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Part 1: My Favorite Exercises For Each Body Part
Part 1 Upper Body Exercises
Last night on Twitter I did a thread on my favorite machines for each body part. I was asked multiple times to post my favorite movements using any type of equipment for each muscle group.
That list is far too long to be a Twitter thread and I thought of a way I could do it better. I will list my favorite movements for each muscle group and list the exercises I believe are the most optimal for muscle growth—just because something is my favorite doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best.
I’m going to list by:
Favorite Barbell and Dumbbell Variation
Typically if something is my favorite movement it is because it fits this criteria:
Effectively loads and isolates the target muscle
It has a good stimulus to fatigue ratio (this Saturday’s paid post)
It is safe and doesn’t have a higher risk for injury than reward for doing it (which the risk is never really worth it, you cannot grow when hurt)
Fun—Do I enjoy doing it?
Try these, see which ones you enjoy and which ones stick. For different experience levels, different exercises make sense. For example, as someone who dumbbell shoulder presses over 100lbs, this is a movement I just don’t do—even though it’s effective—because the difficulty and effort to get the weight up to start the movement, but for you it might be no issue.
Goal has its place too, the context here is for maximizing muscle growth, but if you’re trying to work towards more athletic-based goals, then maybe something else will work better.
Anyway, I digress, here are my favorite movements:
Chest is personally my favorite muscle to work and it has a ton of different exercises we can choose from, the chest is easy to work—anything that pushes your arms away from the body is working the chest.
To the surprise of zero readers here, unless you’re new, flat barbell bench is at the BOTTOM of chest exercises I would ever suggest.
Favorite Chest Exercise
Decline Chest Press Machine
When it comes to my favorite chest exercise, I’d have to go with Decline Chest Press Machine.
This machine allows you to load and isolate the entire chest very well. The decline angle is actually the optimal angle for recruitment and isolation of the chest.
This machine allows you to safely load the chest, and due to the nature of machines, it allows you to manipulate the lift and push to failure, and even beyond without worrying about injury or spotter.
Favorite Barbell/Dumbbell Exercise
Incline Bench Press
When it comes to free weights, it is very hard to beat the Incline Bench Press in terms of effective exercise that takes minimal equipment and is safer on the body.
While decline would be slightly more effective, a lot of people do not have a decline bench and for some it can be uncomfortable on the shoulders. If not and you have a decline bench, go for that.
Incline benching puts us in a much better body position than flat benching and is much easier on the shoulders. Dumbbell is not as bad, but barbell flat bench can cause issues for many.
Favorite Chest Accessory Exercise
The cable dip is my favorite accessory for chest.
Unlike regular dips, this allows your hands to come together at the bottom of the movement and really allows you to isolate and work the chest, while also giving your triceps a good workout as well.
For back we have to split it into 2 seperate parts, the Width (lats) and Thickness (Upper and Mid Back) to truly work the entire back and all the muscles that comprise the back, so I will list 2 per section.
Favorite Back Exercise
Back Thickness - Plate Loaded Seated Row
For back thickness I really like the Hammer Strength Seated Row, it is very versatile and allows you to manipulate what part of your back is being worked based on hand and body position.
Back Width - Plate Loaded Pulldown
For back width, it’s very tough to beat the Plate Load Pulldown machine due to the resistance curve and angle it allows you to work the lats, most do not have the right angle and end up targeting the upper and mid back.
Favorite Barbell/Dumbbell Exercise
Back is actually somewhat tricky to hit with only dumbbell and barbell, not because you can’t do it, but because cable and machine variants are just so much more effective.
Width - Rack Chins
When it comes to a Width movement, we don’t really have much that can effectively do this, but we do have something somewhat similar in the sense of - it is a piece of equipment that can be used almost anywhere and any set up: The rack chin up.
This movement is better for hitting the lats than a traditional pull-up or chin-up due to the stability of the movement and ability to add weight via plates or bar in your lap.
For back width, well the answer is rather obvious—a variation of barbell or dumbbell rows, and you can even throw Yates Rows in this for some lat targeting, and especially Seal Rows (can be done easily with dumbbells) if you have the equipment (pictured).
Favorite Back Accessory
Back accessories are nearly indistinguishable from compounds because the nature of a back exercise involves multi-joint movement. I’ll limit this down to cable movements even though technically they are still compounds
Back Width - Angled Cable Pulldowns
Here’s a whole video on this—one of the best lat workouts, period. This works the proper angle of the lats, in line with the directional fibers.
Please add this to your back/pull days—this will work your lats like never before.
Back Thickness - Seated Cable Rows
It’s hard to beat the simplicity and effectiveness of the cable seated row, especially when using a grip like the one in the video, or even better, a Prime Fitness adjustable handle.
The delts are unique in the sense that we have multiple muscles within the shoulders we can work, but we’re going to focus more on the medial and anterior rather than the posterior as those are best worked with face pulls and rear delt style rows as well as being worked during back exercises.
Shoulders are another easy muscle to work—if it raises or pushes your arms in an upwards direction, it’s working your shoulders.
Favorite Shoulder Exercise
Plate Loaded Shoulder Press
I really like the plate loaded shoulder press due to the simplicity of getting into position and the ability to really control the weight with much less risk of injury or strain on the lower back.
This machine is great for working the shoulders through the effective range of motion at an angle that is good for targeting the shoulder and allows you to really add some load and progress the lift—with no need for a spotter.
Favorite Barbell/Dumbbell Exercise
Seated Shoulder Press
The seated shoulder press is going to be the best alternative for overall targeting the shoulder and safer than the standing alternative. A notable mention is the dumbbell lateral raise—though more of an accessory—works the medial delts well.
Favorite Shoulder Accessory
Cable Lateral Raises
This is simply one of the best shoulder exercises, period. It has an optimal resistance curve due to the nature of cables and allows you to isolate the shoulder completely. One suggestion I have is to use cuffs to eliminate the hands and forearms from the movement to further isolate the shoulders.
Part 2 Continued In Next Email
Due to email data limits and the amount of pictures and videos in this post, I’m limited to just upper body. In the follow-up email to this, I will show my favorite lower body exercises + favorite arms and abs movements (only so much you can do with them).
This is not Legal, Medical, or Financial advice. Please consult a medical professional before starting any workout program, diet plan, or supplement protocol. These are opinions from a Cartoon Ox.