The Importance of Exercise Selection:
In this week’s blog post, I cover the importance of exercise selection and how it can make or break potential results from a training program. Every individual that works out has an underlying motive behind why they train; to lose weight, gain weight, maintain or simply just to improve overall health and quality of life. The underlying motive is ultimately the determining variable when attempting to decide what exercises to include in a training program. Many variables come in to play and I’ll touch on those later in the article. This reason behind this article is to shed some light on what not to waste time doing and to help individuals maximize their training efforts.
The premise of any training program needs to include compound movements regardless of the targeted goal. Depending on the muscle group, each training day needs to include at least one of the major compound movements that specifically targets the muscle group being used. Compound movements provide the greatest stress on the targeted muscle group and is the number one way to fully exhaust the muscle group being targeted. Utilizing these movements forces both muscle fiber types (type I & II) to activate and contribute to the completion of the exercise. In order for muscle growth to occur muscle breakdown must be evident, this will allow muscle fibers to create more myofibrils which in turn causes the muscle thickness to increase. Compound movements are multi-joint movements meaning they target large muscle groups which ensures appropriate stress and damage to the targeted muscle group resulting in muscle growth.
Compound Movements per Muscle Group:
- Chest: Bench Press, Incline Bench Press
- Legs: Back Squat, Front Squat, Romanian Deadlift
- Shoulders: Barbell Overhead Press, Dumbbell Military Press
- Back: Barbell Bent Rows, Deadlift, Seated Cable Row
- Arms: Straight Bar Curl, Dumbbell Hammer Curl, Close-Grip Bench Press, Skull-crushers
In order to maximize a training program, the exercises selected need to be based around a main compound movement for each muscle group. For example, when targeting chest an individual would base their training program around barbell bench press or barbell incline press (more exercises are considered compound but I kept it simple). The individual would aim to utilize 4-6 working sets with the compound movement with a rep range of 4-12 reps for each working set (reps are dependent upon the specific fitness goal).
The remainder of the training program would include another compound movement or two and then should be finished off with accessory movements. Accessory movements are single-joint movements that specifically target one muscle or target the muscle from a different angle. Single-joint movements help to fully fatigue the muscle to ensure adequate muscle damage needed for muscle growth and to increase the anaerobic and aerobic energy capacity of that given muscle (increasing muscle endurance). This type of movement helps fine tune specific areas in the targeted muscle group and can be very beneficial for more advanced lifters. Beginners should utilize primarily compound movements vs accessory movements due to neural adaptations or “newbie gains”. Accessory movements should never be the premise of exercise selection for a given muscle group.
Compound movements are the most energy demanding and are dependent on the fitness goal and one’s energy balance. Depending on the individual’s goal, the number of compound movements to accessory movements will vary. If the training goal is to lose weight, the individual still needs to base their training program around utilizing compound movements. The load, rep and set schemes will be altered due to being in a negative energy balance. The only difference that should be changed due to this training goal should be the weight being used for the exercise. The individual may want to incorporate more accessory movements due to the negative energy balance but still utilize at least one compound movement for each targeted muscle group. If the training goal is to gain weight, the training program needs to be based primarily around heavy compound movements with minimal accessory movements. Due to a positive energy balance, the body can meet the energy demands required to complete heavy compound movements so for this goal, utilizing heavy compound movements will yield the greatest results.
A common theme floating around the fitness industry is that of “influencers” suggesting workout routines for individuals. The issue that comes with this is that most influencers do not have the proper education and knowledge to actually provide an appropriate training program for individuals. Many provide programs that include all accessory movements and provide a bs 3x12 or 3x15 etc. style rep scheme. Wasting money on “booty plans” or “6-week guide to this physique” programs will get individuals nowhere. Sadly, doing glute cable extensions will not result in “booty gains”, many influencers like to leave out the fact they were genetically blessed or what supplements they truly use. Yes, this sounds like an opinion but it’s as simple as doing the research for yourself. No big secret behind actually progressing and seeing results with a properly structured training program when the research is there and when consistency is evident.
Individual’s aiming to maximize their training program need to focus on appropriate exercise selection based off of the personal goal. When a program has proper rep and set schemes combined with the correct movements, the results WILL come. Regardless of the training goal at hand, one needs focus their training efforts around compound movements. I hope this article helped provide some insight over proper exercise selection and shed some light on how to go about structuring a proper training program. I will include links to a few more of my blog posts that dive into developing a training program and how to structure a training program. I appreciate everyone that takes the time to read these and I’m always open to answer any questions anyone may have!