Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Selecting the Best Exercises for Your Goals Part 1

When it comes to getting great results with your training program, picking the right exercises is a HUGE part of the equation. Even with the best prescription of training variables such as sets, reps, rest intervals and tempo, a program will not be effective without proper exercise selection. However, all too often I see people picking inferior exercises and hindering their progress as a result.

Inferior exercise for most people
One of the most important things to do with exercise selection is to pick multi-joint movements for the majority of the exercises in your training program. (If you are unfamiliar with that term, multi-joint exercises are ones where you use multiple joints at one time. For example, squats are a multi-joint exercise whereas leg extensions would be classified as a single joint exercise). This is essential to get great results for every popular fitness goal. Here are some examples…

Fat Loss:
I have already talked about why resistance training is so effective for fat loss. However, this only happens if you pick big, hard multi-joint movements. Single-joint exercises such as ab crunches, triceps kickbacks and inner/out thigh machine will to nothing to melt fat off all those “problem spots”.
Muscle Gain:
Multi-joint movements allow you to use more weight – something very important for building lean muscle. Also, because they place a greater stress on the body, they force the body to respond with favorable hormonal changes. For example, squats are great for increasing the body’s natural testosterone levels.
Multi-joint movements allow you to use the most weight and are the easiest to progressively add weight. Thus they are essential for anyone trying to get stronger.

Functional Strength/Performance:
I define functional strength as strength that transfers to real-life or sports. Nothing beats multi-joint barbell, dumbbell and body weight exercises for creating strength that you notice when you are in the real world.

Time Efficiency:
For those of us who are pressed for time (and who isn’t these days), multi-joint exercises are the ultimate in time efficient training (for more info see part 1 and part 2 of my time efficient training posts).  I remember one time finishing a heavy set of deadlifts and someone came up to me and asked me what that worked. As I was excessively oxygen-deprived at the time, I simply and accurately answered, “everything”.  If I select deadlift, I know I got some great work in for my hamstrings, glutes, quads, low back, abs, upper back, lats, traps and grip. And, even if I did 9 single-joint exercises to “work” all the muscles that the deadlift worked, I still wouldn’t get the same result. 

Take Home Application:
  • Take a look at your training program. Write the letters MJ beside every multi-joint exercise you do and SJ beside every single-joint exercise. If you are like most people and do a lot of single-joint exercises, look at eliminating extra single joint exercises or replacing most of them with multi-joint exercises.
  • For more information on multi-joint exercises, check out my YouTube page.
I’ll expand on this more in part 2 with some other very important things to consider when selecting your exercises…

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