I’m sure you have a few favourite exercises that you do very often. I have mine too and let me share them with you, one per muscle group.
Chest dumbell press
Better than the benchpress, I find that the dumbell version gives you a better stretch and an even more natural motion. Of course, it’s harder to stabilise each dumbbell independently. But that’s an added benefit as it makes you work the stabilising muscles too.
Picture credit: Elitefts
Dumbell shoulder press
Still sticking with the dumbell version. The problem with tha barbell version is where do you press the bar? In front of you or behind the neck? Either way is not comfortable for me. The natural movement is with your arms to the side of your head. That’s after all where your shoulders are from.
There’s the extra stretch that comes with using dumbells too. Read more on how to do the shoulder dumbell press.
Bent-over barbell row
It’s hard for me to choose a favourite exercise when it comes to the back muscles. There are different sections of the back along with a variety of exercises for each. But the barbell row allows me to go very heavy in what feels like a very natural and powerful movement. I don’t do it the conventional way. I use an EZ-bar for a more comfortable supinated grip (palms up) shoulder width apart and bend over slightly, Dorian Yates-style.
Each gym has what seems like its own individual, unique machine to target the back. Some feel better than others and I quite enjoy using these machines when they feel right. The lats pulldown is not one of them though.
I had to add this one targeting the lower back. Rather than the very powerful deadlift, I prefer hyperextensions simply because of the stretch it gives me. I don’t go heavy – not recommended – but go for volume instead.
Here are 2 great lower back exercises, one of which is hyperextensions.
Seated dumbell curls
Dumbells are way better when it comes to working out your biceps because of the additional rotation movement of the wrists it allows you. You miss out on this when you use barbells and one of the 2 functions of the biceps is to rotate your wrists. Also I find the seated version much more strict as it doesn’t allow me to lean back excessively or use momentum to cheat.
I’ll admit that although it is now my favourite exericise, it wasn’t so in the past. I used to do a lot of heavy lying triceps extensions, AKA skullcrushers until I found out that my elbows started feeling sore afterwards. So now I much prefer the close-grip benchpress which is much easier on the elbows whilst allowing me to go very heavy. I also like the pulldown when I want to work my triceps quickly and don’t want to waste time setting up the bar or if there is no bench available during busy hours.
Squats may well be the king of exercises but that doesn’t make them my favourite. I don’t appreciate the balancing act. With the leg press exercise, you can really concentrate on going as heavy as you can and even cheat a little during sticking points by pushing your knees with your arms. You don’t need to worry about losing your balance or whether you’ll be able to get up or not. With leg presses, it’s raw leg power.
I wasn’t working my hamstrings for a long time in the beginning when I started lifting weights – I couldn’t see them so why bother? Then I developed a pain in one of my legs. It turned out to be a muscular imbalance as I was working my quads very hard while ignoring completely my hamstrings. So since then I’ve had to keep working my hamstrings and I’ve most enjoyed doing the straight-leg deadlifts, you may have guessed it, because of the stretch it gives me. It’s not an easy exercise to do as it’s too easy to lift from the waist, thus using the lower back instead of the the hamstrings. So concentration is essential to work the right muscle group here.
I see too few people doing exercises that target the lower abs. In addition, these exercises are usually much harder and people tend to have weaker lower abs as a result. This is why I choose to do a lower ab exercise first or if I do any ab exercise. The leg raise is also a tough exercise to do; there are many ways of doing it that increase or decrease the difficulty of the exercise, so anyone can do it. I prefer doing it lying down, bending the knees and bringing my legs all the way back past the vertical while curling up my hips.
What about forearms, traps and calves?
I don’t work my forearms individually, never did, as I believe they get a sufficient workout during biceps training.
There is not a lot of choice when it comes to working the upper trapezius muscle: it’s all about shrugging movements. The traps get stimulated to a certain extent during deltoid training anyway. However when I do train them specifically, I’ll do the dumbell shrugs for the freedom of movement it gives me.
As for calves, I don’t work them out at all. I believe they get a good workout during running, which I do as cardio.
So that’s it, you know all about my favourite exercises.
What are your favourite exercises?