Train This, Not That

This article is a dedication to someone who I truly respect. His name is David Zinczenko, and he is the editor-in-chief of Men’s Health magazine and the author of numerous best-selling books. David and I are both authors under the Rodale publishing company umbrella. David’s latest book entitled, “Eat This Not That”, has quickly become an industry best seller. The title say’s it all. David’s book inspired me to write the following article to let you know about which training exercises are best for bringing about your desired body sculpting results and the ones that just won’t deliver. 

Most people who begin weight training for the first time aren’t sure about which exercises will help them achieve their greatest results. I’m sure you’ve seen the typical gym rat, who loves nothing more than giving people his advice about what exercise work best. It’s easy to fall prey to people who act as if they really know. The sad truth however is that they usually know little if anything about the proper way to weight train.

My reason for writing this article, is not to throw people who mean well under the bus. I only want you to be aware of the facts, so that you can avoid mistakes, prevent injuries and expedite your results.

So let’s begin by examining some of the most popular body parts that men and women want to improve and then I’ll show you the #1 rated exercise’s you should be using to most effectively improve those muscle groups.

The last thing you need to do is waste your precious time training using less than optimal training tools. If you’re not sure if the exercises that you’re using are the right choice, there’s a good chance that they’re not. Train This Not That, will dispel the misconceptions and will arm you with the most powerful tools to most effectively help you create a total body transformation.

***Let be me totally clear though. The “Not That” exercises should not be taken out of your training regimen. In fact you’d be hurting your progress if you did that. This article is simply a matter of showing you your best or first choice for training specific muscles throughout your body. Think of it this way – If you could only choose one exercise to train a single area of your body, I will be providing you with the best choice for doing so. This means that you’ll want to use this exercise as the staple of that muscles training and you can and should follow it up with secondary exercises to thoroughly stimulate each major muscle group.

To Shape Or Not To Shape – That Is The Question!

For decades now, there has been a major misconception out there in the fairy-tale-fitness-realm, regarding whether it’s possible to actually shape a muscle. For instance, Arnold Schwarzenegger is renowned for his enormous biceps peaks. He used to imagine or visualize his biceps as mountain tops. Fans of Arnold believed that if they did the same exercises as Arnold, they too could develop these mountainous biceps peaks. The sad truth is that his incredible genetics coupled with chemical enhancement is what allowed him to create his biceps shape, not his training. His training allowed him to get them as big and defined as they were, but they certainly didn’t help shape or add peak to his arms. If anyone’s responsible for that, it’s the man upstairs.

This is where things get interesting. Most seasoned fitness people are already aware of the fact that you cannot naturally shape your muscles, but what many have forgotten about is that it is quite possible to train at different angles, which (dependant on the muscle you’re training) can build various parts of the muscle, giving the illusion of shaping a muscle. For example, the biceps have two heads; the Long Head & the Short Head. If you were to only focus on training one head, the other would still grow due to the spill over effect of training. In other words, the second biceps head doesn’t just become sedentary or deactivated. Because it’s part of the biceps muscles, it is forced to work, assisting in the work during a biceps exercise. It’s just not going to be working nearly as much as it would be if you were training, using an exercise to primarily isolate that specific biceps head.

For most of the time, you’ll achieve much better results by performing the “Train This” exercise first during your workout. After a few weeks or so, you can and should change up the sequence of your exercise order. You can do this by making what’s been your first exercise your second and even your typical third exercise in the sequence, your first every now and then. 

Typically, your first exercise should be used to create as much exercise intensity (giving it your all) as possible. In the beginning of your workout, you’ll have more energy and be much more capable of really pushing yourself to the max. You also want to avoid overtraining and want prevent training plateaus form setting in. You can often prevent these and further guarantee consistent training results by periodically changing up some of your training variables – Things like number of sets & repetitions, rest between sets, the speed by which you lift and lower a weight (tempo), how long your set lasts (dependant on both the tempo and Time Under Tension – refer to the article in archives to learn more) and in this case the type of exercise or the sequence of exercises performed.

The “Not That” list of exercises are not just some randomly gathered movements that I thought should be thrown in there. They are exercises that most people simply mistake for the optimum “Train This” choice. They’re usually the exercises that you’ll see other people in the gym performing and you figure that if they’re doing it, maybe I should give it a whirl.

Again, the chart below will dispel the misconceptions about choosing the most effective exercise to train the muscles you intend on working. Just remember, it’s all about the best choice, not the only choice, got it? Great! 

Rather than explain what you should and should not focus on using a lengthy & drawn out writing tangent, I’ve created a list of all the major muscle groups and included each respective body part within each of those groups that you’ll most likely want to sculpt.

If you have additional muscles that I haven’t included, that you’d like to see added to the chart, email me your detailed question and I will add them in for you.

Keep Training Hard – James Villepigue CSCS


Major Muscle: Legs

Train (Using) This

Not That

Front Thigh


Leg Extension

Back of Upper Leg

Lying Leg Curl/Stiff Legged Dead Lift/Lunge

Seated Leg Curl/Standing Leg Curl

Inner Thigh

Wide Stance Squat/Adductor Machine

Leg Press

Outer Thigh

Narrow Squat/Abductor Machine

Leg Press


Lunges/Butt Blaster Machine

Leg Curl/Leg Lift


Donkey Calf Raise/Seated Calf Raise

Standing Calf Raise/Single Legged Calf Raise

Major Muscle: Back



Outer Back (Lats)


Seated Row

Inner Back

Seated Row/Bent Over Row


Upper Back (Traps, Rhomboids & Teres)

Dumbbell Shrug/Seated Row Retraction/Pull-Down Depression

Barbell Shrug/Reverse Pec Deck

Lower Back

Dead-Lift/Roman Chair Hyper Extension/Superman Extension

Squat/Lower Back Machine/Bent Over Row/Good Morning

Major Muscle: Chest



Upper Chest

Incline Dumbbell Press/Incline Barbell Press/Incline Fly

Incline Chest Press Machine/Flat Presses or Fly/Decline Presses or Fly

Mid Chest

Flat Dumbbell Press/Flat Barbell Press/Chest Dips/Pec Deck

Flat Chest Press Machine/Incline Presses/Decline Presses

Lower Chest

Decline Dumbbell Press/Decline Barbell Press/Chest Dips With A Focus On Leaning Forward

Flat or Incline Chest Presses

Inner Chest

Pec Deck/Dumbbell Fly (All Angles)

All Chest Presses/Push-Ups

Outer Chest

Wide Grip (About A 1 Inch Hand Grip Outside Shoulder Width, On Each Hand) Chest Presses (All Angles)

All Fly or Pec Deck Movements

Major Muscle: Shoulders



Front Shoulders

All Chest Presses (You get more than enough work to these little doggies from your presses!)

Front Shoulder Raise (Overkill!)

Mid Shoulders

Dumbbell Lateral Raise (Standing & Seated)/Lateral Cable Raise (Each Arm Performed Simultaneously)

All Shoulder Presses

Rear Shoulders

Rear Deltoid Machine AKA Rear Pec Deck/Bent Over Dumbbell Lateral Raise

All Shrugs/All Rows

Major Muscle: Triceps



Long or Inner Head of Triceps

One Arm French Press/2 Hand Single Dumbbell Extension /Lying E-Z Bar Extensions AKA Skull Crusher

Press-Downs AKA Push- Downs

Lateral Head  of Triceps

Pronated Grip On Straight bar press-down/

Rope Press-Downs/

Overhand Grip When Performing Triceps Extensions/Dumbbell Kickbacks

Lying E-Z Bar or Dumbbell Extensions

Medial or Short Head of Triceps

Close Grip Bench Press/Reverse Grip (Palms Up) On Straight Bar Press-Down

Pronated Grip (Palms Down) Press-Downs AKA Push- Downs

Major Muscle: Biceps



Inner or Short Head of Biceps

Wide Grip Barbell Curl/

Preacher Curl/

High-Pulley Curl


Narrow Biceps Curl

Outer or Long Head of Biceps

Narrow grip/

Incline Bicep Curl


Wide Biceps Curl

Major Muscle: Forearms



Palm Up (Flexors)

Single Arm Wrist Cable Curls

Hand Exerciser Squeezes/Gripping Exercises

Palm Down (Extensors)

Neutral or Overhand Grip Curls

Hand Exerciser Squeezes/ Gripping Exercises

Major Muscle: Abdominals



Upper Abs


Leg Lift/Captains Chair/Oblique Crunch

Lower Abs

Captains Chair/Lower Leg Lift/ Bicycle Maneuver

Crunch/ Oblique Crunch

Lateral Abs (Obliques)

Oblique Crunch/Bicycle Maneuver

Sit-Ups, Crunches

Inner Abs (Transverse Abdominus)

Hollow out or suck in stomach AKA The Vacuum

Crunches, Leg Lifts


3 Responses for Train This, Not That

  1. March 31, 2009 3:37 pm

    Thanks Markez. Much Appreciated!

    Keep Going!


  2. Grant


    June 10, 2009 2:56 pm

    Doesn’t a partial leg extension (top 30 degrees) work the innner thigh (VMO) better than a wide stance squat?


  3. June 10, 2009 4:19 pm

    Hey Grant,

    Sure, why not. It’s just a matter of finding what works for you.
    As hard as it may be to imagine, there are many people don’t have the luxury of a leg extension machine.

    Hey, thanks for chiming in, pal!

    Keep Going!

    James Villepigue CSCS