Designing workouts for yourself that see results is a difficult task. It takes a ton of education and thought to ensure there’s no wheel spinning or wasted time. Loads of questions need to be answered. What exercises should you choose? How often should you do them? What order should you program them in? Sets, reps, there's still a Night's Watch? Huh. Right now, I’ll tackle the very first question. Which exercises should you choose?
As it pertains to training, the principle of specificity means you’ll make a specific adaptation to the specific stimulus you apply. This is why all the squats in the world won’t give you great biceps. This idea is pretty intuitive, but it’s still worth cementing in your program’s foundation. Now, most of us don’t just want great biceps. We want a well-proportioned, muscular body. Therefore, we train each muscle group to an appropriate degree. Sure, we might prioritize, but that’s a topic for another post. To make sure the whole body is getting its due, I use a certain approach to programming as follows…
A Movement-Based Approach
When writing a month’s worth of workouts, I take care of the heavy hitting exercises first. These can be summarized in 6 distinct movement patterns that I give the biggest S*** about. And they are…
These 6 movements and the corresponding exercise variations are the foundation of my program because they represent the biggest bang for my buck. Each pattern encompasses multiple joints, and thus incorporates multiple muscles/muscle groups in synchrony. And because we have many muscles working in conjunction, these lifts lend themselves to heavier weight, which are more easily overloaded month-to-month and year-to-year.
The Accessory Movements
Accessory movements are just gravy to the six patterns’ potatoes. These exercises are often single-joint and lend themselves more so to dumbbells or cables. Examples might include a dumbbell fly, bicep curl, leg extension, and so on. Each is prescribed for a single joint and its corresponding muscle(s). These are akin to lighter weights as well because they’re more “isolatory.” I mean, if you can curl more than you can squat, then kudos I guess? Anyway, I can’t stress enough that the six foundational movements above need to be in order before you worry about the pros and cons of barbell vs. dumbbell curls.
Take Home Message
Specificity dictates that to grow a muscle, I certainly must be overloading THAT MUSCLE.
The first exercises I program are the heavier, more complex movements because they reap the greatest benefits.
Accessory movements are gravy – more akin to lighter loads and ability to hone in on individual muscles that may be lagging.
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