Selecting Muscle-building Exercises for “Double Duty”


When it comes to program design, lots of people break down not so much on the sets and reps but on the exercise choices themselves. With all of the information and marketing out there it seems like there are simply too many to choose from! For example, I just sat here and thought of push-up variations. In under two minutes I wrote down 37. I’m pretty sure I could get that number to 100 in 5-10 minutes.

Now granted, I probably spend much more time thinking about push-ups than the average person, but anyone that’s been in a gym for any length of time could probably come up with about a dozen pretty quickly. And that’s just for the simple push-up! Do you really need 100 different types of push-ups?

You can see where people can become caught in the weeds.

I, of course, always preach that the simple, basic exercises such as squats, deadlifts, presses, and chin-ups always be the first priority in your program. The reason I do this, other than to avoid “programming clutter” is because they give you the most “bang for your buck”, so to speak, when it comes to training time/energy invested versus results.

The bottom line is that you can only train so hard for so long. If you’re chasing your tail with 15 different exercises all supposed to hit some different slightly angle of a muscle then you’re headed down a path of exhaustion and very diminishing or even negative returns.

After the aforementioned big exercises I am very careful when I chose my accessory movements. I look not only for the effectiveness of the exercise, the need I (or my clients) have that it should fill, but also the efficiency it brings to the table. I look for exercises that can pull “double duty”.

For example, the basic Walking Lunge is a great exercise. When you load it with dumbbells or barbells you can really take it to the next level. I rarely have clients do that, however. Instead, we perform almost all of our lunges with an imbalance, and I’m not talking about some foo-foo “functional training” BS, either! My clients perform most of their walking lunges with either a single kettlebell (sometimes very heavy) in the clean or overhead position OR they may hold two dumbbells like a normal loaded lunge except the dumbbells won’t match (a 30 lb and 20 lb is pretty standard for my women).

A back NOT built with rear delt raise variations!

I get all the benefits of a normal walking lunge, plus some additional athleticism and awareness training, and I very rarely have to program dedicated midsection or midline stability work. This saves me a ton of training time and allows us to focus more on the big things that matter.

If you want to get the most out of your time in the gym, efficiency is the name of the game.

What exercises in your current training program can you combine or eliminate to train more efficiently?

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