Getting Started Part 7- Exercise Selection

In our last post on daily planning, we created the skeleton for a workout. Now we must understand the importance of creating a hierarchy that will help you make appropriate exercise selections. Nearly all of the hundreds of exercises and movements that exist have a potential benefit. It is impossible to fit every beneficial exercise into a workout, weekly plan, or even a monthly plan. Therefore it is important to prioritize your exercises based on their ability to help you reach your training goals. Below we will outline a sample hierarchy of resistance training exercises and demonstrate how this can help you make efficient exercise selections.

When setting up a hierarchy for exercise selection it is important to divide movements into categories to ensure you end up with a balanced training plan. Without categorizing movements, it is easy to assemble a workout of redundant exercises that provide similar stresses to the body. Unless you aspire to be a bodybuilder and train without any real performance goals, it is not advisable to perform multiple movements with very similar stresses in the same workout. If you did not stress your body enough in the first movement, you may need to rethink your volume and intensity parameters.

In our example we have categorized the movements into both pushing and pulling motions, as well upper and lower body dominance. This is just one of many ways to arrange your hierarchy. Other examples include power or ballistic movements, strength, and therapeutic or corrective movements. Based on your goals and categorization method, you must now prioritize exercises in each category. Prioritization should be governed by identifying exercises that best answer the following three questions:

1) Does the movement involve multiple muscle groups working together as a system?

2) Does the movement allow us to utilize heavy loads, thus requiring the body to generate substantial force?

3) Does the movement allow the body to move through a large full-range of motion?

Movements that answer yes to those three questions should go to the top of your lists. To illustrate an example head-to-head comparison we’ll review our Lower-Push Category containing the back and front squat. We have ranked the back squat above the front squat because:

1) Both the back and front squat involve multiple muscle groups working together as a system- Draw

2) Both the back and front squat allow us to utilize heavy loads, however the back squat generally allows for more significant loading- Win for the Back Squat

3) Both exercises allow for deep flexion of the ankle, knee, and hip – Draw

Answering the above questions helped us to rank the back squat above the front squat. There can be far more considerations then the above three questions when ranking exercises, but they are a good place to start.

When building your workouts, try to emphasize the exercises sitting at the top of your lists. These are your staple bread and butter movements that should regularly occur in your plans. Use lower ranking exercises as occasional substitutions for varying the training stress, or taking a break when a staple movement is no longer progressing.

Next up in the Getting Started Series, Part 8- Set/Rep Structure

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