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Autoregulated Exercise SelectionOn the topic of rotating exercises more frequently, a 2017 study compared trained lifters who had to use a fixed combination of three exercises for a given muscle group paired with a specific loading zone (e.g. squat, bench press, etc. @6–8RM, leg press, incline DB press, etc. @12–14RM, and leg extension, cable fly, etc. @18–20RM) to a group that got to choose what exercise they wanted to perform for each session, with each loading zone. Interestingly, the autoregulated exercise selection group made more upper-body strength gains and gained more lean mass than the group with a fixed selection . What this tells us, is that trained lifters have some insight into which movements are best suited for their body, seem to work best when paired with specific rep ranges, and most importantly it tells us that for hypertrophy purposes, it’s okay to switch things up within reason. But what is reasonable? Well, the lifters in the autoregulated group still trained each movement 4–14 times over the 9-week study. Meaning, they didn’t switch it up so often as to lose movement proficiency, and a large part of why they probably gained more lean mass was because they selected compound exercises more often, and isolation
EXERCISE SELECTION153THE MUSCLE & STRENGTH PYRAMID: TRAININGmovements less often, resulting in probably more volume, frequency and stimulus per muscle group than the fixed order group. How does this translate to you? Well, for hypertrophy goals, your main compound lifts which you use to gauge progress (at the very least a upper-body push, upper-body pull, squat and hinge pattern) should remain in your program for the length of multiple mesocycles, up to a full macrocycle, but isolation movements can be rotated workout to workout or mesocycle to mesocycle. For the goal of strength, you can basically apply the same principle to all non-main lift movements (squat, bench and deadlift patterns). Efficiency: Compound vs. IsolationNow that we have established some guidelines for how many exercises to perform based on your primary goal, and how often they can be rotated, the question becomes how do you actually decide which exercises to do?With exercises that involve multiple joints, you can train more muscles at the same time, accumulating volume for multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Thus, it is efficient to include compound exercises at the core of our programs. Additionally, compound barbell exercises allow you to use heavier loads, which is important so that you can track small relative changes in strength over time to measure progress as we discussed in the previous chapter.However, recall that the 2014 study showed that training with Smith machine squats exclusively, led to uneven growth in the quads (or perhaps just less growth and this only showed up statistically for a few heads of the quad). Thus, for those focused on maximizing proportional muscular development as their primary goal, it would be a smart idea to ensure a broader exercise selection for balanced development. To