The Best Bang for you Buck exercises!
This is my first Blog…and the boys have been on my case about getting something on here!
So I was doing some reading and came across this amazing piece of reading from strength GOD Charles Poliquin!!! Enjoy…
Selecting the Best “Bang for your Buck” Exercises
by Charles Poliquin
An exercise is only as good as the time it takes you to adapt to it. Provided you use enough weight for enough time, all exercises can build muscle – it’s just that some exercises are better at it than others.
This phenomenon has to do with what German strength physiologists call the scale of motor unit recruitment. For example, cam exercises for a given number of reps recruit less motor units than pulley exercises, and pulley exercises recruit less motor units than dumbbell exercises. The more you stick to what we humans were designed for – lifting rocks, carrying carcasses and generally just fighting against gravity – then the better off you are. What that means is using free weights over machines.
Some coaches argue that every exercise should be done standing if possible, but that would not be a wise practice. If you look at research on motor unit recruitment, the fewer muscles you involve in other parts of the body, the better. For example, there’s more motor unit recruitment during the seated incline curl and the Scott curl than during the standing curl. When you stand and curl, your whole posture changes so you don’t fall. When you’re seated doing curls, you can send all your neural drive to those motor units and get better recruitment.
Electromyography (EMG) studies at York University in Toronto showed that the more you can isolate the exercise with a free weight (in a single-joint movement), the more motor units are recruited. It’s true that if you measure motor unit recruitment in the quadriceps on a leg extension versus a squat for a given number of reps, you’ll always get more motor unit recruitment in the squat. But when we’re talking about single-joint exercises, the more you can isolate your neural drive for the targeted muscle, the better recruitment you’ll get.
The Seven Levels of Muscle Activation
One of the keys in strength training is choosing the right exercise – what I refer to as the “most bang for your buck” exercise. Here is a modification of Dietmar Schmidtbleicher’s chart on what he refers to as the six levels of muscle activation. Schmidtbleicher’s chart rates exercises on a scale of 1 to 6, with level 6 having the highest degree of muscle activation. I say “modified” because Riccard Nillson, a Swedish colleague of mine, added a seventh level. The higher the level, the greater the muscle activation. You should devote your training to exercises of mostly level 5 and above:
Compound vs. isolation exercises
(comparing levels of neuromuscular activity, or NMA)
Isolation exercise on variable-resistance machine
Examples: leg extension on cam-type machine, such as the Cybex leg extension, or the DAVID leg curl
Complex exercise on variable resistance machine
Examples: Nautilus leg press, LifeFitness incline press
Isolation exercise with constant-resistance machine
Examples: Scott pulley curl, triceps pressdown on pulley machine
Complex exercise with constant-resistance machine
Example: leg press on standard machine
Isolation exercise with free weights
Examples: Scott barbell curl, lying flyes
Complex exercise with free weights
Examples: snatch pulls, power cleans
Complex exercise with free weights
Examples: power snatch, dips on rings, rope climbing, split jerks
I must add that eliciting survival fibers will cause you to recruit more motor units as well. If you do a split jerk, there’s more recruitment of the triceps because if there weren’t, you could drop the bar on your head. The snatch or power snatch will recruit more motor units than the power clean because there’s more risk with those exercises than with the power clean. Risk equals more motor unit recruitment. Also, adding chains or bands can actually help elicit greater recruitment.
Machines offer variety to your workouts, but as a general rule they should not encompass more than 20 percent of your training. Free weights will give you the most bang for your buck in terms of muscle fiber recruitment and therefore should get most of your workout time.