Exercise selection is the one thing that plagues most people at the gym today, personal trainers included. What exactly do you do with so many options to choose from? What are the most useful exercises you can start doing today to accelerate your progress at the gym? Granted, all exercises done at the gym are to an extent very useful when programmed for the right person at the right time. Some exercises are however higher ranking compared to others because they offer the most return on investment. These exercises involve the most amount of muscle across multiple joints causing the right responses throughout your body. This is what you want if general health and wellness is your priority. For more specific sports performance, you might have to do slightly more with the help of a qualified professional.
Stop Wasting Your Gym Time
I’ve been a personal trainer since 2010 and I can tell you there’s a lot of people wasting their gym time with the most “useless” exercises. The most common one is the biceps curl using pink 1kg dumbbells while seated on a bench with comfortable back support.
No improvement in strength, or endurance or weight loss will occur if/when this is the kind of exercise you regularly choose. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing inherently wrong with this exercise, it just does so little! With a better choice of exercise you could get the same benefits of the biceps curl, and over 10 fold more.
The Top 5 Most Useful Gym Exercises
This is by far the most beneficial exercise you can do at the gym, assuming you have no existing condition that legitimately excuses you.
There’s many variations, but we generally say The Squat to mean having a barbell on your upper back then moving down and up several times. All the variations have a descriptive name attached to them to avoid confusion. For example, The Front Squat implies the bar is held at the front and not the back, as in The Squat.
The Squat boasts of a wide variety of benefits including:
- Improved overall strength
- Better looking legs that are equally functional
- Improved health at important joints such as knees, hips and ankles
- Improved core and abdominal strength
- Improved strength and tone in the entire back
- Maximum hormonal response that is beneficial for health and wellness
- Improved bone density; this is very important for women and older people.
The Deadlift also commands a wide group of muscles across multiple joints, making it one of the best exercises you must include for overall health and wellness
Just like The Squat, there are very many variations of The Deadlift but the standard version involves you picking up a heavy barbell several times. All the variations have qualifier names.
Some of the benefits include:
- Improved strength and tone in the entire back
- Improved abdominal and core strength
- Better looking buttocks and hamstrings (back of the thighs)
- Improved bone density
- Maximal positive hormonal response through the whole body
- Better overall strength transferable to most daily life tasks
This is you standing upright and pressing a heavy barbell as high overhead as you can get it. Because of the nature of this exercise, muscles throughout your entire body are called in to contribute their share of work, giving you a response as far reaching as in The Squat and The Deadlift. The extra benefits include:
- Improved upper body strength and tone
- Better looking arms that are equally functional
- Improved balance and muscular coordination through the whole body
The Bench Press is a delicacy of men that I think women and older people can benefit greatly from. Although not as physically engaging as the other 3 exercises because you’re lying on a bench, it still requires input from a considerable number of muscles.
The Bench Press also serves to improve overall strength specifically in the upper body, with better tone in the arms and upper back. There are different variations, all with qualifier names.
The Pull Up
For most people this is the most difficult and requires a bit of working up to. The Pull Up involves you hanging from a bar fixed overhead and pulling yourself all the way up.
Very few people can do a pull up right off the bat, but it helps to train for it. Besides the massive ego boost, Pull Ups are good for upper body strength (specifically the back), strength and tone in the arms, core strength-stability and even posture improvement.
How To Add The Top 5 Exercises Into Your Routine
Simple! Pick one a day and do it well. But first learn how to do them from a professional. This allows you to really focus on good technique, and work capacity, translating into the most benefit. So your simple strategy could have you Squat on Monday, Dead lift on Tuesday, Press on Wednesday, Bench Press on Thursday and Pull Up on Friday. If this is your plan then a good way to end the week will be some simple cardio training, say a 5km jog or more if you can handle it. Of course there are more complex ways to program these exercises, adding in some supporting exercises for more kick. This is where your personal trainer comes in. Talk to someone qualified and experienced in working with people who are just like you.
By David Wagude(Personal Trainer)
Ignite Gym(The Village Market)