Ever wondered what the best exercises are for building muscle? Do you find some exercises work for you better than others but because some of the exercises that work best aren’t commonly seen as ‘the best’ - they cause self doubt?
Here I’m going to talk about my experience when it comes to training and why choosing exercises that work for YOU are what you should be concerned about and not necessarily the exercises that are seen as ‘must’ lifts.
Reasons To Choose Certain Exercises
When it comes to exercise selection, generally speaking you want to choose exercises that (in no particular order):
- Stimulate the muscle effectively
- Are comfortable
- You enjoy
- You can progress with over time
Although there are more factors, these spring to mind particularly for me.
Now I’m going to go into a little more detail, there may be a little over lap but you get the idea!
Stimulate the Muscle Effectively
When it comes to stimulating the muscle effectively, a few factors may come into play. For example if you can do 200 push ups, this may not be effective for you as you can do so many! So choosing heavy dumbbells or doing the barbell bench press, which you can go as heavy as you like, may be more effective.
Then there’s your own personal body and how exercises work for you. For me, the barbell bench press is just not suited to my frame. I’ve noticed with many (not all) tall people, they often find that due to their long levers certain exercises just aren’t as effective. However, dumbbells may a be great alternative!
So, when picking exercise make sure they are fit for you.
Are the exercises that you are doing comfortable? If not, perhaps they’re going to cause joint issues down the line. For me, my health is the priority…if a certain exercise helps me add muscle, but it’s causing other issues (or potential future issues), I just do something else, as there are plenty of exercises that you can do instead.
It may turn out that the exercises that you can do are not ‘the most effective’ exercises, however it’s better to do exercises that are comfortable than exercises that may cause injury - if you’re injured you can’t do any!
Although you may not enjoy some exercises that are highly effective (squats are a common one for many), for the most part you want to be doing exercises that you enjoy.
But why? When doing exercises that you enjoy, you’ll look forward to them and put in more effort into them over time - leading to great results.
When it comes to exercises, like squats, you may initially hate them as they’re so hard however if you try to ‘learn to love them’ you may be able to change you attitude towards them. I did this years ago, initially I wasn’t really a fan of squats however once I connected to the results that squats can lead to I learnt to love squatting heavy! Which funnily enough, makes them a lot ‘easier’ mentally speaking.
You Can Progress With Over Time
If you want to get serious results over time, you need to be picking a selection of exercises that realistically you can progress. For example, dumbbells flyes for the chest are great however you need to be doing a pressing movement too for decent chest gains…so it’s no use just doing loads of flyes as although you may be able to progress, there certainly is a lower ceiling to progressing with dumbbell flyes compared to dumbbell presses for example.
Just like leg extensions for legs, compared to the leg press or squats…
Similarly, you can do hyper extensions all day to help thicken your lower back, but deadlifts are going to have a much greater effect over a shorter period of time as you can use a lot more weight and they are such an intense exercise.
Reasons To Not Do Certain Exercises
Although covered above, reasons to not do certain exercises may include:
- An exercise causes discomfort/joint pain
- You aren’t sure how to do the exercise properly and it involves risk (squats)…a solution here would be to get guidance from someone who knows what they’re doing
- Just because someone you look up to online does a certain exercise, if it’s not comfortable for you, don’t do it
Is An Exercise REALLY Not Suitable?
Being honest with ourselves is vital when it comes to exercise selection and making progress…if you want to go to the gym and have a decent workout but progress isn’t something that’s important to you, then perhaps it’s not as important. But as I presume most people are wanting progress, it may be something to think about.
I’ve noticed that a decent proportion of people seem to ‘not be able’ to do squats due to ‘knee problems’ yet when it comes to it, they don’t really have knee problems OR they are squatting completely wrong and it’s no surprise they get knee pain as the ‘squat’ they’re doing looks dangerous!
Ultimately, what I’m saying is, to get decent results we still need to really push ourselves and to do that we may have to face our fears when tackling some exercises (going for a new squat PR for me is pretty daunting sometimes as it involves so much weight).
If there’s a genuine reason for not being able to do a certain exercise as it causes issues then that’s fair enough, for me doing the barbell bench press just doesn’t feel good and causes wrist issues…even after trying to push through it for years! Instead I use heavy dumbbells and certain machines in addition to a variety of flies (I still get good results).
Being able to work out long term (not being injured) is a huge part of successfully building your body, so make sure that your exercise selection is challenging yet not too risky! That’s not to say you can’t get injured, but you can minimise the risk which is what it’s all about.
Now go get some gains!