Paragon Training Coach on exercise selection and execution techniques.

Exercise Selection & Execution

Goal: Build Muscle

When training with the goal to build muscle, it’s important to consider both exercise selection and execution.

Choosing The Right Exercises

As an easy example, a conventional or sumo deadlift is probably not the best movement for you to use in a hypertrophy phase. It extends at three joints, which makes it extremely fatiguing, and also difficult to determine what muscles are actually receiving the primary stimulus.

Instead, an RDL is a significantly better choice to target the musculature. It extends only at one joint (the hip) with a partial bend from the knees (but no ankle movement). This directs the load much more acutely into the glutes and hamstrings.

The same idea can be extrapolated across all movements.

For any hypertrophy cycle, the selection of exercises will take into account the stimulus provided by that exercise, as well as the overall fatigue cost associated with that movement.

Refining Execution

As a general example, if our objective was to target the quads, we would select a heels-elevated Back Squat or a quad-dominant machine (such as a Hack squat or leg press) instead of a heavily loaded back squat. This is as much about refining execution to make it more specific (like with the RDL example above), as it is about abolishing the notion of “just move the weight from Point A to Point B.”

When we focus too much on just moving the weight (with whatever muscles can accomplish the job), we’re taking deep inroads into fatigue, while failing to provide a stimulus to the precise area where we want it to go.

This heel elevation (or more acute stimulus from the machine variation) will increase the range of motion at the knee and ankle while decreasing the movement at the hip (more quads, less systemic fatigue per unit of stimulus).

For those with access to machines and cables, you will have the option to select the most optimal movement for a given area of the body. Whether it’s a unique variation of a lat pulldown or a dual cable lateral raise, these movements will direct the stimulus exactly where we want it!

And remember that it is not “bullseye or bust” with these things. It’s a constantly evolving process of getting better at performing movements, through consistent execution of quality repetitions.

Goal: Build Strength

We can completely flip most of what was said about hypertrophy because exercise selection and execution are completely different for building strength.

Different Goals = Different Exercises

In the pursuit of strength, we want to use massive compound movements that require as much coordination and skill acquisition as possible.

The conventional or sumo deadlift, low bar back squat, pull-ups, barbell rows, and different barbell pressing variations, are the best movements for a strength cycle.

Each of these movements utilizes a large number of muscles at the same time, requiring the body to work as a unit to move the load.

Moving Weight From A To B

You should think about moving the weight from Point A to Point B, more than focusing on specific muscles.

Due to the high neurological complexity of many of these larger compound movements, we will see relatively quick adaptations (i.e. you will be able to add weight and see your strength manifest). This makes it fun to have strength cycles and reap the fruits of your labor.

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