While I’ve always had an open mind, there were instances in the past where I just wanted to bang my head into the wall over the uncertain things I saw other trainers do. Nowadays, I try to understand the reasoning behind their approach.
How you train or what you advocate is your move. Every exercise has its place due to the concept of specificity.
That being said, if we’re talking about exercises that are the most bang for your buck, it’s no question that you’ve got to hammer down movements that are going to make you strong — and exercises that exhibit high levels of muscular recruitment are going to be your best bet.
Here are four exercises to rule them all.
1. Prowler/Sled Push
What can I say? They’re the best way to lean out without losing strength and muscle.
From a conditioning standpoint — these babies rule, which is why they should be in your training program. If the zombie apocalypse does happen, at least you’ll know that you’re in excellent condition to be a survivor.
2. Loaded Carries
I always get asked, “What does this exercise work?” Instead, they should be asking what doesn’t this exercise work. I’m convinced that nothing packs on more muscle than loaded carries. In addition to improved hip stability, walking with a heavy load forces you to engage your core, your upper back, and arms. It’s also worth mentioning that it does a heck of job in improving shoulder function.
It’s no secret that the Deadlift is highly regarded as the king of all exercises. You’re essentially working everything from your head to your toes. With that in mind, there are many schools of thought on how should you pull. Powerlifters will argue that the Trap Bar Deadlift are for sissies, and others will say Sumo is cheating.
Here’s what I have to say about all of that:
What we need to start taking more into consideration is our unique individual anatomy. People vary dramatically in structure. Some might not be able to pull a conventional deadlift. Similarly, there are others who might be more well-equipped to pull from a sumo stance.
I believe the deadlift is a big movement that should stay in your training program year round, however, you have to choose which variation is suited best for you.
Trap Bar Deadlift
4. Bulgarian Split Squats
I know what you’re thinking, and yes — I would’ve said the same thing in the past, but hear me out. I have such an immense adoration for this exercise simply because they rarely cause me or my clients any problem. In fact, I’ve found them to almost have a universal application.
Due to structural limitations, a lot of people are pretty much in quick sand whenever they try to get under the bar and squat — they’re not going anywhere. This is why I’m convinced that the Bulgarian Split Squat is a far better option than conventional squatting. Even with proper form in a back squat, you’re bound to run into some problems whether it’d be hip, lower back, or knee issues. Moreover, you can virtually load as much weight as you can, but with less loading on the spine.
If not these, front squats are my second option.
I’m aware that this is a very short list. You can make a legitimate argument that I’ve left off other noteworthy exercises. But make no mistake that proper execution of these movements will yield big time results. Vary the intensity and stay consistent.