Personal trainer tip: “Best” exercises

Personal trainer Trevor LaSarre recently spent a weekend studying in San Francisco with performance-minded physical therapists from a practice called Resilient Performance. Check out his number one take-away from their Movement Foundations course.

“One of the pieces of wisdom from the Resilient Performance seminar that really stuck with me came from Dr. Doug Kechijian: “Avoid emotional attachment to exercises.” Although seemingly commonsensical, this advice runs contrary to many discussions within the fitness industry that center around identifying and defending the “best” exercises without respect to context and individual variation.

A google search for “best exercises” returns 62 million results. Even worse, searching for “mandatory exercises” returns 37 million. While undoubtedly well-intentioned, these articles are often based on the authors’ personal feelings towards the exercises in question rather than any objective measure of their superiority. In my experience, this way of discussing exercises often encourages people to perform movements which are inappropriate for them in lieu of more appropriate alternatives.

The reality is that for the general exerciser, exercises are tools to drive physiological adaptation. While there are certainly better and worse exercise choices depending on the adaptation in question, in a complex system like human physiology there is almost always a multitude of ways to achieve the desired change. Whether or not an exercise is appropriate for an individual is dependent upon their goals, injury history, joint range of motion, motor control, technical ability, and a multitude of other factors. There is no “best,” and there certainly is no “mandatory.”

While a thorough assessment can help you identify which exercises are likely to be better or worse choices for you, this is often not necessary. Most people can tell when an exercise feels ‘wrong.’ They can tell that it is uncomfortable, difficult to control, or painful in a way that other exercises are not. In these cases, the two options are to spend time developing the requisite physical qualities and technical ability to perform this exercise differently, or to select a different exercise that can produce the same or similar adaptation. For the average person who has limited time to spend in the gym, the second option is often the better choice. Again, this is true regardless of your — or anyone else’s — personal feelings about that exercise or how often it shows up in the aforementioned articles.

In summation, be skeptical of claims about “best” exercises. Be dismissive of claims about “mandatory” exercises. And if you’re incapable of doing an exercise well, it’s my recommendation that you don’t do it at all. “

Trevor LaSarre

Trevor’s personal training philosophy

Hyatt Training Portland personal trainer Trevor LaSarreI do not expect perfection and ask only for honest, consistent effort. I believe that in training and in life, consistency and effort are the two most important variables. Beyond that, I believe that success in the gym is built on a foundation of quality movement and positive lifestyle habits. Work relentlessly to master the basics, and results will follow.


At Hyatt Training, your optimal health and wellness is our #1 goal. We blend art and science to create programs that are applicable to life and sport. We bring together strength and conditioning, cardiovascular health, yoga and nutrition to deliver a comprehensive lifetime health and wellness strategy made just for you. We are a collective of certified, enthusiastic and innovative independent personal trainers in Portland, Oregon. To learn more about our personal trainers or to set up a free consultation to see how they could help you, email us at

By |2017-11-14T13:25:21+00:00November 13th, 2017|News, Personal trainer tips|