What’s the best exercise for…? It depends!

If you’re active in the online health and fitness community, you’ve probably seen at least one article or post with the words “the best exercise for…” in the title.

“The best exercise for weight loss”

“The best exercise for six-pack abs”

“The best exercise for buns of steel”

Many of the posts are based on the opinion of the author. (Everybody is entitled to an opinion; I have many!).Some cite scientific research to support their claims. (But beware of statistics; they can be misrepresented and misunderstood).

Very few ever state the underlying assumption: All Else Being Equal.

When I was studying to become a personal trainer, one of my instructors (a well-respected strength and conditioning coach) spent a great deal of time talking to us about the fallacy of the idea that any exercise was inherently good or bad. Sure, some are better than others, but even those that our text books tell us never to teach (behind the head lat pulldowns, for example), have their place in some training programs.


Rather there are exercises that are better (or worse), more (or less) relevant, safer (or riskier) and more (or less) appropriate depending on the exerciser and their unique goals.

The assumption “all else being equal” is rarely, if ever met, hence, there can be no universally-best-exercise for any particular goal.

If there were, I wouldn’t spend nearly the amount of time I do writing individualized exercise programs for my clients. I could create a single program and be done with it! Although many share the same weight loss and muscle development goals, they all have unique bodies, with unique skeletal structures, muscular imbalances, past and present injuries, hormonal profiles and motivation to exercise!

In exercise, as in nutrition, there is no ‘one size fits all’! 

I’d love to create an individualized exercise program for YOU! Check out my online personal training program and let’s chat!








    I entirely agree. It’s so so so simple but I believe to be so 100% true: THE BEST EXERCISE IS THE ONE YOU WILL ACTUALLY DO.
    Miz recently posted…How do you FRAME yourself?My Profile

    • And I’m giggling because I kept trying to spell ‘fallacy’ wrong and was getting annoyed with autocorrect… (no, it doesn’t start with a ‘ph’…)

  2. lol, I was going to write this same post! You save me! This is great and so true! The best is the one that works for you!
    Pamela Hernandez recently posted…Fitness Success Story: Meet JulieMy Profile

    • Oh you should still write it Pam! I don’t think we can preach this one often enough!

  3. LOVE this!!! While slightly different, I tell people all the time that they have to do what works for them in terms of exercise. My mom tried a million different things and is finally loving her ballet classes. But you wouldn’t catch me doing that – torture.
    Carrie @ FamilyFitnessFood.com recently posted…Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

    • Yes! Always find what works for you and remember that regardless of whether some new study says that exercise x is better than exercise y, that was only true for the handful of people IN the study!

  4. I agree 100%!!! People always think that because I run they should run even though they hate it. I spend lots of time explaining the difference between boot camp (generalized for a group) and personal training (individual program based on specific needs). Even in boot camp I try to personalize some things based on ability, strength and level – sometimes I completely change a move for a couple of people because they need harder or easier.
    Sorry….long winded just to say I agree and hear people every day try to make fitness a “one size fits all”.
    Kim recently posted…Overtime Nearly did me in!!!My Profile

  5. So the friggin truth!!! I trained years & years ago – it was all about the person & what was right for them. There is no one training program for all nor one exercise that is best for all. We are all different & the bods are too. I have tried things that people tell me they love & it was just not right for me & vice versa. I LOVE THIS POST – LOVE!!!!!! Anyone that says it is this way as the best or this way or the highway needs to hit the highway! 🙂
    Jody – Fit at 55 recently posted…When NO Means YES – I AM ENOUGH! #IWILL; Plus Entertainment Women Dish on the Pressure!My Profile

    • Thanks so much Jody! You know though, that tomorrow, we’ll read a dozen more posts with titled ‘the best exercise for blah’!

  6. Great post, Tamara. It seems to obvious, but people never get it. As with the appropriate diet, exercise depends on the person and their goals.
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted…Peachy Quinoa Salad with Beyond Meat. Review & Vegan RecipeMy Profile

    • And that is why people will always need us Debbie! Hire a personal trainer and get the plan that’s right for YOU!

  7. Preach the Phallacies. Or is it Pharisees? Say what?! Anyway, you are spot on with these fallacies! I also think in terms of risk/ benefit. If two moves offer the same benefit, but one has higher risk, then I can choose wisely. The biggest key phrase in fitness = “it depends.” Keep it up GRAND one!
    KymberlyFunFit recently posted…Try CranioSacral Therapy to Relieve PainMy Profile

    • You know, I kept trying to spell it with a PH and spell check didn’t like it. I think that must have been subconscious or subliminal or subsomething or other…

  8. Ooh, love this. I feel the same way with my health coaching… and running coaching, for that matter. We’re all unique and what works for one will not necessarily work for another. Great post!
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted…How to determine the best foods for you- part 2My Profile

  9. I definitely agree with this, I think people get turned off from exercise because they do something they genuinely don’t like. Makes it much easier when you are having fun 🙂
    Nellie recently posted…Weekly Wednesday Workout: Shimmy & Wine Oblique MoveMy Profile

  10. I never tought about it, but it’s truth. If something is good for me, that dosen’t mean that it will work for yor, par ex.
    So from now on, I’ll post about workouts that are good for me, and not workouts that are good in generally, because that don’t exist. Thank you!
    Elma recently posted…Brazilian Butt exercisesMy Profile

    • Elma! There’s a difference between ‘good’ and ‘best’! Often times ‘good’ workouts are good for a lot of different people. The point I was trying to make is what’s ‘best’ really does depend. So keep on sharing the ‘good’ stuff! ~ Tamara