When deciding which exercises to include in your routine 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, giving you a more intense workout.
What is a complex movement?
A complex movement is a multi-joint movement that recruits large portions of the body to complete the exercise.
Compare a simple movement leg exercise with a complex movement leg exercise:
The leg extension machine uses a simple, isolated movement to work the quadriceps. You're in a seated position moving only your knee joint. There isn't much involvement, if any, from other muscles and it doesn't burn very many calories.
Now look at a free weight walking lunge. You start by standing with your feet together and a dumbbell in each hand at your sides (or a barbell across your shoulders, or a medicine ball held at your chest, or even with no weight at all). You take a large step forward and lower your back knee, keeping your front knee at a 90 degree angle. Now you push off your front foot and pull your back leg forward, repeating the movement.
How many muscles did you utilize while performing the lunge?
Your quadriceps, gluteus, hamstrings, calves, abdominals, supporting muscles in your shoulders, arms and back—just to name a few. You also raised your heart rate and really kicked your metabolism into high gear!
Try complex movements on your next workout and see if you don’t agree they make the best exercises, saving time while getting you results.