by pushing your glutes backwards, with your back as straight as possible and knees slightly bent.

  5. Go down as far as you can, and then bend at the knees to go down the rest of the way until you can grab onto the bar comfortably.

  6. Take a double overhand (pronated) grip to start with.

  7. Pull the bar in close to you. The bar should be touching your shin as you bring it up.

  8. Take a deep breath in, hold your breath and push your feet hard into the ground. Lock your knees out, and push your hips forward at the top to complete the lift.

  9. Guide the bar down (allow it to drop, but keep it in your hands).

  10. Repeat

Check out the video below by Stronger Runner for an awesome demonstration!

Final Thoughts

The idea of the 'show' muscles is important for you to understand and have a grasp of if you're wanting to look big and impressive.

You need to understand what these muscles are, and more importantly how to go about training and developing them to get them to look the way you want them to.

It's going to take a lot of time and a lot of effort, but it'll all be worth it in the end when you get there!

You just have to trust the process.

If you found this post helpful, remember to share it with your friends so that we can reach more people and share more knowledge!

And if you would like some help with your fitness journey, upgrade your account to Gympulsive Pro for exclusive access to loads more content like this, and check out our custom programs feature for a personalized workout program made just for you!


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