Best Leg Exercises According to Science

What two leg exercises would you add to a training routine when you get back to the gym? It will depend on individual goals and what’s available in terms of exercise equipment. With all things being equal, one way to determine what the best leg exercises are is through research. More specifically, electromyography or EMG research, is a topic that should be part of the decision making process. Previous content that looked at EMG was published here.

Best Leg Exercises via EMG Research

An EMG device is basically used for measuring very small amounts of electricity generated by muscles right below the surface of the skin. The result of electrodes placed on the skin, show what percentage of muscle area is activated during a specific exercise. According to various EMG research data, the following exercises rate highly when looking for the best in class for muscle activation.

Free Weight Exercise: Squat

From an EMG standpoint, the best free weight exercise, no surprise here, is the Squat exercise. It’s a complete multi-joint exercise that is also functional.

Trainer Tips:

  • Doing dropsets is great for improving the amount of weight someone is lifting with the Squat. This is where you reduce the weight by about 25% once muscular failure is reached, and then continue with your set.
  • Manipulate the rest time between sets to increase training intensity.
  • Try to increase reps – on occasion – from 8-12 (for hypertrophy training) to more in the 12-15 rep range.
  • The deeper you go in a Squat, the more you activate your quads & glutes but beware of the knee joint.
  • The best angle is about 70-degree or thighs “roughly” just below parallel with the floor.

Machine-based Exercise: Hack Squat

When it comes to an equipment-based exercise to activate the thigh muscles, run to get in line for the hack squat. EMG data was actually higher in some studies than even a barbell Squat most likely because individuals can push a heavier amount of weight.

Trainer Tips:

  • Once the hack squat is mastered, progress to different foot positions and widths (narrow/wide), and ultimately to one-leg.
  • Switch body position on occasion, facing froward/backward on the machine.
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Jefit Leg Focused Training Programs

The Jefit app features currently more than 3350 different strength training programs on its platform. The following three are just a few with a strong focus on the legs and lower body. Stay Strong!

Lower Body Strength Program

Barbell Workout (3-Day Split)

8-Weeks to Bigger Legs

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Look Beyond Sets and Reps to Exercise Volume

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An important strength training variable that one should be aware of is exercise volume. A periodized strength training program, monitors exercise volume to see how someone is adapting to the demands of a training program.

“If these factors are not considered and/or monitored, the likelihood that the training program will result in less than optimal results will increase markedly.”

Greg Haff, PhD

There are specific components that make up a well-designed strength training program. Some of the components include metabolic conditioning, speed and agility, endurance work and of course strength training. Having an idea of the workload for a training session, and to be able to calculate this, can let a trainer or coach know many things. As an example, it can offer insight into things like fatigue factor of a person or athlete. Once someone is able to minimize or manage fatigue, overall work output from training typically improves.

What is Exercise Volume?

In order to determine workload for a training session, volume needs to be calculated. Exercise volume is a strength training variable that calculates the total amount of work performed in a training session. For this to happen, three main training variables need to be calculated. This includes the number of sets, repetitions and weight lifted. The best estimate of volume needs to have total weight lifted not just the total number of repetitions performed. There are two equations that are used most often to determine the volume of exercise. The first equation (below) is seen more often in gyms and training studios.

Equation 1: number of sets x number of repetitions x weight lifted = volume

An example (abbreviated workout)

Squat, 5 x 5/225 = 5,625 lbs.

Bench Press, 3 x 10/185 = 5,550 lbs.

Barbell Bent Row 3 x 8/60 = 1,440 lbs.

Total Volume: 12,615 lbs.

Equation 2: number of sets x number of repetitions x % 1-RM = volume

In addition, a second equation (seen above) can be used when 1-RM testing is involved. There are many training programs based off 1-RM testing such as Olympic lifting and college and professional athletics. Developing workouts based off 1-RM testing is part of a smart training philosophy. The result is a safer training program long-term with less injuries and superior gains.

Jefit App Calculates Volume for You

One of the many unique features of the Jefit app is it calculates volume of work for all workouts. The app reports this to you on a weekly basis via email to all members. Below is an example of workout volume from a Jefit home routine using both exercise equipment and bodyweight as resistance. Stay Strong!

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Six of the Best Exercises to Build Strength

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Look at any exercise book, website or app and you can find hundreds of different exercises. Those exercises can be performed hundreds of ways and those hundred can turn into thousands of different variations. The Jefit app, as an example, features more than 1300 different exercises. What are the best exercises to build strength though? Let’s take a look at a few of them.

The Deadlift is One of the Best Exercises to Build Strength

Overall strength is needed for activities of daily living and it’s obviously very important for any athletic activity or workout. The deadlift is a great exercise because its whats known as a compound exercise. Meaning, multiple muscle groups work concurrently. As a result, an increase in strength will occur in the core, legs, back, hips and grip – basically head to toe! The glutes and hamstrings are the prime movers during this exercise. An additional nine other muscles also get worked. The deadlift is great for improving hip extension strength.

TRAINER TIP: Use a Hex Bar, if possible, it’s a lot easier to use than a barbell when initially performing a deadlift.

Squat

The squat is always a main exercise feature in any strength program and for good reason. Squats are also great for a beginner level person compared to say a deadlift. Knee-dominant exercise, like the squat, target the quadriceps muscles. The glutes also come into play during the execution of the movement. In addition, like the deadlift, nine other muscle groups also get hit.

TRAINER TIP: Many strength coaches actually teach the front squat before back squat. It’s not about the amount of weight a person uses but rather using good technique and moving through a full range-of-motion. As a former assistant strength coach at UConn, we use to have all our athletes start fresh because so many coming in had bad habits. We gave each student-athlete a chronological training age of zero. Once they had proper technique down they then progressed to bigger and better things with the squat and other movements.

Pull-Up

This exercise can be very challenging for a novice but it’s a great way to build upper body strength. The pull-up uses an overhand grip compared to a chin-up, which has the palms facing towards the person. This is a great exercise to test your upper body “pulling” strength. They can tell someone a great deal about where they’re at training wise. Seven muscle groups get stronger doing this compound movement, including the latissimus dorsi, and biceps.

TRAINER TIP: If pull-ups are too difficult initially, try chin-ups first or do negative pull-ups. Try jumping up and let yourself return to the starting position in a slow controlled manner. Also, try either an inverted row or connect a giant band to try assisted pull-up using less of your body weight, as additional options.

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Overhead Military Press

Overhead Press

An efficient way to build shoulder, core and overall strength is by lifting weight overhead. Lifting a barbell, kettlebell or dumbbell overhead builds strength in the shoulders, back, arms and core. Any vertical pressing movement also works different muscle that act as stabilizers from the foot up through the shoulder complex.

TRAINER TIP: Remember to move the head forward as you press the weight overhead. Also, keep areas of your body, like glutes and core braced (or tight) when performing the exercise.

Bent-Over Row

The Bent-over Row, using a barbell or dumbbells, is one of the best pulling exercises someone can do. It ranks near the top for exercises in terms of muscle recruitment. See this previously published article on the Jefit blog that discusses this topic more in depth. The exercise is perfect for any push/pull routine and is a nice compliment to a barbell or dumbbell chest press.

TRAINER TIP: Work first on performing scapular retraction before any pulling or rowing motion is attempted.

Bench Press

Saving the best for last, the bench press is a versatile exercise that can be performed using a barbell, dumbbells and kettlebells. It’s a great exercise to build upper body strength, especially in the chest, shoulder and arms. As a result, it’s a great compound or multi-joint exercise and a must in a strength training routine.

TRAINER TIP: Change it up every 4-6 weeks. Meaning, make your grip wider, more narrow, switch barbell to dumbbells, change the speed of the movement, adjust the incline on the bench, try a decline position, etc.

Adding any of these six exercises into your routines at any given time will help build strength in both the prime movers and smaller stabilizing muscle as well. These particular exercises are some of the best exercises to build strength. Good Luck and Stay Strong!

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Staying in Shape While Staying at Home

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More individuals are exercising from home over the past few months than probably ever before! Think about that for a moment. As a result, more health & fitness-related technology companies are pivoting their business’ making adjustments in order to meet these needs. Staying in shape while staying at home is now becoming big business. Beginning this week, certain states have begun to open slowly; it will be a while though until everything is up and running at full capacity. Even when that day comes, some experts have gone on record saying things may never be like they once were. With that said, its probably time to seriously think about transitioning aspects of gym routine to your home or apartment.

Some of the many benefits of working out at home are you don’t need much space and equipment to get started. We have previously discussed the topic of designing your at home program on the Jefit blog. This is where an app like Jefit can help in a major way with planning and tracking all of your workouts while at home. Here are two programs that you should checkout for that next home circuit workout or dumbbell routine.

10 Benefits of Working Out at Home

You Save $$$

Privacy

Need Minimal Equipment

You Save Time

Do it at Your Convenience

You Have Better Concentration

No Ego Involved

Listen to Your Own Music (and usually as loud as you want)

No Commute

Equipment is Always Available – No Waiting for Machines!

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Staying in Shape While at Home Podcast

Ira Wood is the long-time host of a podcast called the Lowdown that airs on WOMR-FM, located on picturesque Cape Cod (Provincetown, MA). Mr. Wood is an amazing host, long time radio personality, author and lecturer. Ira Wood is married to the poet/novelist, Marge Piercy.

Mr. Wood, an avid-exerciser himself, wanted to talk about some of the exercise-related things people could do from home, and I was happy to oblige. The result was an informative 30-minute podcast, where we discussed just about every aspect of staying in shape while at home. The cool thing was we got to talk a great deal about Jefit, the award-winning app. We talked about all aspects of the app and how an individual user can benefit from digital technology. Below is a link to the show we did in April. The show was recently turned into a podcast. Enjoy and Stay Strong!

https://www.irawood.com/the-lowdown/staying-in-shape-while-staying-at-home

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Benefits of Combining Strength and Cardio

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The health benefits associated with performing strength training on a regular basis, especially as one ages, are many. Cardiovascular exercise, from walking to running, is also key, especially when used as a “COVID-19 mood booster” or stress reliever. There is a great quote from an old Greek philosopher named Diogenes that says: “it is solved by walking,” from the Latin word, Solviture Ambulando.

What are the benefits of combining strength and cardio in your workout? Should we be doing both? Simply adding in short bouts of cardio (like jumping rope), with your weight training, can take a workout to the next level. It ends up challenging both your muscular and cardiovascular systems in one efficient workout. 

The Benefits of Combining Strength and Cardio Are Many

The goal of circuit weight training (CWT) is to move quickly from one exercise to the next with minimal rest. The design of a circuit can be as simple as performing an upper body, lower body and core exercise followed by a brief bout of cardio. The cardio could be jumping rope, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, basically anything that elevates heart rate. A 2013 study published in American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation, reported jumping rope can be one of the most effective cardio exercises. We’re talking better than running, swimming or rowing. Following six-weeks of jumping rope exercises (for 10-minutes/day), subjects displayed the same levels of cardiovascular efficiency as those who did 30 minutes of jogging.

There is also a hidden bonus with circuit-training, an “additional” calorie-burning benefit post-workout. The term associated with this is excess-post oxygen consumption (EPOC). This has the potential to occur when doing challenging circuit weight training programs. The body continues to expend additional calories for hours after the workout has been completed. The routine needs to be challenging though which this type of workout can definitely be.

Additional Research Backs Up the Benefits

According to a 2019 study published in the journal Obesity, those who combined strength training with cardio were less likely to become obese. A classic review study by Gettman and Pollock (1981) showed the average aerobic capacity increased by 5% while strength improved 7-32%. The good news with all the studies reviewed showed a 2-6 pound increase in muscle mass. The average length of the workouts reviewed was only 25-30 minutes. A second study by Wilmore and colleagues determined energy expenditure was 9 calories/minute for men and 6 calories/minute for women who performed circuit weight training programs. Finally, a 10-week study compared CWT to biking showing favorable results in multiple areas for CWT. This type of training was shown to  “lead to mild to moderate increases in aerobic capacity” and “muscle mass.”

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Jefit Home Exercise Programs: 5 Circuit-Based Routines

Strength & Cardio Circuit. This is a 1-day routine that incorporates exercise and bouts of cardio. The only piece of cardio equipment needed, however, is a jump rope.

Home Circuit (30-minutes). This is a two-day program you can do that is a circuit using exercises only, no cardio. You move quickly from one exercise to the next with minimal rest between sets.

Home Bodyweight Circuit (Level 1). This program has only two circuits or rounds – compared to three – found in Level 2 and 3 of this program. When this routine becomes less challenging for you – progress to Level 2.

Home Bodyweight Circuit (Level 2). The design of these workout sessions consist of 5 body weight exercises that are repeated for 3 circuits or rounds. The session starts off with core work.

Home Bodyweight Circuit (Level 3). This program is designed as a circuit where you complete one round of 10 different exercises with minimal or no rest. Once completed, you return to the first exercise and move through another round of the circuit, until 3 rounds are completed.

This information presented hopefully offers additional insight into the value of performing circuit weight training more often. Continue to work hard and stay strong while using Jefit circuit-based workouts at home.

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You Can Get Stronger Doing Bodyweight Home Workouts

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Special times call for more creative home workouts. Even though we are all stuck at home because of CV19, life hasn’t stopped and neither should our workout. With local gyms still closed, the only option is working out in and around the home. The question is, can we keep our bodies strong with body weight home workouts?

Some people are more fortunate and have a home gym or some piece of home exercise equipment. The majority of people however don’t have either. The next best option is bodyweight home workouts. The Jefit app, has been helping on that front, by publishing strength-based and bodyweight home workouts to their 10 million members.

Exercise Progression is Key for Home Bodyweight Workouts

You may see improvements in strength initially with bodyweight only as a resistance. The key to a home bodyweight workout is figuring out how to safely progress your workouts over time. The body typically adapts to a new training routine within a few months depending on several factors. After this point it’s important to add exercise progression into the mix. This is done in one of three ways, either changing the sets, repetitions, or resistance. Generally speaking, the goal is in the 2-5 set range and 5-15 repetition range. This could change depending on the individual goals. The resistance needs to be challenging enough to enable you to reach and stay within those ranges. If someone is able to perform more than 12-15 repetitions, then the load is too light and weight should be increased. If bodyweight is the main resistance than you have to get more creative.

Changing the angle of how an exercise is performed (i.e. progress from kneeling push-up to a push-up to an elevated push-up) will also help. A second option is slow down the speed of each repetition in order to increase the time under tension. A third option would be to add an external weight source, like a weighted vest, chains, medicine ball or sandbag when performing the exercise. Finally, a fourth option is to add an incline (hill) or platform (plyobox) to challenge the body even more when doing specific exercises.

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Some of the Better Bodyweight Exercises

The human body cannot differentiate between various types of resistance. It only knows that a load is being placed on the muscles. Free weights typically work best for building strength because you can increase that resistance as the body adapts and gets stronger over time. It becomes more challenging to do that with a person’s body weight only. But if you are creative, you can in fact build strength with just your body weight. This may be challenging to do over a long-period of time though.

There are many great bodyweight exercises to choose from when putting together your bodyweight home workouts. Exercises that are multi-joint are considered best. These are exercise that engage more than one muscle group to perform the movement. These types of exercises are more beneficial than isolation exercises. Multi-joint exercises are also best for building strength and muscle size. Here are some of the best exercises, in no particular order, to add to your bodyweight home workouts. The majority of the exercises listed below are multi-joint exercises.

Bodyweight Exercises

  1. SQUAT
  2. LUNGE
  3. STEP-UP
  4. PULL-UP
  5. CHIN-UP
  6. PUSH-UP (and variations like T-PUSH-UPS)
  7. INVERTED ROW
  8. DIPS
  9. PLANK
  10. SINGLE-LEG GLUTE BRIDGE
  11. PISTOL SQUAT
  12. BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT
  13. SINGLE-LEG ROMANIAN DEADLIFT

To answer the original question, can you get stronger doing bodyweight home workouts? The answer is yes. Research published in Physiology & Behavior showed that body weight exercise can be beneficial because muscle growth “can occur independent of an external load.” Additional research in the European Journal of Applied Physiology also showed gains in strength with a “no load” exercise protocol. Let us know if you have a favorite exercise that you’ve been using from home, that’s not listed here. Stay Strong!

ADDITIONAL READING

How to Grow Stronger Without Lifting Weights, Scientific American, Clayton Mosher, 2014.

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The Science Behind the Best Back Exercises

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There are literally hundreds of different exercises to choose from when developing a Jefit strength training program. That number can easily increase to over a thousand when considering all the different exercise variations. The Jefit database, as an example, has more than 1,300 different exercises. Have you ever thought about what the best exercises are or what’s the perfect exercise to choose for a program? One way to choose the best exercise is from an EMG standpoint. In this particular case, we’re going to talk about the best back exercises. Some back exercises are much better than others in terms of muscle recruitment or activation.

Electromyography (EMG) Measurements

Electromyography (EMG) measures the electrical activity of muscles. Usually performed in a research or rehabilitation setting, EMG records the movement of muscle. EMG is based on the premise when a muscle contracts, a burst of electric activity is generated. The higher the load, the higher the firing rate. Muscle contraction strength is related to the number of motor units in the muscle. Finally, here is a definition of EMG from John Hopkins Medicine. EMG “measures muscle response or electrical activity in response to a nerve’s stimulation of the muscle.”

How do Muscles Move?

Movement actually begins in the brain, specifically with the motor cortex, where neural activity signals the spinal cord, and information about the movement is conveyed to the relevant muscle by way of motor neurons. We can fast forward a bit, a muscle then contracts and produces movement. As muscle fibers contract, they shorten, performing a concentric contraction. Conversely, when muscle fibers lengthen, an eccentric contraction is performed.

A question for you. Can you manage more weight doing a bicep curl when lifting the weight up (concentric contraction) or when lowering the weight (eccentric contraction)? The answer is, you’re stronger during the eccentric phase, where you can actually handle 1.75 times more weight! In addition, 3% more muscle hypertrophy is produced over time during the eccentric phase.

Best Back Exercises Based on this Criteria?

The largest muscle groups that make up the back include the trapezius and latissimus dorsi. There are other smaller muscle groups as well like the rhomboids. Exercise selection typically depends on what a persons goals are, experience level, and equipment availability. All things being equal, the following exercise list includes some of the best back exercises you can do based on EMG.

One study looked at the EMG activation of various muscle groups while doing Pull-ups and Chin-ups. EMG data showed the highest muscle involvement coming from the latissimus dorsi (117-130% range), and biceps brachii (78-96% range).

Other back exercises with a high EMG output were: Dumbbell Bent-Over Two-Arm Row (93%), One-Arm Dumbbell Row (91%), T-Bar Row (89%), Lat Pull-down (86%) and Seated Pulley Row (83%) rounded out the highest EMG activity. Other research on performing a lat pull-down to the sternum with a light lean back also worked well (101%).

There are other exercises, like the Squat and Deadlift that focus on hips and legs but also recruit many other muscle groups, like the back. Both are considered great total-body exercises but the back is used more as a stabilizer than a prime mover compared to a Bent-over Row or Pull-up.

You now have a few back exercises, ranked by science, that you can hopefully start to use more often in your Jefit workouts. Stay Strong!

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Results Are Best When You Plan & Track Workouts

Jefit for iOS Android and Web

According to a 2017 report from IQVIA Institute for Human Data Sciences, there were 318,000 mobile health apps three years ago. That number is expected to top 400,000 apps this year. The growth rate will be 15% reaching 31 billion in revenue by the end of 2020. The question is, can all this technology help get better results if you use it to plan and track workouts?

People hire trainers or coaches because they invariably know they will work harder with them versus doing it alone. Working harder typically means lifting more weight in training sessions and being more consistent with workouts. In turn, results are more significant and goals are met more often. There is actually a name for this, its called the Hawthorne Effect, or observer effect. The basic definition is “the alteration of behavior by the subjects of a study due to their awareness of being observed.” When you know you’re being watched or you have to regularly check-in and record your data, you do better.

There is a trickle down effect from working with a coach to using specific technology, like an exercise app. Writing things down and planning shows ownership, you don’t “own it” until you write it down …or record it. Those who plan and track workouts do better than people who don’t track their workouts. A great example of this is a high-level athlete who works with their coach over a four-year period to prepare for the Olympic games.

People Who Use Apps Are More Confident & Exercise More Consistently

A survey reported in Elliptical Reviews looked at the exercise habits of nearly a 1,000 people. The results were pretty favorable regarding the benefit of using an exercise app. The results showed 55% of subjects used an exercise app prior to the study. All app users reported more consistent workouts and they were more confident when they worked out. In the survey, 73% of women and 66% of men were more confident when they were using a workout app.

The survey also showed 40% of people who use fitness apps workout five or more days per week. The survey found only 4.9% of non-app users exercise every day, compared to 7% of people who used an app.

Using an App Can Increase Physical Activity

The Journal of Medical Internet Research, makes the case that those who use exercise apps are more likely to exercise during their free time than those who don’t use an app.

“The study concludes that exercise apps may be improving exercise levels and health outcomes by making it easier for users to overcome barriers to exercise, such as lack of ready access to information, lack of interest and motivation, and lack of access to exercise facilities, etc.”

Shiva Gopal Reddy, M.Sc.

Research from the University of South Australia showed promising results with smartphone apps. They called apps “a promising tool for delivering accessible and appealing physical activity interventions.” The goal of this systematic review by Romeo and colleagues tried to determine the “effectiveness of smartphone apps for increasing objectively measured physical activity in adults.” The review looked at nine different research studies that met all of the researchers’ criteria, totaling 1740 subjects. This review reported an increase in physical activity in subjects who used apps for a minimum of 3 months.

Jefit App Plans and Tracks Workouts

The Jefit app, won multiple awards in 2020 including best app by PC Magazine. The Jefit app is used to plan and track workouts. It comes with a customizable workout planner, an extensive exercise library, and a members-only Facebook group. You can choose new workouts and track your progress with the app. It keeps you on track to see how close you are to reaching your fitness goals. The app includes 1300 exercises, more than 3800 strength training workouts, 9 million registered users and 10 million downloads to date.

Jefit for iOS Android and Web

Compound Strength Exercises Work Best for a Strong Body

When you’re looking to increase muscle size and build strength, you should focus on using more compound strength exercises. Research over time has demonstrated compound exercises are superior compared to other types of exercise. In fact, a 2017 study published in Frontiers in Physiology looked at exercise subjects who used compound versus isolation exercises over an eight-week period. The study showed that the group who focused on compound strength exercises had greater gains in both strength and VO2 max. A second study published in 2019, also supports the use of multi-joint (MJ) over single-joint (SJ) exercises when looking to improve strength in this case, in the lower body. Researchers reported significant strength increases in both SJ and MJ groups, but the MJ group saw significantly greater increases in 1-RM for all leg exercises that were tested in the study.

What Are Compound Strength Exercises?

Compound exercises are multi-joint movements that work several muscles or muscle groups at one time (ACSM). An example would be a Barbell Squat which works many muscle groups like the core, legs, hips and back. Another example would be a Bench Press exercise which works the muscles that make up the chest, shoulders and arms. Compound strength exercises are a staple in many exercise programs because they are ideal for building strength and adding size. In addition, a compound exercise will recruit more muscle fiber and in turn burn more calories per minute than a single-joint or isolation exercise. Compound exercises can be performed using body weight, exercise bands, dumbbells or your best option a barbell. This is because the average gym-goer can lift 20% more weight using a barbell compared to dumbbells. Compound exercise are also important because they mimic activities of daily living (ADL’s).

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An example of a compound (or multi-joint) exercise: Pull-up

Examples of Compound & Isolation Type Exercises

Compound (Multi-joint) ExercisesIsolation (Single-joint) Exercises
SquatLeg Extension
DeadliftLeg Curl
DipsTricep Extension
Military PressDumbbell Side Lateral Raise
Pull-UpsBicep Curl
Bench PressDumbbell Chest Fly

What are Isolation Strength Exercises?

Isolation exercises work only one muscle or muscle group and only one joint at a time (ACSM). Examples of isolation exercises include the Biceps Curl or a Leg Extension exercise.

Combining both mult-joint barbell and single-joint dumbbell exercises in a workout has been shown to work well. This type of combination can be seen in the new Jefit program, Compound Strength Routine. Many machine-based strength training products are designed with isolation exercises in mind. Some research has shown, however, that an isolation or single-joint exercise, like a biceps curl, can increase muscle hypertrophy more than a multi-joint exercise.

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An example of an isolation (or single-joint) exercise: Bicep Curl

Jefit’s New Compound Strength Routine

A new advanced strength program designed around multi-joint exercises is the Jefit Compound Strength Routine. The 3-day, advanced, strength training program includes 9-10 strength exercises in each workout. The routine offers three different strength programs, using barbell and dumbbells, and includes 1-3 supersets in each exercise session. This type of program design makes for a faster workout and in turn keeps all the session times less than an hour.

To wrap things up, please read this great list of guidelines from strength expert, Charles Poliquin, that discusses the pro/con of using both compound and isolation type exercises. It’s definitely worth a read. Be well and stay strong!

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Workout Review: Strength & Cardio Circuit

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We all know that exercise is like medicine for the body. There are times though when you just want to move through your workout in minimal time. This where a good strength and cardio circuit comes into play. This is why circuit training is so efficient, it combines the perfect blend of strength and cardio in minimal time. The end result is usually the same, a great full-body workout and a body covered in sweat!

The cool thing about circuit programs are: they’re fast, fun and very effective at getting results. You never get bored because there are so many design options for a circuit routine. The featured strength & cardio circuit can now be found on the Jefit app.

What is Circuit Training?

Circuit training is training method that alternates between several exercises (usually 4 to 12) that target different muscle groups. A plan can even use different movement patterns (like push, pull, press, carry, etc.). The design of the program enables someone to move from exercise to exercise with minimal or no rest depending on their fitness level. Some of the many benefits of regular circuit training include improvements in body composition, muscular strength/endurance and aerobic capacity.

What is Interval Training?

Interval training, on the other hand, alternates between periods of moderate-to-high-intensity work with brief periods of active or passive rest. The main difference between circuit training and interval training is not what you’re doing but rather the intensity of the work being done. You have probably heard about HIIT (high-intensity interval training) before or seen it in some of the workout titles on the Jefit app.

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Equipment Need: Jump Rope, Weight Plate and Dumbbells

Circuit Design: UB/LB/Core/Cardio Sequence

The circuit session begins with four exercises group together following a brief warm-up. The session design alternates between an upper body exercise, a lower body exercise, and a core exercise before transitioning to cardio for 1-2 minutes. The program features 20 exercises (including four for warm-up) that comprise four rounds of “mini” circuits with four exercises in each group.

Here is what each of the four circuits (after the warm-up) look like in this latest Jefit circuit workout:

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I have personally been doing circuits for many years now and, like a lot of people, working through one never seems to gets old. In any event, circuits are fun and get great results, so why not give one a try for your next workout?

ADDITIONAL READING:

HIGH-INTENSITY CIRCUIT TRAINING USING BODY WEIGHT: Maximum Results With Minimal Investment, ACSM Health & Fitness Journal, 2013.

Whole-Body Aerobic Resistance Training Circuit Improves Aerobic Fitness and Muscle Strength in Sedentary Young Females, J. of Strength & Conditioning, 2015.

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Strength Training Review: 5×5 Split Routine

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The benefits of strength training performed on a regularly basis are well documented in scientific literature, magazines and on the web. There are many digital health & fitness companies who have apps that enable you to build strength training programs. With so much information coming your way, what type of program is actually best at helping you get results? In this case, when talking about results, we’re referring to gains in both strength and muscle development.

15 Benefits of Strength Training

  • Increases muscular strength
  • Builds lean muscle mass
  • Improves a muscle’s ability to take in and use glucose (blood sugar).
  • Weight management
  • Decreases body fat level (Improves muscle-to-fat ratio)
  • Improves mobility and balance
  • Reduces the risk of osteoporosis (increases bone density)
  • Will boost your self-confidence and improve your body image
  • Enhanced performance (on all levels)
  • Improves sleep
  • Decreases risk of injury
  • Improves posture
  • May reduce or prevent cognitive decline in older people
  • Prevents or controls chronic conditions such as heart diseasearthritisback paindepression, obesity and pain management
  • Increases lifespan

Take a look at the following 5×5 split routine found on the Jefit app. This particular weight lifting program was designed as a 3-day routine. Keep in mind, there are many other split routines you can find that offer 4-6 days versus 3-days.

Program Design: 5×5 Split Routine (3-Days)

All strength training sessions follow a 5×5 format using only two body parts to keep session times under an hour. The workout time range for the 3-day program was between 36 and 56 minutes. The recovery time between sets is a very important training variable that needs to be manipulated depending on load (sets x reps x weight). Adequate recovery is important in order to push that next heavy set. A key point to remember, using a short rest period of one-minute between sets means the muscle is only about 80% recovered. I used a 2:00 recovery time between most of the sets for this reason. That may have to increase if someone is using very heavy weight for all their exercises.

The routine gets its unique name from “splitting” up specific muscle groups and associating those body segments to different days of the week. The idea behind the design of this routine was to couple a leg day with pulling movements that overload the back on Day 1. The second day includes push movements that target the chest with a pull and push for the arms. On day 3 you have pressing movements that target the shoulders with a few core exercises. This routine is only a snapshot for one-week of training.

The 5×5 program used the following 3-day split format over the course of a week:

Legs & Back (4 exercises) – Day 1

Chest & Arms (4 exercises) – Day 2

Shoulders & Core (5 exercises) – Day 3

Sets & Reps Scheme

Be realistic when designing any exercise program regarding the number of sets and repetition you use. More is not always better. Different exercises, sets, repetitions and recovery time will effect both short and long-term outcomes. Using a 5×5 setup gives you 25 repetitions per exercise and two movements per body part brings that repetition total to 50. That is more than enough to overload a muscle using a 5-RM. Many programs out there, when looking at sets and repetitions, equate to unrealistic expectations regarding length of workout. A repetition goal of 25-50 is more than enough to stimulate muscle growth, as long as you’re using a 5-RM. Here is a nice article on how to perform a 5-RM bench press test.

There are four important design elements regarding this particular 5×5 split routine. They are: (1) the use of compound movements, (2) large muscle groups, (3) the use of 5-RM on all exercises, and (4) sufficient recovery time. A 5×5 split routine is popular and has been shown to build strength and muscle size over time. Special emphasis should be placed on your 5-RM in this strength training routine. During anytime in the program, if you’re able to surpass five repetitions for any exercise – that’s right – you need to increase the weight. If for example, an exercise on your “core” day (see below) is too light – then hold a weight plate or wear a weighted vest (if available) to challenge yourself more. See the design and layout below.

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I hope you enjoy the program. If you have any questions on this particular 5×5 Split Routine (3-day), now featured on Jefit app, or any other program for that matter, please reach out to me in the comment section on this blog or our online community via the app. Here is some additional reading that you may find interesting on the topic of strength training. Be well and stay strong!

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The Best Home Gym Equipment on a Budget

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We are currently living in very turbulent times, and now more than ever, the benefits of choosing the best home gym equipment goes beyond increasing just strength. We are hearing, thinking, and reading more and more about the growing COVID-19 outbreak. It looks like living with the coronavirus will be the new norm for a while and it’s enough to raise anyone’s stress level. A continued, elevated stress level, coupled with no exercise could potentially suppress your immune system.

Benefits of Having a Home Gym

One of the best and safest options you have for getting in great shape is doing it right from the comfort of your own home or apartment. Not to mention, this seems to be a no-brainer with COVID-19 hanging around for months to come. In addition to the many health & safety benefits, there is also an associated cost savings resulting from your gym temporarily closing.

Cost Savings Benefit

You do not have to spend a ton of money setting up your home gym. There are many different pieces of equipment you could use but it will depend first on budget and then on availability of space and of course training experience. Let’s assume that space, budget and experience are somewhat limited.

Exercise Equipment Needs

The following lists include multiple options for exercise products that are ideal for home use and can be purchased online. Each list offers versatile equipment, and is practical in terms of staying within a budget.

You can take care of your equipment needs while the Jefit team can help in terms of finding the best strength-training routines to help you get started.

Home Gym Option #1

Stability Ball

This product reaches far beyond just sitting on it for basic core work. Try lying in a supine position with your feet on the ball. Engage your core and raise your buttock off the floor, pause, and return to your starting position. Following a set of hip extension, perform the same movement with your feet on the ball and knees bent. Lift your buttock off the floor and hold in a bridge position, slowly lower and repeat. After completing these two movements, start in the same position but this time pull both feet in towards your buttock, performing a leg curl movement.

Foam Roller

If you’re not rolling out on a regular basis, then you should honestly start. There are many benefits of adding in a few minutes of foam rolling before and even after your exercise session. Maintaining healthy fascia should be top of mind for you. Remember, restriction (i.e., connective/muscle tissue) is associated with disfunction and this can lead to a limited range of motion; and yes, this will eventually effect your performance.

Exercise Bands

Regular band work can be ideal for any exercise level. Bands are great to utilize in circuit-type exercise routines or as part of your dynamic warm-up. Different colored bands typically equate with different intensity levels. These are very inexpensive to purchase and can be brought anywhere for an exercise session.

Medicine Ball

This is another great tool for your exercise toolbox, if used correctly. It’s ideal for adding resistance to various moves like squats, lunges or a step-up with a shoulder press. In the hands of the right person, a medicine ball can be a welcome addition to any home gym.

Jump Rope

One of the best forms of cardio exercise you can do is jumping rope. It’s great for elevating your heart rate and easy to transition to – so it’s ideal for any circuit-type or HIIT training program at home. Below is an example of how the JeFit app can help you keep track of this and many other exercises that you’ll now be doing from home.

Home Gym Option #2

Adjustable Bench

This is a versatile piece of equipment for any gym. This multi-purpose bench will allow you to do many different upper body exercises and can even double as a “plyo-box” for steps-ups etc.

Dumbbells

A must for any home gym. Dumbbells, take up minimal space. A good pair of dumbbells can be used for just about any upper/lower body strength exercise. Start by purchasing a few pairs of dumbbells and build up to a full set over time.

Kettlebells

One of the many great things about this product is its wide scope of usage. You can use kettlebells for basic, traditional exercises to more advanced movements like a Carry exercise or a Turkish Get-up.

Ab-Roller

Another unique product that really targets your core and is great for developing core strength. It’s one of those exercises that can really overload your core area so start slow and gradually build your repetitions and/or hold time.

TRX System

This training-system has become well-known and a staple used in everything from boot camp classes to home gyms. One of the best exercises you can do, in my opinion is an inverted row. If you ever want to test your strength level try completing 10 repetitions using strict form with a full range of motion.

It may be more of a challenge for some people to workout at home alone especially if they have a history of working out at a gym with others. If you need a little “motivational push” then read this.

Workout with Jefit at Home

The JeFit app comes with a customizable workout planner, an extensive exercise library, and a members-only Facebook group. You can choose new workouts and track your progress with our app so that you can see how close you are to your fitness goals.

Feel free to leave me a comment if you have any questions about a particular piece of equipment that you were thinking of getting for your gym.

Don’t forget to join our Jefit community so that you can be a part of it too!

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