Chest: Barbell Bench Press
We don't lead off this list with the ever-popular bench press because it's a lousy exercise. It's not. However, it's here because far too many people attribute way too much importance to it, performing it to the detriment of their overall chest development. Too much emphasis on the barbell press leads to thick meaty muscle in your middle chest, while the larger upper-pectoral area lags woefully behind.
Best alternative: To attack the most important area of your chest, Dumbbell and Barbell Incline Presses can't be beat. Both also hit your middle chest (much more effectively than the flat-bench press hits the upper pecs), making them a solid anchor in any chest-training workout.Back: Supported T-Bar Row
The T-bar row is a wonderful exercise, directly engaging the muscles of your mid- and upper back. However, a certain variation of the T-bar row includes a pad that you rest your chest on during the exercise. Bad idea - the heavier you lift, the more the weight compresses your chest (and lungs) against the pad as you lift. It's a lot harder to maintain good form and continue a set to the point of failure when you're struggling for a deep breath.
Best alternative: Thankfully, equipment manufacturers make a freestanding version of the T-Bar Row, without the pad, allowing you to breathe easy during your sets. You can also do T-bar rows the old-fashioned way, placing one end of an Olympic barbell in the corner and loading the other end. Just straddle the bar and get into position, and you can perform either one-arm or two-arm rows.Shoulders: Reverse Pec-Deck Flye The problem with the reverse pec-deck flye is that it's a poor replacement for the more valuable bent-over dumbbell lateral raise. Try a set of reverse pec decks and you'll see what we mean - not only are they relatively easy because of the mechanical advantage (due to the design of the machine and the fact you're upright and not working directly against gravity), but most people find it difficult to focus the effort on their rear delts no matter how well they perform each rep.
Best alternative: Many people do struggle with their form on bent-over dumbbell lateral raises, mainly because they try to lift too much - think about how small the target muscles actually are, and you'll soon realize that hoisting 50s is calling on more momentum and back muscles than the rear delts. Lighten the load, take each rep slowly and deliberately, and focus on contracting your rear delts on each rep, and you'll get much better results from this exercise than even pec-deck flyes done with perfect form.Legs: Leg Press
There's a reason scrawny-legged guys can press hundreds of pounds on the leg press, but can barely eke out reps with 185 pounds on the barbell squat: The leg press has too much mechanical advantage inherent in its design. Impressive tree-trunk thighs are not forged on a steady diet of leg presses - to really get at the tough muscle fibers of the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes, you need to challenge them fiercely, and the leg press doesn't do that. It's just too easy in comparison to other superior movements.
Best alternative: The barbell squat and hack squat are a much truer test of mettle for your thighs and glutes - in these two exercises, you're not at a mechanical advantage, putting your muscles under maximal stress, which is the quickest way to muscle-building results.Triceps: Dumbbell Kickback
Of all the excellent triceps exercises available to you - close-grip bench presses, dips, lying French presses, two-arm overhead extensions, cable pressdowns, among many others - why would you ever want to cycle in a less-effective move like kickbacks? People commonly bring the weight too far forward at the start of the repetition, taking stress off the triceps and generating momentum to lift the weight back up to an arms-straight position. If you eliminate this issue and stop the weight before your elbow gets to 90 degrees, you are working in a compromised range of motion.
Best alternative: Any of the aforementioned exercises would be better, but one that mimics the kickback closely is the One-Arm Overhead Dumbbell Extension. The bonus? You use gravity to your advantage, eliminating the growth-robbing momentum and the "dead zone" where the stress is taken off the triceps.Biceps: Standing Barbell Curl
Although the preacher curl machine, with its one-size-does-not-fit-all handles and awkward range of motion, could easily get the nod here, the standing barbell curl has hurt the productivity of many more biceps routines over the years. Like the bench press, this exercise isn't overrated because it's a bad exercise - it's on this list because many guys not only put way too much emphasis on it in their workouts, but insist on letting their ego dictate how much weight they pile on the bar. From there, it's all about hip thrust and body contortion to swing the weight to the top.
Best alternative: The Incline Dumbbell Curl puts your biceps on stretch for a more forceful and complete contraction, and being on a bench takes away the opportunity to use excess body movement to generate momentum on the lift.