Exercises: Which Are Best?

There are almost too many exercises to choose from. There is always a new machine or someone comes up with a new exercise. Here I rate how each type of exercise affects the nervous system... and give you real results!
There are almost too many exercises to choose from. There is always a new machine or someone comes up with a new exercise. I'm sure that when you were a beginner or if your are a beginner, that you've heard people say "these exercises are good fundamental exercises and these ones aren't." I've seen people who have just started out, and all they do is machines. I don't blame them for it though because I had not the slightest clue what I was doing either. This is good in a way, but once they start the compound free-weight exercises they find that they are much weaker.

The reason for this is there body is stuck on the idea of something there to guide or help out. Some machines take more realism away than others, and I will go into depth about that later in the article. Different exercises affect the nervous system in different degrees no matter how much weight you are lifting. The more you stimulate the nervous system the more you will grow because the body senses more danger. So your body has to adapt to that stress and danger. Some guys in the gym look like robots performing squats or leg presses. Up, down, up, down, up, down, etc., and that's all they do 10-12 times and rack it. If you add a twist to your exercises your body will have new stress to adapt to. Do jump squats with an enormously amount of weight on your back, twist your trunk as you go down, or even lean on your right or left leg as you squat. To do these I would say you can't be afraid to get injured, and I am not but that's me.

Compound Vs. Isolation

Mostly everyone knows that compound exercises are superior to isolation in building muscle mass. Compound exercises stress multiple joints unlike isolation. Isolation only stress one joint at a time. Some people do think that using a machine for a specific muscle will place more added stress to a muscle than using barbells or dumbbells. This is not the most effective way to isolate a muscle because it takes away the danger and realism. When you do a compound exercise you are stressing more muscles at once, making the exercise more productive. For instance the bench-press works delts, pecs, tri's, rotator cuff, serrates, and lats (lats only get worked if your grip is wide enough.) And the pec-deck works front delts and pecs. What's going to grow more muscle?

Linear Vs. Variable Resistance

Variable resistance machines are supposed to reduce the resistance at the weakest point of the movement, and increase the resistance at the strongest point. Variable resistance machines try to adapt the outside stress to the muscle. You grip a barbell, curl it; it creates stress on the muscle. The muscle will adapt by growing and getting stronger for the next time you lift it, making it easier. The muscle adapts to the outside environment, opposite of what the machine does. In real life we don't have something there helping out lifting half of the weight for us, you have to do it yourself.

Rating By How They Affect The Nervous System

Muscles grow as a result of neurological input from the nervous system. The outside stress is what produces the stimulation, but it is the nervous system which produces most growth. When you cut a nerve to a muscle you will see how important the nervous system is in muscle maintenance and development. Atrophy almost begins immediately. Atrophy actually occurs faster through nerve loss than through lack of use. Taking lack of exercise, faulty nutrition, and loss of nerve supply into account, loss of nerves is the latter which will cause atrophy the quickest. Nerve activation is the key to muscle growth.

Isolation using variable resistance -

Never in your whole life will you see a 250lb plus bodybuilder on one of these. (Unless they have a little help, if you know what I mean). These exercises are almost useless. The only time you would use these is when you are injured, really weak, or if you are older and has bad joints. These machines are way to convenient. Linear machines are more productive than these are. Examples of linear machines would be a smith machine, hack squat machine, or leg press. If you were in any sports you would not want to use variable resistance. We live in a 3-D world and we are made to do real-life, 3-D work.

Compound using variable resistance -

Basically the same thing, you are just stressing more joints, but they are useless for getting big. These are Hammer Strength machines.

Isolation with non-variable resistance machines -

With these machines you stack weights on or uses a pin. Examples would be leg extensions, leg curls, and anything with cables.

Compound with non-variable resistance -

Cable mechanisms that stress more than one joint. These are more realistic and are more useful than guided track machines, but guided track machines are in the same category. So, cable crossovers are more useful than an old bench press machine even though more weight can be used.

Isolation with free-weights -

Some of the exercises in isolation using variable resistance and these ones are close together such as lateral-raises and smith machine presses. Some of the exercises between the two categories can be interchangeable.

Compound with free-weights -

An example of a compound exercise with free-weights would be squats. Although leg-presses work the same muscles and can allow a lot more weight to be used. A squat is still more superior because the torso of your body is moving through space. And almost the whole entire body is being stressed. The lower half of your body is only being stressed doing leg presses. When you do a squat it is a more realistic environment, and your nervous system is at a more activating level. Working with dumbbells can be somewhat more effective than barbells because anything can happen. They can twist, turn, roll off and you can change the direction in many different ways as well. You can do squats, one-arm clean-and-press, and dead lifts with dumbbells too. Using dumbbells would require more coordination, skill, and experience to be effective.

Moving the body through space -

When you move your torso through space your nervous system is even at a higher activating level. Push-ups are like completely forgotten. I don't think I have ever seen a routine in a magazine or book that involves them. They are a lot more effective than bench-presses especially when you have a couple of 45's on your back or a person. So are dips. You can substitute close-grip chins for curls. Seated dips for triceps extensions. For shoulders, you would do handstand push-ups, but they cause blood pressure problems. Push press or clean-and-press would fall into place for them. I would recommend that you use only 4 through 7 exercises, but mostly 6 and 7.

Hope I've been of some help for your choosing of exercises. E-mail me if you have any questions.

Daniel Martin