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How to Choose Your Strength Training Exercises

Where to Start


Updated May 30, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Your first step in setting up a routine is to choose exercises to target all of your muscle groups. If you need guidance, you can:

For beginners, you want to choose about 8-10 exercises, which comes out to about one exercise per muscle group. The list below offers some examples:

  • Chest: bench press, chest press machine, pushups, pec deck machine
  • Back: one-armed row, seated row machine, back extensions, lat pulldowns
  • Shoulders: overhead press, lateral raise, front raise
  • Biceps: bicep curls, hammer curls, concentration curls
  • Triceps: tricep extensions, dips, kickbacks
  • Quadriceps: Squats, lunges, leg extension and leg press machines
  • Hamstrings: deadlifts, lunges, leg curl machine
  • Abs: crunches, reverse crunches, oblique twists, pelvic tilts

Check out the strength training and cardio workouts available at Workout Central

Sequence of Exercises

  • Make sure you choose at least one exercise for each major muscle group.
  • The muscles to work include: Chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and abdominals.
  • If you leave any muscle group out, this could cause an imbalance in your muscles and possibly lead to injuries.

Most experts recommend starting with your larger muscle groups and then proceeding to the smaller muscle groups. The most demanding exercises are those performed by your large muscle groups and you will need your smaller muscles to get the most out of these exercises. But, don't feel limited by that. You can do your exercises in any order you like and changing the order is a great way to challenge yourself in different ways.

Next: Choosing Your Reps and Sets

Related Video
Weight Lifting Exercises for the Chest

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