When it comes to diet and fitness, people are always obsessed with finding out what works best. You know, like…
- What is the best workout routine?
- What is the best workout schedule?
- What is the best diet plan?
- What are the best exercises?
These questions are all extremely common, and for good reason. If you do what works best, you’ll get the best results. Simple as that.
The problem however is that truly answering those questions is never quite as simple. I mean, I could give you the stereotypical answers that people like to throw around as though they are always right, but… they just aren’t always right.
Due to a ton of individual differences, what’s best for one person is not always best for another. And in the case of figuring out what the best exercises are for you… this couldn’t be more true.
Let me show you what I mean.
Typical Stupid Blanket Statements About Exercises
As I said before, there are certain stereotypical answers you’ll almost always get if you asked someone about what exercises are best for you.
The problem is, in almost every case, they are just stupid blanket statements that may be true a lot of the time, but are definitely not true 100% of the time.
Here’s the most common examples that come to mind…
“Compound exercises are better than isolation exercises.”
Now, in general, I definitely agree with this statement the majority of the time.
However, as I’ve already explained in Compound Exercises vs Isolation Exercises, there are plenty of situations when an isolation exercise is better than a compound exercise.
“Free weight and body weight exercises are better than machines.”
Once again, a lot of the time, I fully agree with this statement. But once again, there are plenty of situations when a machine is equally as good (or maybe even better) than free weight and body weight exercises.
It all depends on factors that are specific to you and your goal.
“Squats are better than leg presses.” “Squats are the best quad exercise.” “You must do squats.”
Listen, I love squats and am fully aware of how effective they are, how often recommended they are, and how they are single-handedly responsible for building some of the biggest, strongest, most impressive looking legs in the world.
HOWEVER, just because that is the case for many people doesn’t make it the case for everyone.
Want an example? How about… me.
You see, due to certain factors specific to my body, squats have never been that great of a quad exercise for me. I don’t know if it’s bone structure, height or leg length, naturally (or just overly) strong hamstrings and glutes, or some issue with flexibility or mobility, but whatever it is… squats have always felt like more of an awkward posterior chain exercise for me rather than the supposed king of the best quad exercises.
In my specific case, squats were never that great at building me big/nice looking legs. And since that is my primary goal, why on earth should I keep squatting when leg presses (along with split squats and lunges), are, for me, much more effective for what I need?
You see, in reality, no one truly NEEDS to squat except people who are involved in competitive powerlifting or some other similar sport where squatting is a requirement.
And with me just being a guy looking to build some nice looking quads, that doesn’t apply. For me, leg presses ARE better than squats at doing what I need them to do.
And guess what? There are a ton of people just like me. And while I will continue to recommend squats in the programs I create and always consider them one of the “in general/most of the time” best exercises, I will always take into account the fact that that’s not the case 100% of the time.
You should to.
“Exercise A is the best exercise for Muscle Group A.”
And this is basically what I just described with squats being the best leg exercise, only with some other exercise and muscle group in their place.
For every exercise that someone thinks is the best (or may actually be the best in most cases), there is almost always someone out there who could prove them wrong.
Here’s an example. Most people consider parallel bar dips to be one of the best triceps exercises. I fully agree. The problem is, dips are an exercise that often bothers people’s shoulders, especially those who have had shoulder issues in the past.
I know this first hand, because I am one of those people. For whatever reason, dips annoy my shoulders. I love them, and really really want to do them, but if I do, I end up with a shoulder problem every single time.
So, are dips the best triceps exercise for me or the thousands of other people who have the same issue? Nope, they aren’t. It’s just another stupid blanket statement.
Want another example? A lot of people consider bent over barbell rows one of the best back exercises.
I agree, unless of course you’ve deadlifted the day before or plan on deadlifting the day after. In that case, the additional stress bent over rows place on your lower back make them a pretty poor choice for a back exercise. In this case, some type of chest supported machine row would be better.
And speaking of back exercises, here’s another example. There are a ton of people who complain about being unable to actually use and “feel” their back working during certain types of rows.
In many cases, the person will come across a certain type of row that they ARE able to “feel” their back working on, in which case that specific exercise is the one that’s best for them above all the others.
And these are just a few examples of MANY.
You could name any of the supposed best exercises for any muscle group, and I can give you a reason why it may not be the best for someone based on their specific goal, body, experience level or preferences.
What’s best in general is only best in general. You need to care about what’s best specifically for you. The better you do that, the better your results will be.
The Best Exercises For YOU
Well, at this point I’ve already showed you:
- How to determine if free weight, body weight or machines exercises are more ideal for you.
- How to determine if compound or isolation exercises are more ideal for you.
- The different exercise movement patterns and how to properly implement them with ideal balance.
- A list of exercises for each muscle group that are most often considered the “best.”
In addition to that, the best exercise selection really comes down to 3 simple rules.
- Choose exercises that you can do safely and correctly.
- Choose exercises that allow you to properly train the target muscle group and/or allow you to achieve your desired training effect.
- Choose exercises that you can progress at consistently.
When you’ve done all that, you will have selected the best exercises for your workout routine.
Feel free to use the stereotypical blanket statements and generalities as a starting point, but use all of the factors specific to you as the end point. That’s how you’ll truly find what’s “best.”
Now that you know how to select the exercises for your workout routine, it’s time to learn how to properly organize them. Let’s start here…
(This article is part of a completely free and awesome guide to creating the absolute best workout routine possible for your exact goal. Check it out: The Ultimate Weight Training Workout Routine)