Bill Pearl and Arnold Schwarzenegger's encyclopedia-sized books contain hundreds and hundreds of exercises. In fact, there are so many exercise variations, that if you wanted, you could change your workout every time you hit the gym and never repeat the same routine twice.
Most exercises, however, are simply variations on a few basics, and it's the basics that are the most effective. These include exercises such as free weight squats, lunges, rows, chin ups and presses. It's the basic exercises that tend to be the most difficult, so most people shy away from them and gravitate toward the easier exercises such as machines and "isolation" cable movements. This tendency towards the path of least resistance will short circuit your results.
Regardless of whether you're just starting out or you're a competitive bodybuilder, you should emphasize the basics. What's different between beginning and advanced training is the number of exercises, how many sets, the amount of weight used and the level of intensity, not the choice of exercises.
Naturally, you should vary your exercises regularly and the possible choices are nearly infinite. However, if I were going to choose the 5 best basic exercises for each muscle group, they would include the exercises listed in the chart below.
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