Q: I see so many people at the gym doing all sorts of different exercises, and there are just so many different pieces of equipment – it’s very overwhelming. How do I figure out what exercises are best for my body type, especially when I don’t have a lot of time?
A: I understand completely what you mean. Because there are several variations (and names) for the same exercises it is incredibly easy to become overwhelmed with the options. But if you know some basic guidelines to resistance training and the primary function of each major muscle group, you will be well on your way to tackling the confusion without spending countless hours in the gym.
First, the primary reason for resistance training is to make the muscles bigger and stronger thus making them work more efficiently. Second, regardless of body type, muscles usually work in conjunction with one another and they have opposing groups, so if you train the muscles with that in mind the task may seem less daunting.
Today, many health clubs boast a machine based full body workout that can be completed in a short time. In most cases, a member can train all the major muscle groups inside 30 minutes and still make major improvements for the body. Even if you are not a member of a gym, you can still develop an effective full body workout based on this information.
There are roughly 7 sections of the body that need to be trained in order to qualify as a “full body workout.”
2. Legs (front, back)
6. Arms (Front, back)
One exercise for each of these groups performed 2-3/week will produce instant and long lasting results. For a more detailed account of the major muscle groups and their functions please refer to Anatomy of a Total Body Workout.
1. Leg Press or Squats. Works the entire leg especially the gluteal muscles.
2. Leg Extensions for the quadriceps (front of the thigh) and Leg Curls for the hamstrings (back of the thigh).
3. Pull-Down. This exercise develops the major muscle of the back (latissimus dorsi) and requires the help of the rhomboids and trapezius to move the scapula.
4. Chest Press. This exercise opposes the work done by the back muscles by developing the pectoralis major. This muscle works whenever we are pushing away from the body.
5. Overhead Press for the deltoids (shoulder muscle) with assistance from the triceps and upper trapezius.
6. Bicep Curls for biceps brachii (front of the arm) and Triceps Extensions for the triceps brachii (back of the arm).
Remember that proper posture is key to training the deepest abdominal muscle, transversus abdominis. Pulling the navel in towards the spine works this muscle whether in the gym or out. Crunches, reverse crunches and twisting exercises, or my personal favorite, the Pilates Abs Series. Ensure that your entire workout is done with intention and focus on form, NOT number of reps.