Exercise selection is undoubtedly one of the first things you will consider when starting your fitness journey and transitioning through phases to achieve your fitness goals.
You need to firstly understand that not all exercises are created equally, and you need to ensure you are working each muscle group evenly to achieve your strength and fitness goals and avoid injury.
It’s no secret that antagonistic workouts enable superior strength gain in shorter time.
Arnold (no last name needed) was the pioneer for antagonistic workouts throughout the 70s, championing his way to seven Mr Olympia trophies.
Antagonistic muscles oppose the actions of each other. For example, your biceps vs your triceps and your hamstrings vs your quads.
During this kind of workout, one muscle is contracting whilst the antagonistic muscle is relaxing. This allows your body to recover much quicker and get more done in your workouts improving your performance.
If you don’t have the correct equipment for antagonistic workouts then you can just use compound and isolation exercises. With care and consideration, you can achieve the same results.
Compound and Isolation Exercises
Compound exercises like squats and cleans use multiple joints and muscle groups at the same time. You will typically find these at the heart of many training programs and require a higher knowledge of technique. Compound lifts allow you to work your muscles in a more uniformed way and are a great time saver.
Isolation exercises like quad extensions, work one joint and muscle group at any one time and are great for singling out muscle groups. Frequently used during strength training, isolation exercises can also be found in most successful rehab programs, correcting muscular imbalances and / or weaknesses effectively.
I highly recommend utilizing both compound and isolation exercises for a well-rounded exercise program. That being said, both exercises can increase your chances for injury when lifting heavy with bad technique - so be careful!
Go Heavy or Go Home
Drop sets or strip sets is a technique where you perform multiple sets of an exercise until failure, then reduce the weight and repeat. Drops sets are notorious for their supreme strength gain capabilities.
However, the potential for muscle fatigue and injury during these types of exercises are high. To combat this, carefully monitor how often you perform these exercises, include some variation in your workout programs such as high rep sets and listen to your body. When done correctly, you are sure to see some maximum gains.
Training for Hormones
It has been researched that increasing your hormone levels, in particular testosterone, has a positive effect on muscle growth. Studies have shown that resistance and leg exercises such as squats can increase your levels of testosterone.
The verdict is still out on how truly effective it is to plan your workout around naturally boosting your hormone levels for greater maximum gains. However, should you choose to utilize this training technique try HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) or attacking the leg exercises first in your workout.
When selecting exercises, you need to consider the following:
• Your goals
• Any time restrictions
• Equipment available
• Your experience
For best results combine antagonistic training and compound / isolation exercises into your program.
As fantastic as compound exercises are, if you do not have the correct equipment or technical knowledge you can still achieve the same results with isolation exercises.
Finally, training for hormones, though controversial, could result in additional muscular gains.
As always, seek professional advice or utilize a personal trainer if you come across any difficulties or need help progressing your training program.