The only 5 exercises you need.
I recently hurt my back and haven’t been able to lift hard for a couple months now. This has allowed me a lot of time to think about why and how I work out.
I’ve come to the conclusion that half the stuff I did at the gym, and that most people do, is just a waste of time. Exercises like curls, lateral rises, flies, and lat pull downs are at best supplemental and shouldn’t become the center of any workout.
Yes, having big arms, chest, and lats make your upper body look good but there really isn’t much strength behind them and you don’t have a foundation to put those pretty muscles on to actually use them.
The best way to build that foundation is compound exercises that work several major muscle groups and minor ones at the same time.
You see, our bodies don’t work by isolating muscles. When we need to move something heavy we use as many muscles as we can. We try to distribute the weight over as much as possible in order to get the job done as efficiently as possible.
These five exercises are all you really need to build a great foundational strength. Most of you regular gym goers probably won’t be surprised by this list. They are the classics of body-building.
I firmly believe these are the king of all exercises. They work your whole body, take a lot of energy, and are just plain hard. It takes a lot of mental fortitude to pick that bar up again and again even after you don’t think you can do much more. But finishing that last rep after struggling for the whole set is one of the best feelings a guy can have while lifting.
If the deadlift is the king, than squats undeniably are the queen (and not just for what they do for girls). These work all the muscles in your legs, your core, and lower back. These just hurt, (almost as much as deadlift) and they take a long time to recover from. It’s for those reasons 75% of guys always skip leg day. But I’m telling you, once you do squats consistently they start to hurt so good. You start to feel so powerful.
Pull-ups get the rest of your back and arms that deadlifts don’t. There are so many variations you can do to focus of different parts of the body. Wide grip gets those lats, hammer curls works the bicep, and climbers get your forearms and improves your grip strength. But whatever form you use they’ll smoke you after a few sets.
Another great one for your triceps and chest depending on the variation you do. These are wonderful because most people can get a good burn just with their body weight. And it’s always fun to see how many reps you can do in one set, or challenge your buddy to one up you.
This one was a difficult choice for me. I couldn’t decide if I should make the bench press its own entry or not. Ultimately I decided to incorporate it into this entry because it utilizes the same muscles as other presses and the motion is very similar. You push the bar above you, whether that’s while standing or on your back. Again this is so effective because you’re generally moving heavy weight around using multiple major muscle groups. This works your chest, shoulders, and arms.
What I love most about all these exercises is not only their effectiveness but also their variety. You could work out every day just doing these five exercises for a few weeks without doing the same one twice. Just off the top of my head I can think of six variations to both squats and deadlifts.
These exercises are tough, they’ll make you sweat, and you’ll be sore the next day. But that’s a good thing. You want to be tired after a workout, because after all that’s a sign you’re growing stronger.