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What Makes an Exercise The Best?

When people find out what I do for a living, I’m usually asked to pin down a single exercise that will “do it all.” THE one that will help lose the most body fat and tone the quickest. As you can imagine, it’s not an easy question to answer.

The bottom line is this: the exercise that may be perfect and work the best for Cindy, may be totally wrong or even dangerous for Bob —hence my hesitation to label any exercise as the universal best. However, I would have to say that some exercises are indeed better than others. There are even a few that I ‘might’ call the best. ;-)

So, what makes an exercise the best? Deciding which exercises to include in your routine, is an important consideration. Easier movements result in lower risk of injury. That’s a very important factor to consider when you are over 40 and aging, but typically easier movements equate to fewer calories burned and fewer muscles strengthened. In contrast, based on your ability to execute proper form, more complex movements can reward your efforts with a higher amount of calories burned and muscles strengthened. Simply put, exercises that use complex movements will deliver better results than exercises that use only simple movements. Complex movements recruit multiple muscles, some to stabilize and others to perform the movement. This process keeps your heart rate higher than a simple exercise would, thereby giving you a more intense workout. What is a complex movement? A complex movement is a multi-joint movement that recruits large portions of the body to complete the exercise. Let’s compare a simple movement leg exercise with a complex movement leg exercise: The leg extension machine uses a simple, isolated movement to work the quadriceps. You’re in a seated position moving only your knee joint. There isn’t much involvement, if any, from other muscles and it doesn’t burn very many calories. Now have you ever performed a free-weight walking lunge? You start by standing with your feet together and a dumbbell in each hand at your sides (or a barbell across your shoulders, or a medicine ball held at your chest, or even with only your body weight). You take a large step forward and lower your back knee, keeping your front knee at a 90-degree angle. Then, you push off your front foot and pull your back leg forward, repeating the movement. How many muscles do you suppose you utilize while performing that exercise? Probably too many to list here, but you certainly will have worked your quadriceps, gluteus, hamstrings, calves, abdominals, supporting muscles in your shoulders, arms and back—just to name a few. You also raised your heart rate and really kicked your metabolism into high gear. That’s what I call a great exercise.

Other ways to increase intensity. Using complex movements are just one of many ways to kick your workout intensity up a notch. Try incorporating a Super Set into your routine. A “Super Set” is simply two or more exercises performed sequentially, followed with a short rest. You could even try performing Compound Sets, in which you perform one exercise, rest, then follow up with an exercise that works the opposing body parts. To find exercises that complement one another, choose ones that have similar but opposite motions such as a chest press and a seated row. Ultimately, finding the best exercise for you requires experimenting with the ones that bring your workout intensity to a whole new level. The fact of the matter is that it is a consistent combination of changing your workouts, using interval training, and even some good old cardio that will ultimately see you to your goal. These methods will help you to burn more calories, increase your metabolic rate, and will stimulate the production of more fat burning and muscle toning hormones. Of course, there is more involved to achieving your fitness goals. ~ You need to incorporate fat burning into your routine. ~ You need to consistently challenge yourself during workouts. ~ You need to take control of your eating habits and to get your diet dialed in. If that all seems too complicated or time consuming for you, that’s what I am here for.

It’s my job to match you with the best nutrition and exercise program that suit you – and your life. If you want to find out more—call or email me today to schedule your no obligation “Let’s Talk Strategy” consultation.

Until next time, keep moving toward a better you.

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