Selection of Exercise: Optimizing Your Training for Maximum Hypertrophy


The selection of exercises in strength training can significantly impact your muscle growth and overall progress. Recent research by Larsen et al. (2024) sheds light on how the hip flexion angle during leg extensions affects quadriceps femoris muscle hypertrophy. The study found that a 40° hip angle favored hypertrophy in the rectus femoris, whereas no significant difference was noted for the vastus lateralis.

Key Takeaways from Recent Research

The study underscores the importance of exercise selection and technique in achieving specific hypertrophy goals. Training with reduced hip flexion in leg extensions may benefit overall quadriceps development. However, this is just one piece of the puzzle.

Variety in Exercise Selection

It's well-accepted that strength training should incorporate a variety of exercises targeting the same muscle group to ensure balanced development. Multi-joint exercises such as squats, push-ups, and pull-ups are essential for building motor skills. They should be changed less frequently compared to single-joint exercises like leg extensions, which can be varied more often to keep muscles stimulated.

Balancing Complexity and Frequency

The complexity of an exercise influences how often it should be rotated. Complex multi-joint movements should be maintained for several training cycles, whereas single-joint movements can be altered more frequently. This helps prevent overuse injuries and maintain consistent progress.

Targeting Specific Muscles

When selecting exercises, it's crucial to ensure the desired muscle is the limiting factor in the movement. For instance, high-bar squats are excellent for the anterior muscles but may not fully stimulate the hip extensors. Therefore, complementary exercises like hip thrusts can be included to target the glutes effectively.

Comprehensive Training Programs

A balanced training program should include both multi-joint and single-joint exercises. Research by Schoenfeld et al. (2021) suggests including 1-2 multi-joint movements per large muscle group and 1-3 isolating movements for optimal muscle development. This approach ensures muscles are worked from different angles and levels of intensity.


Incorporating various exercises and periodically changing them ensures comprehensive muscle development and prevents plateaus. Those interested in a deeper understanding of and applying these principles should consider enrolling in our IFBB Nordic Academy Personal Trainer Course in August.

Summary of Exercise Programme Recommendations:

  • Variety of Movements: The exercise program should include various movements that work the muscles in different planes and angles.

  • Incorporate Multi-Joint and Single-Joint Movements: A good rule of thumb is 1-2 multi-joint movements per major muscle group and 1-3 more isolating movements for all muscle groups.

  • Emphasize Complex Movements: More complex movements with free weights (squats, pull-ups, push-ups) should be done regularly to strengthen motor skills. These movements should not be varied very often. In contrast, easier movements on equipment and single-joint movements can be varied more frequently to introduce stimulus variation to the program.

  • Monitor Performance and Adjust: It may be advisable to change the movement when performance has leveled off over several exercises or when the movement has started to produce an increasing level of discomfort that cannot be corrected by changing the technique.

  • Full Range of Motion: As a general rule, movements should always be performed with the full range of motion and favor movements that allow the muscles to work at long muscle lengths (e.g., deep squat vs. half squat, traditional bench press vs. floor press).

These guidelines will help ensure a balanced and effective training program for optimal muscle development.


Larsen, S., Kristiansen, B.S., Swinton, P.A., Wolf, M., Fredriksen, A.B., Falch, H.N., van den Tillaar, R., Sandberg, N.Ø. (2024). The effects of hip flexion angle on quadriceps femoris muscle hypertrophy in the leg extension exercise. SportRχiv.

Schoenfeld, B. J., Grgic, J., Van Every, D. W., & Plotkin, D. L. (2021). Loading recommendations for muscle strength, hypertrophy, and local endurance: a re-examination of the repetition continuum. Sports, 9(2), 32.