What Are Your Most Used Exercises?

Perhaps you haven’t figured it out, but I love me some Fitocracy.  I joined in September and have tracked 91 workouts on the site so far, added a “Hero” membership, and participated in two of their NYC Meet-Ups as well.  I headed to Amity Hall this past Saturday to hangout with some my fellow Fitocrats, and successfully dragged my friends KGo and Jason to Bare Burger.

The app and community have proved to be awesome, and I’d suggest you check it out:

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While I was tracking a recent workout, I noticed that the app includes a “Most Used” exercises list, which includes how many times you’ve performed each exercise.  As I perused my most used, I began to think about structural balance and the use of pushing and pulling exercises in our training.  Let’s look at some of the exercise I use the most frequently:


Considering those 8 exercises, we have 3 lower body exercises and 5 upper body exercises.  I squat to a box rather than “box squat”, so each squat variation is a pushing exercise, while the deadlift is a pulling exercise.  Of the 5 upper body exercises, there are two pushing variations and three pulling variations.  Based on these exercises, there seems to be a fair balance of pushing and pulling, with a slight emphasis on pulling.  However, as anyone who’s looked at preliminary statistics knows, the answer isn’t as simple as it seems to be.  (Hi French Paradox!)

As I consider my overall exercise selection, I tend to have a fair balance of pushing and pulling.  On upper body days, I prefer to pair pushing and pulling exercises, such as single arm dumbbell rows in between sets of military presses.  These reciprocal/antagonist supersets allow you to do more work in a shorter period of time.  What about rotating exercises, though?

For example, my three most used pulling exercises have changed in the past few months.  I love chin-ups and inverted rows, but have made a point of incorporating heavy dumbbell single arms rows, as well as learning Pendlay rows and high pulls, and using those in my training. It’s going to take a while for those to become “Most Used” list. The variety in pulling exercises is also confusing due to variations in sumo deadlifts, deficit sumo deadlifts, conventional deadlifts, and Romanian deadlifts. (I’m leaving out trap bar and Jefferson variations.  I’ll have to get to those soon.)

When it comes to volume, there isn’t a Fitocracy system that controls for balance here.  Let’s compare a set of 10 chin-ups and a set of 8 military presses at 135, which have similar movement patterns albeit antagonist muscle use.  If I’m moving myself (200lbs) x 10, that’s 2,000lbs.  If I’m pressing 135lbs x 8 that’s 1,080lbs.  The chinning, for two extra reps is almost twice the work.If you reflect on your own workouts, I’m sure you’ll notice something similar; we can pull more than we can push.  The muscle on the back side of the body (traps, lats, glutes, hamstrings) seem to be the best for developing strength and have the greatest capacity for growth.  If your goal is to get hyooge or burn fat, those are muscles that you’re going to want to train.

Draw me like one of your French Girls.
Draw me like one of your French Girls.

A muscle that is treated with a high training volume and is provided with excess calories (protein, carb) is going to grow.  A muscle that is trained for strength and provided adequate calories for recovery (protein) is going to better respond to anabolic and lipolytic hormones.  Huh?  Lift many weights and be gluttonous, you’ll grow.  Lift heavy weights and eat appropriately, you’ll be a lean machine.Regardless of how your tracking system, look at your most used exercises.  What are they?Most of us can get carried away with pushing exercises for the pecs, shoulders, and quads.  We have to be aware of what our body needs to do, and include enough volume and variation in pulling exercises to offset both our training preferences as well as postural and movement deficits we acquire throughout the day.When I take a look back and review the accessory work in my programming, and when I consult and write programs for clients, I keep a watchful eye on getting carried away with the “fun” exercises like bench pressing and squatting, and include the exercises that our bodies crave.  Maybe if your pulling strength gets strong enough, you’ll be able to push hands free!NoHandPushUp

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