It is hard for anyone to predict the top exercises for an individual, because we are all built differently. An exercise that feels great to you, may do nothing for me. Take bent over barbell rows for instance: I can’t for the life of me feel it working my back at all, yet everyone recommends this as the so called – King of Back Exercises! One arm dumbbell rows on the other hand work wonders for me. Don’t just assume that any one particular exercise is what you need to do for a body part. If you don’t feel it, then move on to something else.
[This is a picture from the resort in Mexico that me and my girlfriend stayed at this past June. We spent a lot of time in this infinity pool. All of us need to take vacations more often!]
Why It Makes Sense to Suggest the Basic Lifts to Beginners
I do understand where trainers are coming from when they suggest the standard compound lifts for each body part. These are the lifts that provide the biggest “bang for the buck” and they are also the best for functional strength. The problem is that sometimes it takes weeks or even months for the beginner to feel anything with certain exercises.
It Takes Time to Build the Mind-to-Muscle Link
The big compound exercises are great and shouldn’t be ignored, however they are the ones that take the longest to “feel”. Over time you will develop a strong mind-to-muscle link and you will really be able to milk these exercises, but until that happens I recommend that you work a little more on exercises that you can really feel.
Give Priority to Exercises that Work for You!
For my first 4 years of lifting, I did seated behind the neck military presses. I was told that this was the best exercise for building shoulder width. I was terribly weak at these and they never once felt like they were working my shoulders. My workout partner worked his way up to 185 pounds for 5 reps and I was stuck at 100 for 5 reps…for 4 years! After getting no results with this lift I decided to do seated dumbbell military presses and have stuck with these ever since. I also do a bit of nautilus military presses and these work great as well.
The Same Workout Partner Hated Barbell Curls
On the flip side, I love flat bar barbell curls but this guy didn’t feel them in his biceps. He liked concentration curls and Preacher Hammer Curls a lot better (which I get nothing out of). So the bottom line is that you need to do exercises that work for you…not ones that are “suppose” to work for you.
An Exercise You Don’t Feel Now May Improve Over Time
You may hate incline barbell presses now, but over a period of time they may become your favorite. I used to dislike flat bench dumbbell flyes and preferred cable crossovers. I only felt dumbbell flyes in my shoulders and cable crossovers really seemed to hit the chest muscles. Now it is much different…flat bench dumbbell flyes work my chest so hard that I have to be careful not to do too many!
Spend the majority of your time on exercises that feel great now and give them priority. If you do three exercises per body part, make sure at least two of them are ones that feel like they are working the target muscle group. Do those two first, and then throw in one exercise that is “suppose” to be the great for that muscle group. Over time you will develop a list of top exercises for you, which will be unique to you.
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