Specificity: Any good personal trainer will tell you that sometimes what their client likes to do, or the exercise they prefer is not always the best. Specificity is one of the most important components of a good fitness program. For the most part, the exercises selected should be specific to the individual’s goals. For example, if a soccer player wants to improve his endurance on the field but rather go for a long bike ride then run, is that exercise selection specific to his training goals? Riding a bike may improve his endurance but not as much as running would because running is a specific requirement of his sport. Later in this section, you will learn more about how exercise plans are customized to specific goals.
Options: Another important thing to remember is that there is no single “best way” to achieve every goal. As individuals, we are unique, our bodies and how they respond to exercise are also very unique. In short, there are different ways you may achieve your goals and as a result, there are many different exercise options available to you. The best way to experiment with different occasions of activities is explicit for your goal (if possible). Then choose to more frequently pursue the one(s) you enjoy the most. Although it may feel like it at times, exercise is not meant to torture you. It should “
Enjoy everything, the more you enjoy something, the more motivation you have to continue doing to reach the goal. The opposite is true if it is something you despise. From a neuroscience perspective, the benefits of exercise including learning retention, greater attention, less stress, less anxiety, and an overall better mood become most apparent when you select an exercise you enjoy (at least relatively).
*Different types and styles of exercise with examples are listed in the resources section.
If you haven’t discovered this already, there are seemingly limitless amounts of exercise movements that target the same muscle group, each with their own unique benefits. Before you start planning your workout it’s important that you understand the different ways we classify the muscles involved in performing these movements as well as two main types of movements.
Prime Mover: This is the muscle that is doing the majority of the work. It is the primary target of the exercise. For example, when do I do a push up the muscles of my chest are the prime movers.
Secondary Movers or Accessory Muscles: These muscles are not the muscles you’re intending to target necessarily but they “are certainly doing work. When you do a push-up, for example, your triceps and shoulders are helping stabilize your body and help you perform the movement. Your ‘core’ or muscles of the stomach are also helping stabilize your body.
Multi-Joint Movements: These exercises involve more than one joint. They typically require more energy and are more difficult to complete. The technique is very important for these exercises, poor technique can result in injury. However, their complex dynamic movements are much more beneficial to the attainment of physical literacy.
Single Joint Movements: These exercises involve only one joint, they are good to target specific muscle groups and are not as difficult to perform as multi-joint exercises. Push/Pull Exercises: These are exercises in which the motion is either pushing the weight away from or pulling it closer to the body. For bodyweight or suspension training exercises, you will either push or pull your weight against gravity. Sometimes you may see these referred to as isolation exercises, as they isolate a single muscle group.
All movements are not created equal. There are certain movements that are considered the “gold standard” for exercise and whether in a bodyweight, suspension, or resistance training program their variations appear in likely every exercise program created. These exercises target a variety of large muscle groups making them very effective for nearly all goals. They also form the basis for more complex Olympic style lifts such as the snatch and power clean. These exercises in the table below are referred to as core exercises.
Designing an exercise program is not as simple as just choosing exercises and doing them at random, that would be too easy! There are a few basic rules that you need to follow when putting those exercises in order (deciding which you perform first).
Rule #1 – Power Exercises > Multi-Joint/Core > Single Joint/Isolation: Power exercises refer to your “Olympic lifts” such as the clean and jerk, snatch, etc. Unless you are an athlete in an advanced training program power exercises likely won’t be a part of your fitness program just yet. Core exercises are usually “multi-joint exercises” and require the use of assistance/secondary muscles as well as prime movers to
“complete the exercise. These exercises require good technique and should be completed at the beginning of the workout before you become fatigued. Failure to do so may mean your secondary or assistance muscles are too tired to support your primary muscles, which in a worst-case scenario may result in serious injury. Single Joint Exercises are the ones that either emphasize assistance/secondary muscle groups or are single-joint exercises such as bicep curl, leg extension, etc.
Rule #2 – Large Muscle Groups First: If you follow the first rule, then you usually don’t have to worry too much about the second rule as most core and multi-joint exercises target larger muscle groups.