As I’ve mentioned before, I much prefer people train movements and not muscles. Unless one has a goal of being a bodybuilder, isolation exercises should have a very small part in one’s training program. I say small part because I have no issue with someone wanting to do some curls for their biceps or some type of triceps move to try to build some bigger guns…I just wouldn’t devote an entire day to training ones arms.
That being said, I had someone ask me the other day what my favorite exercise for each body part is? The more I thought about it the more I realized that this was a more difficult question then I had originally thought. Even though I don’t like training ‘body parts’ I feel that most all of these exercises train both ‘body parts’ and movement patterns.
Explosive – I’ll start the list off with the only non-muscle group exercise and I’ll make quick and easy. To me hang cleans are the choice because they train that explosive burst and are very safe due to starting from the hang position instead of starting from the floor.
Chest – Most people would think this was the easiest choice on the entire list. I’m sure most everyone thinks bench press right off the bat. But I’m going to go in a little bit of a different direction, and since this is my list, you’ll have to deal with it. I’d go with incline dumbbell presses. Heavy benching week after week takes a major toll on my shoulders so I tend to cycle heavy benching in and out of my program where incline movements don’t seem to ever bother me, which is why I tend to lean towards dumbbell incline presses.
Back – To me this was probably the easiest body part on the list; Deadlifts. If you want a big upper back you need to be deadlifting. You show me someone who has a big deadlift and I’ll show you someone who has a massive upper back, the two go hand in hand. I personally prefer the trap bar deadlift over the traditional deadlift but at the end of the day it’s more personal preference than anything else. Figure out which you prefer and get after it.
Shoulders – To be honest, shoulders are a tricky muscle group to pin down. My initial thought would be some type of overhead press but there are some issues with overhead pressing. For starters, any athlete that plays an overhead sport (baseball, swimming amongst others) probably would be better off staying away from any type of overhead movements. Secondly, many people these days sit in front of a computer for hours and hours a day, leading to poor posture, which leads to the inability to overhead press properly. Assuming you are in neither of these categories I would recommend either a standing military press or push press.
Abs/Core – How about some interval training, or in the words of Mike Boyle, some “table push away” might do you some good.
Quads – Okay I lied, this may have been the easiest muscle group on the list. If you want some tree trunks for legs, you need to squat. To me there isn’t a huge difference whether you prefer to front squat or go with the traditional back squat, but either way you need to be squatting to parallel. If your femur isn’t parallel to the floor, you’re not really squatting. If you want to know how not to squat, go to any commercial gym and you’ll find tons of guys not coming anywhere near parallel.
Hamstrings – RDL! I’m a huge fan of all types of RDL’s. Whether your weapon of choice is the barbell or some dumbbells, have at it. You could go with the single leg variations or going with the traditional double leg version, doesn’t matter, there all good. If you had to pin me down and pick just one, I’ve become a big fan of single leg RDL’s with a dumbbells.
Glutes – A muscle group that is often overlooked but also a muscle group that both guy and gals always seem to check out when the opposite sex walks by. I find the barbell bridge to be my favorite movement. It’s pretty straight forward and you can really start loading up the weight on these for a solid can!