Best/Worst Exercises- Chest/Shoulders/Triceps Edition

What is the best exercise for…….?? Today I am going to focus on Chest, shoulders, and triceps and then later articles will go into back,  lower body, core, and more!

This is a question I receive a lot and today I will attempt to send out my thoughts to thousands of people, with different goals. This will be hard because I write all of my programs from scratch. Everyone is different. One exercise can be the best exercise in the world for one person ,and the worst for the next.

Another reason why we start with the NO CHARGE CONSULT.  Most places start by bragging about how great they are. We start off by listening to goals, budget, schedule, needs, etc.

So when I am picking exercises  I take a lot of things into consideration. A few of them are…….

  • goals!
  • Their previous exercise history 
  • injury history 
  • risk vs reward
  • things I have seen over the last 2 decades training people
  • time they have to train
  • what they enjoy doing
  • is this group setting , semi private setting, or personal training? 
  • overall life stress which correlates with their ability to recover
  • recovery, again 
  • their strengths and weaknesses
  • different phases throughout the year
  • how much variety that person needs to stay motivated
  • age and training age of the individual 
  • equipment they have access to
  • ……and TONS of other things!

So because I work mostly with people that don’t have 3 hours per day to workout I have a system where we train movements vs just thinking in terms of muscles. This allows us to hit all the muscles in the body, save time, and also prevent injuries.

I focus on and assess the persons ability to … PUSH, PULL, HINGE AT THE HIPS, SQUAT, CORE (very general but I will use terms you know), and carry things. We then have sub categories with different angles, isolation exercises based on their assessment, etc. Power based on the individual.

So here are my top  exercises for chest, shoulders, and triceps and then I will comment on some exercises that are overrated……..

****PUSH AKA chest, shoulders and triceps—

Top exercises—

DB bench press

Landmine Presses

standing DB overhead press (not seated)

pushups and their variations

some variations of dips

They are on the top because they work a lot of muscles at once. Safe for most people. Can be loaded over time, heavier weights can be used when the person is ready. Tons of variations in order to make it safe for just about anyone. There is also more core activation with these exercises. More calories burned and benefit to metabolism.


Barbell Bench press— This is coming from someone who used to compete in powerlifting so its hard to put this on the overrated list! risk vs reward and shoulder issues that come from doing it over and over again. It does rank in the top 3 for my youth sports performance athletes after the initial prep/evaluation phase I take them through. I do not have my throwers doing a ton of this! Barbell overhead pressing also ranks higher on the list for specific populations, just not the people I work with the most!!!

ALSO OVERRATED are…..upright rows, flyes, dips with hands behind the back, any machines for pushing, and shoulder shrugs. ….Once again risk vs reward when it comes to shoulder issues. These are all things I have done, and in most cases learned the hard way. I am not a fan of machines for pushing at all! About the only thing I like machines for is  pulling.  I will go into more detail during the top back exercises article.

secondary exercises.

raises(side, front)  for shoulders

isolation triceps work.

seated overhead pressing

Playing around with the angles for bench press.

I do throw these in the program but its not as important as the exercises at the top. My reason is because these muscles are already getting hit a TON with the top exercises. I throw them in for some variety so it’s not the same thing each time.

I sometimes throw them in because people like “the burn” from isolation exercises.  They feel like they are accomplishing something. Personally, I choose to become great at the few things that matter most. I don’t mess around and become average at 90 million exercises. I am not here to win tee ball trophies, but to get results. There is however a mental aspect here that great coaches know how to coach.

This article series will  focus  mostly on strength training because this is what most people screw up. It is essential to your metabolism and the transformation! All of our sessions focus on balance, dynamic flexibility, static flexibility, soft tissue quality and more. All of these things intersect. After the no charge consultation I will know what is holding you back! Our members do get a cardiovascular benefit without boring machines. Trust me when I say if you experience it, you will know!

Our group sessions have a level system and red light/green light system to modify exercises based on previous exercise and injury history. Our one on one and semi private(3 to 6 people) groups are written based on your goals!! This is another reason why the FREE CONSULTATION  before training is sooo important! especially for groups!!!

One last thing…ask me questions. I can back everything I put in my writing and programs. I am not an overnight certified trainer taking advantage of what you don’t know. We educate.  We sell results, not fads.

Detric Smith, CSCS, ACSM EP-C