You’re busy. We’re busy. We’d love to give you the perfect workout that’ll save you time and give you the most bang for your buck. So we consulted the studies from the American Council on Exercise (ACE), which has periodically studied the muscle activation of certain exercises on specific body parts. Here’s what you can learn from science—and why training your body is still something of an art.
So, I should do only these exercises, right?
First things first: “These studies are looking at which exercise in isolation causes the most activity in a particular muscle,” says Jessica Matthews, M.S., exercise science professor at Miramar College in San Diego, CA and senior advisor for health and fitness education for the American Council on Exercise. “But that doesn’t mean they’re the best exercise.” Your goals are a better guide of what exercises are right for you; if your end-all is bigger muscles and symmetry (say, as a bodybuilder), then, yes, incorporating these into your routine makes a lot of sense. If you’re more interested in increasing your overall fitness, though, you may be better served choosing exercises that improves the body’s function, i.e., how it moves on a daily basis. “And if you’re someone who only has time to train two to three times per week, it’s essential to have a well-rounded routine to train the whole body in one workout.” That said, here are the goods, according to science.