My Favourite and Least Favourite Exercise per Muscle Group – What do we prefer


There are hundreds of exercises out there, some we all love, some we all hate and others that are personal to us. We thought we would use this article to go through some of the exercises that we love doing and others that we “hate” doing. We will run through the muscle groups and give you one exercise we love and one exercise we hate.

Hate is a strong word, I don’t hate these exercises, I would just prefer to do other exercises instead of these! Which I do. That is what I hope you all take from this article. Just because a certain exercise is done by someone else, doesn’t mean you have to do it. Make sure you enjoy the gym and that includes doing the exercises you enjoy doing.


Love: Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Hate: Single Arm DB Press

Let’s start with shoulders. Why? Because it is my favourite muscle group to train. No idea why, I just love training shoulders. Straight out of the gates, this is a hard one because I kind of have two favourites that I enjoy. Standing Barbell press or Seated Dumbbell Press. I love doing both of these exercises. 

The exercise I hate is Single-Arm Dumbbell Press. You don’t see this all too often and I do understand why people do it, however, I just can’t get on with it. Doesn’t feel that great for me and I don’t enjoy it. For that reason, I don’t do it.


Love: Deadlift

Hate: Barbell Bent Over Row

So, my favourite back exercise is fairly typical, nothing too out of the ordinary, I love Deadlifts! All around great exercise! Great for building strength in almost all of your body, Fairly simple exercise to learn but can take a lifetime to master. I make Deadlifts a staple in my routine and plan. Becoming a good “deadlifter” will overflow into almost every other exercise.

Barbell Bent-over Row is an exercise I use to love but quickly fell out of love with. Something about hanging a barbell full of weight from your spine is a bit weird to me. I never connect too well with this exercise, I much prefer Single-arm Dumbbell Row or a Machine row. I connect and feel these exercises a lot more.


Love: Incline Dumbbell Press

Hate: Flat Barbell Bench Press

I think we can agree that this is most peoples favourite muscle group to work with! Nothing beats a good chest day! However, my exercise choice might surprise a lot of people here. My favourite chest exercise is Incline Dumbbell Press. I prefer the Incline press, I feel more stable and in control, and prefer dumbbells as a barbell can play up my shoulder and wrists (Due to previous injuries) and cause me issues with it.

This makes my least favourite exercise fairly obvious, It is the Flat Barbell Bench Press. I have never liked this. The bar is too flat and forces my wrists and a weird angle. It is the opposite of the Dumbbell Press. Each to their own. If I didn’t have my previous injuries I might have gotten on better with the Barbell bench press. 


Love: RDL’s (Dumbbell)

Hate: Seated Hamstring Curl

Hamstrings, Such a killer of a muscle, and my favourite exercise shouldn’t come as a surprise after my back choices. I love RDL’s (Romain Deadlifts). Great exercise for the hamstrings, you can go light or heavy and also easy to adjust so that you can feel like. The only downside to the RDL is that it is rather taxing on the CNS (Central Nervous System) so if you are planning on doing squats, you might not have a lot left for RDL’s. I much prefer Dumbbell RDL’s due to the fact you have more control over where the weight hangs, which can make it so much easier to connect and feel the exercise.

My least favourite exercise is Seated Hamstring Curl. I much prefer laying hamstring curls, I just can’t connect with the seated machine as well as I would want. Always awkward, The leg pad is either too tight or too loose, I can never get comfy and just want to get off it. For those reasons I tend you opt for another exercise for my hamstrings.


Love: Leg Extension

Hate: Barbell Squats

By far one of my favourite quad exercises, and one of my favourite gym exercises is the Leg Extension! Love this machine! I have yet to come across a bad leg extension machine. Easy to feel the burn, great to connect with, and doesn’t put too much strain on the joints or the body! After a big, taxing exercise like RDL’s, leg extensions are a great exercise.

Quads, my favourite part of leg day! Love training quads, there isn’t an exercise I hate that is quad specific but my Least Favourite Exercise for legs in general. Barbell Squats. I just have never liked them and have done them for years thinking that it is the correct thing to do. However, recently I have opted to leave them out of my program and stop doing them! I have been enjoying leg day so much more! Do you need to do squats to build your legs? No! Why do I hate them? As with most of my choices, I find them uncomfortable, they can flare up my shoulder issue (Holding the bar) and I don’t like the movement. 


Love: Standing Raises

Hate: Seated Raises

There isn’t much to say about this one. Both the love and hate exercises are just variations on the same exercise. The love is standing calf raises, by this I mean a machine (where the weight is placed on your shoulders) I can connect when using a machine like this. I feel it in my calves.

The complete opposite is true if I sit down! It takes all the feel out of the exercise and I can’t feel it at all. Luckily a seated calf machine is a rare bit of equipment. So I don’t come across them a lot. 


Love: Dumbbell Curl

Hate: Close Grip EzBar Curl

Biceps, Not a lot of choice with biceps as they are all curling motions (due to the nature of the muscle). My favourite and prefered exercise is just your standard Dumbbell Bicep Curl. The first exercise anyone ever does when they pick up a weight. It is just effective and doesn’t cause me any pain or injury. Perfect.

My least favourite exercise is close grip EzBar curl. Now, I don’t hate the exercise, I love the EzBar, as it allows your wrists to go in a more natural position. However, due to the shoulder injury, I spoke about in the shoulder section. A close Grip on an EzBar can flare up and cause me some pain in my shoulders and Wrists. So for this reason I tend to avoid doing it when I can.


Love: Bar Push Down

Hate: Bench Dips

Now, as with shoulders, triceps are one of my favourite exercises to train, always found it easy to connect and train them, so they have developed well. Don’t be fooled I still have my preferences. My favourite exercise is a bar push down. Using a bar I can bring my wrists out in line with my shoulders (how they should be). If I can’t find a bar I will use two ropes (thanks to Josh Bridgman for the tip). 

My hated exercise is bench dips! I hate these for an actual reason. They put your shoulders in a horrible and borderline dangerous position. I don’t hate dips, if I want to do dips I will do them at a proper dip station, however, I will try everything I can not do bench dips! 


Love: Ab Wheel Rollout

Hate: Crunch

Abs, I don’t train abs as much as I should (note to self, increase ab workouts) however when I do train them there is one exercise I will only do. 90% of the time this exercise on its own is enough of an ab workout. It is the Ab Wheel Rollout. I feel this is an underrated exercise! It is a killer on not only the Abs but also the upper body. Great burnout on any day for any muscle group. However, I tend to superset it with knee raises. Giving me a simple, quick yet killer ab workout.

The exercise I least enjoy, is the first ab exercise everyone does, you standard crunch. I just feel there are so many other exercises and even variations on the crunch (Butterfly Sit-up is a better choice). Once your core begins to strengthen you will find you will have to up the reps to a rather high number to feel any kind of burn (or add weight, which is cumbersome). I just prefer other exercises to the Crunch.


So that is my favourite and Least Favourite Exercises to do. The point I want you all to take away here is that just because someone tells you to do a certain exercise doesn’t mean you should. If you have hired a coach and they have programmed a certain exercise, and you don’t enjoy doing that exercise, tell them! They will change it and understand! Don’t be shy! You might also, as I have mentioned, have previous injuries that hurt or prevent you from doing certain exercises. Make sure you make coaches and PT’s aware of this. Don’t injury yourself for an exercise.

Another point is that depending on your goals, some of these exercises might be needed. For example, if you are training to be a powerlifter then you will need to train the big three (Squat, Deadlift and Bench Press). Due to those being the three that will compete. However, if you are just training for yourself, do whatever exercises you want! Like I said above, I don’t enjoy doing squats, so I don’t do them that much.

If you want to learn to do any of these exercises make sure to download our free app.  Our app contains hundreds of workouts and also walkthroughs on various exercises! You can download it here for free.

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Written by Kieran Blacker

Kieran is the CEO and Founder of Sets & Reps. He decided to make an application that helped people get a gym workout when not at the gym. He designed, Coded and built the application himself.