Body Composition Training 101: Exercise Selection

Exercise selection: The exercises you use in your training program

Exercise selection recommendations: Focus on traditional, basic exercises (examples embedded within article).


Most gyms these days have become circus shows. Some of the shit you see in the name of “cutting edge” or “innovative” fitness is simply ridiculous, and offers little to no benefit in terms of real physique enhancement.

At the very least it is a waste of time. Like lying around trying to meditate/stretch your way to fat loss, or balancing on a ball like a seal, or more accurately like a lazy housewife (or house-husband) just pretending to work out.

At the very worst it is dangerous – twisting and swinging around at odd angles — the gung-ho dudes who are going to train like “beasts” until their shoulder pops out doing momentum-based pull-ups, or their back gives out doing a crazy boot camp drill.

I mean c’mon, I saw a professional trainer the other day have a client flop around on the ground like a fish out of water. That was the actual exercise. I swear, I am not messing with you. This literally happened right in front of my face.

To me, much of the fitness industry has it backwards. The gym is full of complicated, complex, weird, cute, wild, and new exercises and exercise systems backed by little scientific basis. It’s all about the trends and the fads and what sells (products or services), not about what is truly effective.

But we can’t put all of the blame on the fitness industry. Some of the blame falls directly on you — the consumers. You’re the ones who keep searching for the magic pill. You’re the ones who keep paying for the nonsense that is flooding the marketplace and invading the gyms. You want to believe there is some magical training system that can either (a) allow you to eat whatever you want/make up for a poor diet (b) allow you to get into shape without actually having to work hard and earn it. Sorry my friends, that magic plan is about as real as Santa Clause. You fitness kids need to grow up, embrace the truth, and get to work.

What you really need to do is ask yourself some important questions. Do you want to do exercises that make you look cool, intelligent, or cutting edge, or do you want to do exercises that are effective for physique development? Are you lazy, and just want a program that makes you “feel” like you are working out? Or are you willing to put real work into real workouts that give you real results?


Effective training for physique development is exactly the opposite of the fitness trends and fads. It uses the complicated science of Kinesiology and Biomechanics to yield relatively simple exercises and simple programs. Now don’t misunderstand me. That means simple on paper, but it is actually challenging in its implementation and execution.

With all of the complexities of the human body, human movement really comes down to nothing more than a simple lever system. Your bones are the levers and your joints are the fulcrums. The biceps contracts to flex the arm and bring the radius and ulna (forearm) towards the humerus (upper arm).

Attach some resistance onto the end of that lever (ie a dumbell) and you have yourself a results producing exercise. It’s not rocket science, it’s physics, and the actual real world application is simple common sense. You don’t need crazy, weird exercises that have you balancing, twisting, and flipping all over the place, unless you are training for the circus. You need simple movements that overload the muscles and provide the initial spark for the adaptation process. That’s how you efficiently build a body. The basics may not be cool or hip or innovative or cutting edge, but they damn sure are effective!

To review:

Ineffective training programs: use simple science to yield complicated exercises that are relatively easy to perform (think one leg, twisting hip thrust curls while balancing on a ball).

Effective training programs: use complicated science to yield simple/basic exercises that are difficult to perform (think squats and lunges until you can’t move anymore).


There is an old saying in the strength and conditioning world that “form follows function”. In other words, the form of a particular exercise should mimic the function(s) of the particular muscle(s) you are trying to work.

So what type of exercises should you be doing in the gym for physique development? Here you go:

Anatomical name Gym name Function Exercises
Pectoralis major, clavicular head Mid-to-upper chest, pecs Flexes arm, brings arm across midline of body (horizontal adduction) Incline presses, incline fly, flat presses, flat fly
Pectoralis major, sternocostal head Mid-to-lower chest, pecs, titties Downward and forward movement of arm Decline presses, dips, cable crossovers
Trapezius, upper fibers Traps Scapula elevation Shrugs, upright rows
Trapezius, middle fibers Mid-back Scapula adduction (pulling shoulder blades together) Rowing motions
Trapezius, lower fibers Mid-back Scapula depression (pulling shoulder blades down) Lat-pulldowns, rack pull-ups
Rhomboids Mid-back Scapula adduction Various rowing motions
Anterior deltoid Front of shoulder Raise arm to the front Front raises, shoulder press motions
Medial deltoid Side of shoulder Abduct arm, raise arm out to the side Lateral raises, shoulder press, upright rows
Posterior deltoid Back of shoulder Raise arm to the rear Rear delt fly, shoulder press
Latissimus dorsi Back, lats, wings Extend humerus, pull arm down towards pelvis Pull-ups, lat pulldowns, straight arm pulldowns
Spinal erectors, erector spinae Low back Extend spine, stabilize spine Deadlift variations, hyperextensions
Rectus abdominis Abs, six pack Flex spine, stabilize spine Leg raises, crunch variations
Obliques Side abs Rotate torso, flex spine Rotating movements (ie medicine ball twists), bicycle crunches
Transverse abdominis Deep abs Stabilize spine Iso contractions, ab wheel, planks
Biceps brachii Bi’s, arms, guns Elbow flexion Curl variations
Triceps brachii Tri’s, arms, gun show Elbow extensions Triceps extension and press variations
Quadriceps (Rectus Femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medius, vastus intermedius) Quads, thighs Extend knee, flex hip Squats, leg presses, leg extensions
Hamstrings (Biceps femoris, semitendinosous, semimembranosous) Hams, back of thighs Flex knee, extend hip Leg curl and deadlift variations
Glutes (gluteus maximus) Butt, booty, junk in the trunk Hip extension, decelerate the seated movement Squats, lunge variations, glute bridges and kickbacks
Calves Calves Elevate heel (plantarflexion) Calf raise variations


Traditional bodybuilding and fitness programs tend to get bashed in the fitness industry as unintelligent/uninformed. I will concede that many meatheads and fitness diva’s DO give bodybuilding a bad name. “Just squat ’til you puke Junior. What your knee hurts and you have chronic low back pain? Well squat anyway you wuss.” “Just do cardio for 3 hours a day, eat only a salad, and make sure to sound really stupid when you talk because that’s what boys like.”

Whatever. That’s not real bodybuilding or fitness to me, it’s just ignorance. And keep this in mind as a person trying to learn about the physique transformation process: Just because someone looks good doesn’t mean they know anything about the scientific process behind physique development, not to mention general health and overall well-being.

The problem in fitness, however, is that because of this negative association with bodybuilding, the industry is going too far in the other direction. Anything old-school or even remotely basic in nature is considered worthless. Everything has to be new and cutting edge to be effective. On a side note, is the cutting edge stuff really effective? Many of the people I see balancing, flipping, bouncing, or meditating around don’t look like they’ve ever stepped foot inside a gym.

But real bodybuilding and fitness programs, designed by coaches and trainers with scientific backgrounds and true expertise, are far from uninformed. They select movement patterns and exercises based on the anatomical functions of the muscles. These basic exercises are the basics for a reason – because they work. This is a highly informed and intelligent way to train. And quit frankly, it’s the most effective and efficient way to build/shape a body.

So a shoulder routine consisting of: military press, seated side laterals, rear-delt flies, and alternate front raises may look too old-school and simple on paper to the fitness “experts”, but it actually works all planes of motions and functions of the shoulder and optimally overloads the delts for maximum development.

What about twisting, lunging, hip thrusting, rotating, one-arm shoulder presses with a hop? Can it be effective? Sure. Is it necessary? Absolutely not. If anything, it limits overload on the delts because of the complexity of the movement. It overloads the nervous and potentially cardiovascular systems before the muscular systems, which is not what we want for physique development. Is it cool looking? Maybe to novices. But to me, that shit looks better on desperate housewives than on real fitness warriors.

So stick to the basic exercises based on the knowledge of the body as a simple lever system and the knowledge of each muscle’s natural movement function. It’s the best way to get real world results.

That is unless you are willing to buy my latest and greatest training invention for ultra-fast results. We’re talking losing 30lbs in 3 days with no changes in diet necessary. In fact you can eat anything you want in unlimited quantities because I finally found the magic pill. Its called S.B.H.T.P. = The Stability Ball Humping Training Program. All you have to do is grab a stability ball and…