Making a Plan pt. 5 - Exercise Selection

Exercise selection might just be the most confusing thing you could ever come across. There are at least a gazillion different exercises you can do. So how do you pick the one best for you?

There are several different criteria pertinent for choosing the right exercises.

  1. Injury history - If you have an injury somewhere, you may be best served selecting exercises that won't exacerbate the injury. This doesn't mean you'll never be able to do these exercises again, it might just mean to take a hiatus from certain exercises for a bit.
  2. Training Experience - The more you've trained the more you'll know what exercises or types of exercises may work for you. Those of you brand new to training may want to choose exercises easier for you to do safely and give yourselves room to progress.
  3. Goals - Your goals are going to vastly impact the exercises you choose. However it's also important to understand where you are at not just where you want to be.

For our intents and purposes we are going to break exercises down into two categories. Isolated exercises and Compound exercises. Think of isolated exercises where you're really only allowing one joint to move. Like a biceps curl or tricep extension. The only joint that should be moving during these exercises is the elbow. Compound exercises are exercises where multiple joints are moving like a squat or bench press. 

The biggest mistake I see people make is going straight to isolated exercises. While they have some value their effectiveness, regardless of your goal, is minimal without compound exercises. The reason being is compound exercises produce a greater stimulus to the rest of your body. They force your body to have to work harder, and create greater adaptations. Arnold did not just get as big as he was doing bicep curls all day, rather he squatted and benched as well. On the other side of the coin think of those lean athletes simply ripped and shredded not necessarily bulky. They too got there by using compound exercises.

This is not to say isolated exercises don't have their time and place. There is nothing wrong with curls, but you need to choose exercises that will build strength and then isolated exercises become more effective the stronger you get. 

There are 6 categories to use when selecting compound movements.

  1. Hinge (Butt bends, shins stay vertical)
  2. Squat (Butt bends, shins move forward)
  3. Upper Body Push (You push the weight away from your body)
  4. Upper Body Pull (You pull the weight closer to you)
  5. Single Leg (You lunge, step-up, or do something on one leg)
  6. Core/Carry (You plank, side plank, or pick up a heavy weight and walk with it)

It is important when going through a program that you use all 6 of these at least once in some shape or form. This will help ensure your program is  well rounded, and will help you really start to move closer to your goals. .  

I am keeping this basic because quite frankly it shouldn't be complicated. If you can ensure you are getting all 6 of these movements then have fun throwing in isolation work as well. The key with exercise selection is to keep it simple. 

Next post I will kick the complexity up a notch and start to discuss sets and reps. Get Ready!

-Dave