Inside The Bootcamp Effect – Monday’s in March – Best Exercise Ever?

It’s always interesting when a boot camp client asks me to pin down a single exercise as the one that will help lose the most fat or sculpt the quickest. I’m always slow to answer. It’s almost definitely a “it depends” type of answer…

You see, I’m acutely aware of the fact that though an exercise may be perfect for Member A, it may not be the best choice for Member B – which makes me hesitant to label any exercise as the universal best.

That being said, there are exercises that are better than others. And yes, there are even a few that I would label as the best…

So, what makes an exercise the best?

When deciding which exercises to include in your bootcamp workouts, it is important to consider the type of movement involved. The simpler the movement, the fewer calories you’ll burn. On the other hand, the more complex the movement, the more calories you will burn.

Simply stated exercises that use complex movements will deliver better results than exercises that use only simple movements. Complex movements recruit multiple muscles, some to stabilize and others to perform the movement. This process keeps your heart rate higher than a simple exercise would, giving you a more intense workout.

So, what is a complex movement?

A complex movement is a multi- joint movement that recruits large portions of the body to complete the exercise. Think deadlifts, squats, bent over rows, pullups, pushups, bench press, and burpees….

Let’s compare a simple movement arm exercise with a complex movement leg exercise.

The db side raise uses a simple isolalated movement to work the shoulders (specifically the lateral deltoid). You’re in a standing position and only moving your shoulder joint. There isn’t much involvement, if any from other muscles and it doesn’t burn many calories.

db side raise

Now let’s look at a barbell deadlift. You start by getting into your starting position, abs drawn in as tight as possible (to protect your back and keep you in a straight line neutral spine).

Your shoulders are pulled back. You initiate by driving your heels into the ground as hard as you can, keeping your core engaged arms locked out, lats tight (think bending the bar), and squeeze your glutes as tight as you can as you bring the bar to your hips.

How many muscles did you utilize while performing the deadlift? Probably too many too count.

(I estimated about 29 muscles worked – I was unable to find this exact number on the interweb).

You certainly work your hamstrings, glutes, abdominals, low back, lats, and traps just to name a few.

You also raised your heart rate and really kicked your metabolism into high gear. That’s the recipe for a great exercise.

So, how does this pertain to Monday’s Boot Camp workout in March?

With the deadlift, it can be a great exercise for rehabilitation/prehabilitation of the lumbar-pelvic-hip complex – especially those dormant glute muscles. In general, many of us spend too much time sitting each day and are not firing our glutes properly, typically leading to a few issues like getting jammed up in the lower back SI joint (sacro-iliiac joint is at the juncture of the tail bone and pelvis bone on each side of your back).

And the thing is, if you are one of these people that are experiencing this type of issue, it is better if you keep your deadlifts on the lighter side and not shoot for the stars with the amount you lift. The lift should feel challenging, but if you ever feel your form starting to suffer, or feel it more in your lower back then please reduce the weight.

I have been there, many of us have been there. Keep your ego in check and build a great foundation from which everything else can be built.

In this particular workout, we have suggested for you to reset and regrip between every rep, so that you can get in a great starting position, take your time, and engage your core as you pull from the ground.

And if you are someone that is new to the deadlift, or a little concerned about your back, the regression is to do 12 light reps, where you can focus on ab activation throughout the entire movement and glute activation at the top of the movement. Get those glutes firing. They are one of the best insurance policies to keeping your back safe. They are the biggest muscles in the body. Let them do the majority of the work and save your back!

See the key to finding the best exercise is to find ones that bring your workout intensity to a whole new level. In this workout, we have you doing a heavy lift for 5 reps with a 2 min rest between attempts. This rest is needed so you can continually lift a challenging weight each attempt. You would not be able to lift near your potential for 5 reps if you had just 30 secs rest between sets. To complement the deadlifts we have you performing double unders or working on skipping technique to keep your heart rate high while giving your deadlifting muscles some rest and recovery.

By the way I have written this article, it appears that I am insinuating that the deadlift is the best exericse ever. However, I’d be shortchanging you if I named any exercise as the best. The fact of the matter is, that is a combination of changing your workouts using a different combination of supersets (back to back exercises), circuits, and intervals with complex exercises that uses the most muscles that creates the best training effect.

And as always, the more you put into your workouts, the more you get out of them.

See you in the gym,
Josh Saunders
Bootcamp Effect
Langley’s #1 Fitness Club 2012, 2013, 2014