There are people who actually buy unbelievable junk like the Shake Weight and the AbRocket and the Belly Burn. But I don’t give a damn about them because people who buy such obvious crap are slackers. Slackers who look for quick fixes. Slackers who are lazy to move their back sides. Slackers who don’t want to work hard. Slackers who will never look awesome.
But you know what I do give a damn about? The folks who really want to make a change for the better and are willing to do anything it takes to get healthy, grow stronger, move faster and in turn look better because these folks are fighters. Fighters ready to put in time and effort. Fighters ready to bust their chops to reach their goals. Fighters who spend hours working out every week doing thousands of repetitions of hundred different exercises. Fighters who are frustrated because they don’t see results though they work so hard.
Why? Because it’s not their fault. They have uneducated idiots for trainers who look at them as nothing but dollar signs and make them do mindless crap just to keep them paying for longer.
So in the interest of helping such fighters, I decided to get in touch with some of the best coaches in the world today. I personally emailed these folks asking them the following question…
If you can only do 4 exercises for the rest of your life (for overall physical fitness), what would they be and why?
Realize that these folks are all from different parts of the world, have completely different backgrounds, have different training methodologies, differ big time with respect to nutritional advice and train clients with drastically different goals (soccer moms to fighters to bodybuilders to gymnasts to powerlifters).
But they all have one thing in common – they are all bloody damn awesome in what they do. Each one of these guys walk their talk, have produced stunning results their clients and have changed many many lives for the better.
Without any more blah blah I present to you the coaches and the exercises they deem superior.
1. Martin Berkhan – Leangains
Squat, deadlift and bench. These are called the “big three” for a good reason and I arguing for each one specifically would be an exercise in redundancy.
In addition to the big three, I’ll say chins. This movement complements the big three perfectly by adding biceps and lat work, which are two muscle groups that the three other lifts don’t do that much for, relatively speaking.
Besides being a great back movement, chin-ups also add more shoulder work to the arsenal, and delts in particular. I think I owe a great deal of my biceps and delt development to the fact that I have always been a fan of chin-ups. Never did much targeted work for these muscle groups (curls, lat raises, etc.).
If I could up it to 5, the answer is easy: The 5 Essential Primal Movements. Pullups, pushups, squats, overhead presses, and planks.
Scalable to any fitness level, no gadgets or machinery necessary, a bench and a tree branch is really all you need.
- The most bad ass female trainer I know. In her words – “I am not what you think of as a normal trainer. I don’t overuse hair gel and you will never, ever, see me in spandex.”
- Author of Fat Loss Troubleshoot and Body By Eats.
- While she’s worked with celebrities and pro athletes, she says her ultimate purpose is to help educate people on the most efficient methods of making yourself become the person you want to be. Inside and out
- Hate her or love her… she is legit!
Women please get off the damn elliptical, stop doing your stupid ab twists and listen to Leigh!
I could talk about this FOREVER. I will do my best to keep it brief. It is torture trying to only choose 4!
1. Deadlift - It is the only weighted exercise I truly love. Right from the start of the deadlift, it was a fit. It never hurt me, I never did it wrong and it was instantly my strongest weighted movement. I also feel like of all movements, it is the most applicable towards my life. I am constantly in situations where I am thankful for that movement.
2. Pull-Up – Simple. Effective. Badass. I think there is no greater test to your will and strength than being able to knock-out a pull-up. It will always be in my programs.
3. Leg Swings – It isn’t as popular as the other exercises, but it is a mobility exercises which has saved my hips quite a few times. You can see a great description (along with other movements) over at Stronglifts.com. ( http://stronglifts.com/7-dynamic-stretches-to-improve-your-hip-mobility/ )
4. Suspension Rows (in all variations and forms) – Inverted Rows, Back Rows…I love a row. I love them even more on suspension trainers. I get great mid-back work when I use the suspension trainers in ways I don’t get with traditional weights. I always seem to compensate with my upper traps more. Perhaps it is the adjustablity or the freedom in the movement, but I love that exercise system and the rows specifically.
If I could only do 4 exercises I would choose Push-ups, Pull-ups, Muscle-ups and Pistol Squats.
You can hit every muscle in the body and build tremendous strength with just those 4 exercises. Of course, you have to be fairly advanced before you can do a muscle-up or a pistol squat in the first place, so I wouldn’t suggest those 4 to a beginner. Instead, I’d recommend novices start with Push-ups, Australian Pull-ups, Squats and Lunges.
The four exercises I’d do for the rest of my life for physical fitness –
Overhead press – standing and pressing a heavy weight overhead use to be the measurement of one’s strength. It requires total body strength and stabilization and can be done with just a barbell.
Back squat – it’s the king of exercises for a reason. make damn sure you have good technique. I’m including the squat instead of the deadlift because I’ve seen too many ugly deadlifts and think people would be better off squatting honest depths with good form.
Clean - the Olympic lifts require strength, speed, coordination, and mobility. ’nuff said.
Chin-ups or rope climbing – We need an upper body pulling exercise. I like the rope climb for the added benefit to your grip, but chin-ups are a-ok too. Unfortunately, way too many people do these incorrectly.
If you did nothing else but these four exercises in your routine, you wouldn’t be too bad off. If you give me a 5th, it would have to be the handstand! I just enjoy it that much. It’s a fun exercise, that’s why I’ve been doing it for the past 12 years.
- Huge, powerful, jacked and super smart! Everyone want’s to be Keith Norris – even Chuck Norris!
- Has 30+ years of in-the-trenches warfare, empirical and self-taught knowledge at his disposal.
- Manager at Efficient Exercise.
- Check out his blog and you can read all about his own workout program and what loads he throws around.
Can I beg for a 5th?? :) Ok, OK, I’ll play by the rules — deadlifts, dips, pull-ups and sprints.
My 5th, by the way, would have been an overhead press.
Notice that all of these moves are intense, multi-joint/compound “most bang for the buck” moves. As an added bonus, dips, pull-ups and sprints require one to not only to exhibit strength in that particular plane of motion, but also require balance and control of the body in space.
If you’ve read my post on 6 Exercises To Do And To Not Do, you’d know my choices and my reasons, but if I had to pick 4 I’d go with Deadlift (i.e lifting any dead weight off the floor), Sprints , Chin-ups/Rope Climbs, Push-Ups and add the Push-Press if I had a 5th.
There you have it – some of the best guys in the industry telling you what exercises matter. Do you see any mention a bicep curl? Or distance running? Or situps/crunches? Or Pec Dec? Or Bosu Ball crap? It all come’s down to…
Squat. Deadlift. Press. Push. Pull. Sprint.
Rinse and repeat.
In other words…
- Base the bulk of your training around these exercises.
- Add in isolation/supplementary work in reasonable volumes if and when needed.
- Eat well and rest much.
- Stay consistent and stick to your program.
You’ll be well on your way to getting strong, living long and looking awesome. And just so you know, my current training program (and most of my previous ones) have only 6 exercises – squat, deadlift, chinups, presses , sprints and dips… and my transformation ain’t shabby!
Well. my job is done. It’s your turn now. Tell me what your top 4 exercises are in the comments section and of course, be nice and share the information on your Facebook, Twitter, Reddit etc.