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My Favorite Exercises

//My Favorite Exercises

I believe that proper exercise selection is very important to help one achieve their goals.  If you are going to be busting your butt in the gym you want to spend your time on something that will actually give you the results you are after.  To that end I have compiled the 5 best exercises for the muscle group you want to work.  But, it is important to know what specific goal you have.  Are you trying to get stronger, get bigger, or build muscular endurance?  To help you out I am going to list my top 5 exercises for each muscle group in each one of those categories.

My Favorite Exercises for Chest

Chest Strength Chest Size Chest Endurance
Bench Press Bench Press Bench Press
Incline Press Smith Mx Bench Push-up
Decline Press Hammer Strength Press Dip
Dumbbell Press Dumbbell Press Ring Push-up
Dips Power DB Fly 1 Arm Push-up



My Favorite Exercises for the Back

Back Strength Back Size Back Endurance
Pull-ups Bent-over Row Pull-up
Chin-ups Machine Row Chin-up
Bent-over Row DB Row Inverted Row
DB Row Machine Pulldown DB Row
Cable Row Pullover Machine Flexed Arm Hang



My Favorite Exercises for the Shoulders

Shoulders Strength Shoulders Size Shoulders Endurance
Push Press Smith Mx Mil Press Handstand Push-up
Barbell Military Press Power DB Lat Raise Barbell Military Press
DB Military Press Leaning DB Lat Raise DB Military Press
Power DB Lateral Raise Power DB Rear Delt Raise DB Lateral Raise
Leaning Lateral Raise Rear Delt Machine DB Rear Delt Raise



My Favorite Exercises for the Legs

Legs Strength Legs Size Legs Endurance
Squats Leg Press Squat
C Deadlifts Smith Mx Squat Lunge
Sumo Deadlifts Squat Leg Press
Good Mornings Deadlift (any) Front Squat
Leg Press or Front Squat Leg Ext/Leg Curl Step Ups


My Favorite Exercises for the Biceps

Biceps Strength Biceps Size Biceps Endurance
EZ Bar Curl EZ Curl EZ Bar Curl
Power Curl DB Curl Suspension (TRX) Curl
DB Curl Cable Curl DB Curl
DB Hammer Curl Power Curl Band Curl
Strict Curl DB Hammer Curl Preacher Curl


My Favorite Exercises for the Triceps

Triceps Strength Triceps Size Triceps Endurance
Closegrip Bench Skull Crushers Closegrip push-up
Board Press Pushdowns Bench Dips
Skull Crushers Closegrip Bench Band Pushdowns
DB Overhead Tri Ext Dips Dips
DB Pullover Tricep Extension DB Pullover Tricep Extension DB Pullover Tricep Extension



My Favorite Exercises for the Abs (core)

Abs Strength Abs Size Abs Endurance
Hanging Leg Raise Cable Crunch Plank
Inverted Sit-up RC Leg Raise Sit-up
Cable Crunch Decline Sit-up Crunch
Dragon Flags Machine Crunch Twisting Decline


Standing Ab Wheel Dumbbell Side Bend Wood chop/Rotations


I am not trying to make the argument that you should only use these exercises listed here for the rest of your training career.  I am, however, suggesting that if you are not regularly incorporating a good number of these exercises for clients that have these specific goals, your results may end up being less than optimal.  Ultimately you want to have a litmus test for exercises; a method for determining if the exercise is likely getting the job done.  Here is the litmus test that I use:

Strength: When training for strength you want to choose an exercise that allows you to lift the most weight combined with the most skill necessary.

Size: When training for size you want to choose an exercise that allows you to lift the most weight combined with the most isolation (emphasis) on the target area.

Endurance: When training for muscle endurance choose the most challenging functional exercise that a client can complete for 20 or more reps.  A functional exercise in this instance is an exercise that moves in 3 dimensions and has a high probably of transferring to common, everyday activities.

Let’s look at the leg press for example.  One huge benefit of the leg press is that allows the client to lift a lot of weight – most clients will use more weight on the leg press than they will on any other exercise in the gym.  That fits very nicely for the first part of the guideline both size and strength.  However, the leg press involves little skill – it is a fixed machine and as such the strength developed in that lift may not transfer that well over to other activities – squats for example.  If you want to use the leg press to develop strength you need to incorporate the other barbell lifts as well.  However the leg press does a great job of isolating – or placing significant emphasis on – the target muscles, in this case the glutes and the quads.  In my opinion it may be the best exercise to develop those areas, particularly the quads.  The point of this example is to highlight how having a filter to view exercises through will help you see the benefits and negatives of each exercise and will allow you to make more ideal exercise selection for your clients.


Selecting the optimal exercises will go a long way towards improving your clients’ fitness, but don’t forget to incorporate the standard exercise program design science as well to ensure they are achieving maximal results:

  • Strength: For most sets use a heavier weight, use lower reps (1-6), and take long rests in between each work set (2+ minutes). Be sure to incorporate progressive overload in your workouts.
  • Size: For most sets use a moderate weight, use medium reps (6-12), take shorter rests in between each work set (1-2 minutes), and use a high volume of training (8-20 tough sets for the target area). Be sure to eat enough to facilitate growth.
  • Endurance: For most sets use a lower weight, use higher reps (12+, often in the 20 range), and take shorter breaks particularly if training for multiple set endurance. Be sure to keep your cardio high enough and your bodyweight low enough to handle the demands of this style of training.



2017-12-07T10:43:34+00:00 March 18th, 2016|