Exercise Selection: What are the Best Exercises to Build Muscle? | Basics of Training (Ep.6)

Exercise Selection: What are the Best Exercises to Build Muscle? | Basics of Training (Ep.6)

yYo what’s up?! Dr. Swole here, MD
bodybuilder, here with my sixth video of the series Basics of Training. In this
video, we’ll be talking all about exercise selection: which exercises
should you be putting into your program to build muscle? Now, what criteria should
we be using when choosing exercises for our program? These are the main tenets.
The first criterion is that we need to choose exercises that we can
progressively overload well on. For our purposes of building muscle, that means
we need to be able to add a weight to our multi set 6 to 12 rep max as I
talked about in my progressive overload video. Now that first point has a few
important implications. First of all, we shouldn’t be choosing exercises that are
inherently unstable. So if you’re doing barbell squats standing on a BOSU ball
you’re not going to be stable enough to use enough weight in order to overload
in the 6 to 12 rep range. So I don’t want to see any BOSU balls out there for you
bodybuilders! The other thing that this strikes out for us is calisthenics. Now
there’s nothing wrong with doing bodyweight exercises, but for
bodybuilding, the problem is you reach a point where you can’t progressively
overload anymore. Let’s say I’m doing push-ups for my chest. Once I can do 30
push-ups easily, where am I going to go from there?
It’s hard to make the movement more challenging. Now if you chose a barbell
bench press instead, there’s no limit to how much weight you can add. Furthermore
something like the bench press allows you to micro load, or add small
increments of weight every workout or every week, which really helps you
progress in the long term. Now the next criterion is that we need to choose
exercises with a good range of motion There definitely have been studies
showing this, that more range of motion usually means more hypertrophy. For an
example, if you’re doing squats, a full squat is superior for hypertrophy than a
half squat. Now the next point I’ll make is that we should be doing two to four
movements per muscle group in our program. It makes sense that using
multiple exercises will stimulate our muscle from
different angles and using different movement patterns that will likely
stimulate different muscle fibers. On the other hand, if you do too many exercises
for one muscle group you won’t be able to develop technical efficiency. In other
words, your body won’t be able to learn all of those movements at once, and this
will interfere with your ability to progressively overload. The last
point is that the majority of our training should be using compound heavy
basics. What’s that? So first of all, a compound movement is one that uses
multiple joints. And you should be able to move a heavy weight for a set of six
in a controlled way. Most bilateral free weight movements are compound heavy
basics. Examples would be the squat, deadlift, bench press, and barbell row. Now
if you’re a beginner or under time constraint and you’re training with low
volumes, for example, 10 sets per muscle group per week, I would recommend that
you do all of your training with compound heavy basics. These movements
are usually better for three reasons: one, they generally produce more stimulus to
the target muscle; two they’re usually amenable to progressive overload; and
three, they’re very efficient ways to train. If you do heavy weighted pull-ups
you’re training your bicep and your lats in the same movement, which gives you a
two-for-one deal Okay so let’s jump into an example here.
We’ll be training chest and we’ll be following our volume recommendation of
10 to 20 sets per muscle group per week and also our frequency recommendation of training each muscle group twice per week, which can fit into a full body
program or an upper lower split or some other custom split. So let’s have a look
at this. For a low-volume program, say for a beginner, ignore this
side. We’ll have two days where we’re training chest. On the first day we’ll
say we’ll do five sets of benchpress and on day two we’re going to do five sets
of incline bench press. Now, if you wanted to add some volume and increase this to
a slightly higher volume program, say 13 sets
per week, we’re simply going to add three sets of incline bench on day one. And if
we wanted to take this to a higher volume program, say 16 sets of chest per
week, we’ll add on three sets of dumbbell flyes on day two. Note that we’re staying
between our two to four exercise per muscle group recommendation. We’re doing
three movements in total, and also the majority of our training is done with
heavy compound type movements. Note that if you were a beginner and only doing
ten sets per week, you wouldn’t actually have any isolation work for the chest.
It’s not until you get to the high-volume training style when you
really get into those single joint movements. Now I think this is a common
mistake that beginners make in that they like to add a lot of isolation work into
their training from the beginning. As a beginner I would strongly suggest
keeping most of your training in the heavy compound movements because this is what will help you to progress optimally and train the most efficiently. Lastly, if
you’re following all the criteria that we talked about today in terms of
exercise selection, the specific exercise you choose really doesn’t matter that
much. It’s really important that you choose exercises that you enjoy yourself.
Remember, consistency and sustainability are at the base of our training
priorities and that’s the most important and it’s key that you choose something
that you’ll be happy with training for long-term. On that same vein, you should
be choosing exercises that don’t aggravate any injuries that you have.
There’s no point in bashing your head against the wall trying to do a specific
exercise when it causes you pain. So I’ll say it right now: you don’t need to squat,
bench press, or deadlift to build muscle! There are tons of other great variations
that fulfill the criteria we talked about today that will be great choices for you.
That’s all for now guys, thanks for watching, make sure you subscribe, like
the video, leave me a comment, and let me know what you want to see answered on
Ask Dr. Swole! See you next time



  • Just Some Guy without a Mustache

    Weighed pull ups and dips are my favorites

  • Chapman Fitness

    Why’s aren’t you mainstream my guy?
    You’ve got some solid content.

  • Ace Hardy


  • Alen Bukvić

    Solid as always!

  • Jonathon Freelove

    Solid work mate

  • Danny Saldana

    Would chinups improve my pullups? I was at 3 pullups max and 5 chinups max but i got injured and am at 1 pullup max and 4 chinups max. 🙁

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