I have used weights as training tools off and on for more than ten years. Most of that time was wasteful. I bought a year gym membership during which I marched on treadmills, and used lots of machines. Machines seemed nice since no spotter was required and all you needed to do was look at the descriptive pictures, sit on a pad that looked like a seat, grab onto the part that looked like a handle, select a weight load and go to town. In addition to being incredibly easy to learn it seemed that there was a machine designed to isolate and exercise every joint in the body except maybe the fingers and toes, but perhaps I wasn't diligent in my survey of the place. I was under the impression that advanced lifters used these things. They did give a good "pump," but I now know that is not a good quantifiable measure for the value of an exercise, but more on that later.
Another similar idea floating around my head was that advanced lifters had a vast library of dumbbell, or cable machine exercises in their heads and they knew just when to pull obscure exercises out and just how much weight and repetitions to execute in order get a proper workout. I figured if I read enough and stuck with it one day I would learn of these lifts and become muscular beyond my wildest dreams. So I got to reading and came across "Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training" by Mark Rippetoe. I read the first chapter online through the amazon website and I realized the error of my ways. The joints in our body are not used in isolation and therefore should not be trained in isolation. The next strange dumbbell exercise I saw performed in my university gym, they are not rare occurrences, it did not seem to be a breakthrough in exercise science to me but more like a, hmmm...., strange dumbbell exercise.
If isolation exercises are not good at training the body because they don't mimic the real multi-joint movements the body uses, then the proper types of exercises would be multi-joint. The best mulit-joint exercises use at least two joints through the longest range of motion possible while maintaining good form. These exercises use the most muscle mass and therefore have the highest potential for muscle mass growth (leaning of the body). The best multi-joint exercises use a barbell and are.....drumroll please..........: the Squat, Press, Deadlift, Bench Press, Powerclean, and Chin-ups. Period.
The exercises listed above have been working since barbells were invented, they will also be the best exercises to do for you or anyone else training with weights whether the purpose is to get strong or look better. Would another type of barbell curl ever be more effective than increasing the number of body-weight chin-ups one can perform? Could cable triceps push-downs increase the capacity to press heavy weights more than.........Pressing Heavy Weights!?! How would 10 pound Russian twists or body-weight crunches on a Swiss ball ever stabilize your "core," which is more than just your six-pack abs, more effectively than increasing your squat and deadlift weights to above 300 pounds? These exercises are total body exercises, for reasons detailed elsewhere if you are not convinced, and are unequivocally the only exercises you need to do. Justin Lascek, author of 70sbig once said something like "variety for varieties sake is usually useless." I agree with that statement wholeheartedly. Read starting strength and you will learn how to perform the lifts correctly.
"New" exercises are often included in a workout to keep the trainee from getting bored. Please remember that entertainment is not the goal of a training program, but progress is. A simple program comprised of compound multi-joint exercises will not get boring for a very long time because you will progress in performance (i.e. pounds lifted), and be encouraged to continue implementing the program. The KISS rule (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) keeps training manageable and more effective. Remember it will always be more impressive to be able to say "I benched 250 for 5" or "I squatted 405 for 20" than to say "I felt the burn/pump while cable pressing 60." The former claims represent progress while the latter is a feeling and fits in better with the self-absorbed bodybuilding crowd. You need no more than to squat, press, pull, eat, and sleep.