People are always looking for the best exercise for building a bigger chest, larger biceps, etc.
Unfortunately, there is no single best exercise as everyone is differently. More importantly, you need to stop thinking in terms of exercises and start looking at the type of movement you are doing.
If you think in movement patterns and build your routine that way you will be sure to hit all the major muscle groups. You will also be able to swap exercises in and out more efficiently to keep your muscles guessing and therefore growing at a faster rate.
Check out the 7 main types of movements below and make sure you are performing exercises from each of them!
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It might seem difficult to squat down properly, but we can all perform this movement naturally – we just lose the flexibility from all the time spent sitting down.
Squatting is the most important lower body exercise and recruits just about all of the muscles in the lower body. It’s good to incorporate both regular squats and single-leg squats as they emphasize different muscles.
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However, if you want to mix things up you should also add in lunges and different squat variations like front squats and split-squats.
Finally, the leg press is a great way to overload the leg muscles without having to worry about stabilizing the weight – just don’t go overboard as a lot of people injure themselves on this machine!
Similar to the overhead press only instead of pushing something away from you are pulling it towards you. Examples of overhead pulling movements include pull-ups, chin-ups and lat pull-downs.
Depending on how far apart you keep your hands, the grip type and the exercise you will emphasize different muscles, but generally speaking you will be working the lats and biceps. Unfortunately pulling movements are generally undervalued compared to pressing movements.
This of course is a huge mistake as having a well-developed back will round out your physique and actually make the rest of your body look bigger. The number of pulling movements in your training regime should as least be equal to the pushing movements.
These exercises involve pushing something away from you horizontally (arms out in front of your chest). Examples of horizontal pushing movements include push-ups and bench presses.
You have tons of possibilities when it comes to these exercises – hand placement, grip style, barbell vs dumbbell, bodyweight training, etc. These exercises tend to emphasize the chest and tricep muscles however when you are lifting heavy weights on these exercises you will be recruiting muscles from all over your body.
Overhead pressing movements are when you put your hands above your head and push upwards. Movements like handstand push-ups, military press and shoulder press all fall into this category.
Basically you are pushing away from your body vertically. These types of movements work your shoulders, triceps and traps – the degree to which, however, varies from exercise to exercise. For example, a hand-stand push-up requires a lot more core involvement than a seated dumbbell press.
That doesn’t necessarily mean one is better than the other, only that you should mix them up in order to emphasize a variety of different muscles.
Unlike pull-ups and chin-ups, horizontal pull movements involve pulling something towards your body while leaning forward. They recruit a lot of different muscles in the back including the lats, rhomboids and lower back.
It is essential that you strengthen these muscles as they will help prevent injury later on. Examples of horizontal pull exercises include dumbbell rows, bent-over rows and cable rows.
Add some of these movements to your routine and you’ll be adding a lot of thickness to your back in no time.
Examples of forward flexion movements include crunches, leg raises, bicycle curls and other abs/core exercises. Even weighted crunches fall into this category.
As you can probably tell from the exercises listed, forward flexion means any exercise that involves bending the body forward which emphasises the abdominals.
However, some of these exercises like hanging leg raises also work the upper body as well.
These are extension-based movements which are important given that most of the movements we do in our day to day lives are forward flexion. Most people tend to place more emphasis on the chest, abs and arms since these are muscles we can look at in the mirror while other muscles go untrained.
However, working your back muscles is absolutely essential. It makes you stronger overall and helps prevent you from ending up with a nasty back injury. The most powerful hinge movement out there is the deadlift.
Although deadlifts focus on the lower-body muscles you also use just about every muscle in your body to support the weight and stabilize everything.
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Are you incorporating all of these movements into your training routine?
Remember, everyone progresses differently – some exercises will help you more than others. If everyone were to follow the exact same routine and the exact same diet they would not all end up with the same results. Some people would notice that certain movement types improve faster than others, and that is perfectly acceptable.
However, what you want to avoid is letting your weaker movements go untrained. That will result in muscle imbalances and ultimately a nasty injury down the road. There are also some movements that don’t fit into any of these categories like calf raises and wrist curls.
Yes these are legitimate exercises that many bodybuilders perform, however they are not major compound movements and should not be at the centre of your routine.
Having said that, feel free to add them in afterwards for a little bit of extra work.
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