In 2018 we are all in a time crunch, so we want to know what's most efficient, what's "the best". It's already clear what's junk in the exercise market: Dial-1800 ab flexinator belts and vibrating platforms that sell amazing dreams of the perfect physique with little to no effort.
A lean, toned body takes movement, sweat, and swearing. And it takes the best exercise for each body part. Here's a list so you can hit the gym and sculpt a better (and healthier) frame:
Standing barbell curls are definitely the most popular, but when overloaded the body inherently recruits the lower back into the movement – hello danger, and hello chiro. A better exercise(s) is concentration dumbbell curls and preacher curls (one arm dumbbell or two arm barbell).
If you can't find the gear for preacher curls, incline dumbbell curls have got you covered.
Two of the classics are best at targeting your thighs: Weighted squats (dumbbell and barbell [front or back loaded]) and lunges. From loading on the weight to doing simple plyometric moves (jump squats and alternating jump lunges), you'll feel the burn and reap the toning benefits from these two exercises. If you want to switch it up, the "weighted step up" is also a gem.
You see many folks with a built chest, torso, and quads. Basically what they see and take selfies of in the mirror only to forget about their hamstrings. There's little argument that deadlifts are the best posterior movement in the gym and the best in targeting hamstrings. Bodybuilding.com agrees with the second best movement is Romanian deadlifts.
Squats, deadlifts, and lunges will kick and tone your arse. So will a simple butt lift – lying on the floor, feet flat on the ground, and raise your bum to form a "bridge". Turn up the volume and add some weight by performing the "barbell glute bridge".
Back and shoulders
The back and shoulders are made up of many muscles. The best back exercise is the simple bodyweight pull up. Not many gym goers can do more than a handful, therefore bent over barbell rows are a great pulling motion. For the shoulders, there are too many to name – barbell push press, The Arnie Press, and rear delt raises target all around the shoulders.
You'll find some that say the simple, barbell bench press is best. Others that talk about dumbbell presses using Swiss balls. or create chest sessions using cables. The king is still the push up. Incline, decline, close / wide grip, plyo, and more. There are a million ways to build (and lean) up a chest with simple push ups. Can you do 20 with a 2:1 tempo? Probably not, so you don't need to ever queue for the bench.
Who knew you don't need weights to best tone those bingo wings? The American Council on Exercise (ACE) put electrodes on participants, and the "triangle push up" (or diamond push up) elicited the most muscle activity. Tied for second are dumbbell triceps kickbacks and dips.
ACE did another study to test effectiveness of numerous exercises on the rectus abdominus (front) and obliques (side). "The Bicycle" (lying elbows to opposing knee touches) and Captain's Chair are twice as effective as the traditional crunch and three times as effective in targeting those love handles.
It's not a body part, but some heart pumping activity certainly needs a mention – I'm a big fan of the calorie burn provided by rowing, running / HIIT sprints, and skipping rope (with weighted handles).
Personally, I find a workout that targets specific muscle groups with isolation movements quite boring. Target them all with movements like burpees (add dumbbells and do burpees into a curl-overhead press) and barbell squat thrusters (deep squats into a shoulder press).
And if this all sounds like Bondi-bikini-BS? It shouldn't. Penn State did a massive study on strength training and concluded: "Older adults who strength trained at least twice a week had 46 percent lower odds of death for any reason than those who did not. They also had 41 percent lower odds of cardiac death and 19 percent lower odds of dying from cancer."
Ultimately, this list could bring up quite the debate as some exercises are apples to one and oranges to another – it all depends on your health and wellness goal. But one thing we can all agree on. The above means squat if your post-gym bicep curls are meat kebabs and beers instead of healthy protein, veggies, fruit, and water.
Passion for lifestyle change is the cornerstone for everything Michael Jarosky does. A Sydney-based personal trainer, he cajoled thousands of Executive Style readers to undertake his "Cut The BS" diet, and champions a charity weight-loss event, Droptober.