Fitness Articles Reviewed: What Are the Best Exercises?
A friend of mine was a bit confused after reading a few fitness articles and sent this one to me and asked for my opinion. After reading this fitness article, I would be confused as well. As I read this actually begam to annoy me to the point that I decided to write a review on this article.
The article basically states that certain exercises are “worthless” and other exercises are considered “better.” Blanket statements like this really tend to bother me. Usually these types of statements come from people who do not understand how the body works, are selling something, or are from people who literally just make things up. These kinds of articles also tell half truths and never give the reader the full understanding of the exercises presented.
First things first, no exercise is perfect and they all have positive and negative attributes to them. What is relative to a person’s exercise selection is his or her fitness level and goals. I will break down the compared exercises and give my own synopsis
Crunches vs Planks
Crunches: The prime mover for cunches are the rectus abdominis muscles. These muscles are responsible for spinal flexion. (Think of someone bowing) Crunches use gravity to provide resistance against spinal flexion.
Planks: Planks work the entire core by creating instability. When performing a plank a person fights this instability by contracting the muscles of the core to keep the body straight.
Conclusion: Both exercises are completely different. Crunches help to build strength in the movement of spinal flexion, while planks help build core stability through isometric contraction. Both are great. Do them both. Also, add a rotational movement against resistance and now your core work out is looking fresh! Next!
Pec Deck vs Cable Cross Over
Pec Deck: A pec deck is limited to a set range of motion and you are seated and supported by the machine. This means the amount of force that can be generated by the chest muscles will be greater on the pec deck because of the stable base of support. In turn, a person can load more resistance on the muscle using the pec deck.
Cable Cross Over: Less resistance can be put on the chest muscles because it is a less stable exercise. The cables are free roaming and the person is standing so his or her core muscles must provide support through the movement. The person gets the benefits of isometric contractions of the core and the shoulder girdle during this exercise.
Conclusion: If a person wants to build a stable shoulder girdle and develop core strength then cross overs might be the better choice. If someone is looking to really develop size in the chest then the pec deck is the better option. It is all relative. My advice is to do both. Next!
Bench Press vs Push Up
Bench Press: A bench press is a horizontal push with a prime mover of the pectoralis major. In a bench press a person is supported by the bench which allows them to push more weight because it is a stable exercise.
Push up: A push up is also a horizontal push with a prime mover of the pectoralis major. In the push up a person has to support themselves through the range of motion, making the exercise unstable. This will help someone build core strength, but it will limit the development of the chest and secondary muscles of the upper body.
Conclusion: If a person’s goal is to develop the upper body as much as possible then the bench press is by far the better choice. If a person wants to focus on general fitness and is not concerned about building strength and size in the upper body then the push up might be more efficient for them. A bench press may also be a better option depending on someone’s strength levels. If someone is very strong push ups may not do much for them. They may need to do 20-50 in a row before they feel much of anything. Likewise, if a person is very weak, very heavy, or a combination of both a bench press might be a better option because they cannot even perform a push up. So again it is all relative.
Pull ups vs Inverted Row
This comparison is just asinine to me. They both work the muscles of the back but are completely different movements. A pull up is a vertical pull while an inverted row is a horizontal pull. Barring some kind of injury or physical limitation, your work out should have both horizontal pulls and vertical pulls. If a person is not strong enough to do a pull up use a lat pull down machine. Everyone should do both of these motions. Case closed. Next!
Leg Press Vs Lunges
Leg Press: Leg press is a fully supported multi-joint lift of the lower body.
Lunge: A lunge is also a multi-joint lower body lift. During lunges a person is standing and with a narrow base of support making the exercise less stable. This in turn works the core and allows for the stabilizers of the core to engage.
Conclusion: If someone wants to move heavier weight and develop more strength in the lower body then the leg press would be a better option. If someone wants to strengthen his or her core while gaining marginal lower body size and strength then lunges would be best for him or her. My suggestion is to do both of these lower body movements as supplementary lifts to both the squat and dead lift. Squats and dead lifts develop more core stabilization than a lunge and also provide huge strength and size benefits for the lower body. But like every exercise there are draw backs. If you have certain muscle imbalances then it may not be possible for you to perform a squat or a dead lift correctly and without pain.
When picking exercises it really comes down to personal goals, level of fitness and most importantly personal experience. No exercise is best for everyone because they all have certain positives and negatives. You may read in “such and such” magazine that “this or that” exercise is the best, but what really matters is what is best for you. If bench press doesn’t work for you because it hurts your shoulder but you have had great experiences with push ups then do push ups. If squats hurt your back but lunges work great for you then do lunges. Bottom line, do what works best for you, do what will keep you active, do what will keep you motivated, and do what will allow you to achieve your goals. It’s all about you!
Image courtesy of Andy Newson / FreeDigitalPhotos.net