Tag Archives: deadlift

The Exercises That Count – What The Top Minds Say

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.).

2. Mark Sisson – Mark’s Daily Apple

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.

3. Leigh Peele – Leighpeele.com

  • 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.

4. Al Kavadlo – Alkavadl0.com

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.

5. Jim Bathurst – Beastskills

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.

6. Keith Norris – Theorytopractice

  • 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.

My Take

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…

  1. Base the bulk of your training around these exercises.
  2. Add in isolation/supplementary work in reasonable volumes if and when needed.
  3. Eat well and rest much.
  4. 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.

The Deadlift – What? Why? How?

It’s been stated enough times that the Deadlift is pretty much the king of all lifts and has tremendous benefits. But unfortunately not many folks do it. I understand that it is a complicated lift and most people can’t really afford or don’t care enough to hire a trainer to teach them the lift.

I searched far and wide but most websites, though they took at stab at describing the deadlift, fail to “teach the lift” to a novice. So I decided to pay homage to the king by talking about his greatness and introducing him to the masses. Here we go.

What is the deadlift?

Well, it is the king of all lifts!

OK smart-ass… how can the deadlift be described?

Ah! The deadlift is the action of lifting a dead weight off the floor. Typically, a loaded bar is lifted from it’s “dead” position on the ground to a complete lock-out around thigh level (varies depending on length of lifters limbs).

Why should I train the deadlift?

– Because if exercise = food then deadlift = bacon.

– Because it develops amazing core (erector spinae, glutes, abs, back) strength and without core strength you will be as fragile as a 75 yr old granny.

– Because it helps keep the spinal extensors/erectors in good health.

Will I ever use the deadlift in real life? Is it functional?

If you ever plan on lifting anything off the ground… be it grocery bags or a suitcase or a dying earthquake victim… you will be thankful for having trained the deadlift.

What muscles does the deadlift work?

In short – everything except your pectoralis (chest) muscles. To be specific…

  • Erector Spinae/Sacrospinalis (Spine)
  • Flexor Digitorum Profundus (Forearm)
  • Gluteus Maximus (Butt)
  • Adductor Magnus (Thigh – Medial)
  • Quadriceps (Thigh – Anterior)
  • Soleus (Calves)
  • Hamstrings (Thigh – Posterior)
  • Gastrocnemius (Calves)
  • Trapezius, Middle (Posterior Shoulder & Back)
  • Trapezius, Upper (Posterior Shoulder & Back)
  • Levator Scapulae (Neck)
  • Rhomboids (Back)
  • Rectus Abdominis (Abs)
  • Obliques (Abs)

I hear that the deadlift is very dangerous. Is that true?

Did you know texting is dangerous?

I know that some people hurt their back because they deadlifted excessively. But did you know that way too many people messed up their backs for life because they did not deadlift? Dont believe me? When was the last time you heard someone say “Oh I hurt my back deadlifting?” and when was the last time you hard someone say “Oh I hurt my back lifting my 5yr old/suitcase/couch”?? Ha!

Deadlifing, like anything else, is safe (and again, extremely beneficial) as long as it is done with good form and that’s exactly the point of this post – to teach you good form.

What is your experience with the deadlift?

Once I completed p90x, I thought I was super strong. I tried deadlifting. I pulled an awesome 120 lbs off the ground for 1 rep.This was about 0.8 x bodyweight.

Since then I have been teaching myself the deadlift and been training it religiously. Though not elite, I now deadlift 2 x bodyweight for 4-6 reps and 2.5 x bodyweight for 1 rep. As a result my overall athleticism has improved drastically, I’ve packed in a lot of muscle and have literally eliminated any and all kinds of lower back pain.

OK how do I perform the lift?

In layman’s caveman’s terms… grab the weight and stand up. To get a little more descriptive and technical…

Click on image for larger clearer version

Phase 1: The Set-Up

– Stand with feet hip about width apart such that your feet are under the bar with your shins as close as possible to the bar but not touching the bar. See picture below.

– Bend at the hip and grip the bar such that your palms are a thumbs width away from the side of your legs/shins.

– Bend at the knee and go low till you feel your hamstrings. At this point the bar should be in contact with your shins.

– Get your chest up and straighten your back.

– Look up and focus on an object that’s about 5-7 ft from you. If there is a mirror in front of you then look the other way.

– Retract your shoulders and pull them down. This means you need to bring your shoulder blades as close to each other as possible. You should be able to hold a pen between your shoulder blades.

– Ensure that your shoulder blades are directly above the bar.

– Take a deep breath.

– Tighten your abs. Squeeze your glutes (butt).

– Grip the bar as hard as you can. Think you want to deform the bar!

Phase 2: The Pull Off The Ground

– Lift weight smoothly without any  jerking motion. Push the ground beneath you and pull the bar while it scrapes your shins.

– During this phase, the only joint that opens is your knee joint.

– The hip joint is locked and does not open. In other words, the angle of hip flexion i.e the angle between your straight back and ground, should be maintained and not increased.

– One way to check if you’re doing this right is to ensure that your shoulders move ONLY upwards and together with the hips. If your shoulder moves up and back, you’re opening up at your hip. If your shoulder moves down and front, your bending more at the hip and placing unnecessary load on your lower back.

Phase 3:  Knee Extension

– Continue lifting the bar higher by opening the knees more.

– Your hips are still locked, the bar is still scraping your shins and everything else mentioned in Phases 1 and 2 still apply.

Phase 4: The Hip Drive

– Once the bar is at knee height, start opening your hip and drive your hip in front in a thrusting motion.

– You are now opening your knees and your hips  and the angle of hip flexion increases (from a to b as in the figure).

– Your shoulders, which were moving only up, should now move up and back.

– The bar should now be above knee height and scraping your thighs.

Phase 5: The lock-out

– Continue to open your knees and hips and squeeze your glutes (butt) to reach lock-out position.

– It is acceptable to extend your hips slightly during lockout.  The lock-out serves no other purpose than completing the lift and an exaggerated extension is unnecessary and dangerous.

The Return:

– Slowly lower the bar sliding it on your thighs. At this point hip flexion occurs but the knee is still straight.

– When the bar reaches the knee, initiate knee flexion (bend the knee) and continue to lower the bar, sliding it on your shins, till the plates touch the ground.

– Note that your abs and glutes are still tight, your grip is still solid, your eyes are still focusing on the same object, your back is still straight, your chest is still up and your shoulders are still in place.

The Next Rep:

– Now you loosen your grip for a fraction of a second. Re-grip and lift again. The reason for this brief loosening is because this is a “dead”lift and hence each rep should be performed on a dead weight.

– Bouncing the weight off the ground is not legit.

Videos exhibiting good form

Here’s a heavy one…

And here are some fast ones…

And here is some Mark Rippeto…

– providing an intro to the deadlift.

– coaching the deadlift set-up.

– explaining the deadlift anatomy

And here is an article from Stronglifts talking about how to lower the bar.

Hope this post gives you enough reason, information and confidence to start deadlifting. I’ll follow this post up with some other types of deadlifts and grips, common errors and fixes during deadlifting and some sample workouts.

Peace out.

Six exercises to do and to not do

Sure there are a million exercises out there. But that doesn’t mean you do all of them right? Some moves are legit and pure genius and will benefit you immensely as they have benefited millions of people of hundreds of years. Some others, mostly the new ones with fancy names, will more often than not mess you up and leave you looking like a weasel on wheels.

That said, though I will try my hand at as many different activities/exercises/training methodologies as possible, there are some exercises I will do for the rest of my life and some that I will never ever do!

6 exercises I will (and you should) always do…

  1. Deadlift because it is the king of all exercises. Working more muscles than any other workout, this lift strengthens everything from your grip to your lower back to your traps to your entire lower body. A strong deadlift literally means great pick-up strength in real life and I’m pretty sure I’m going to be picking stuff up throughout my life.
  2. Weighted Pull-up/Rope Climb because it is one of the most challenging upper body pulling movements. You’re not fit if you can’t climb a rope.
  3. Sprints/Sled Drag/Prowler Push because it develops speed, endurance and incredible lower body strength. The exercise taxes the lower body so much you have no choice but to get faster and stronger.
  4. Standing Press/Push Press because it is the one (and only) pressing movement that has relevance to real life. FYI – If you’re abs are not sore after a heavy pressing session, you’re doing it wrong.
  5. Plank/Planche because it strengthens the “core” without jeopardizing any joint or the spine.
  6. Push-up because it has more variations than I will ever need, it develops explosive upper body strength and it strengthens the core. In addition to being one of the most awesome bodyweight exercises, it is super functional and relates to real life activities. Also, one arm push-ups are just cool.

6 exercises I will (and you should) never do…

  1. Any kind of bosu ball crap because it’s just sad, lame and downright stupid.
  2. Kipping pull-up because it works nothing. Wasted reps. Waste of time. High risk of rotator cuff injury.
  3. Leg extension because never in my life will I need to exert force by extending my knee joint in isolation. Aesthetics? Not interested in disproportionate quads. My deadlifts work my lower body more than any machine ever will.
  4. Behind the neck press because risk >>> benefit.
  5. Any and all kinds of sit-up because I don’t want to end up with a surgery in my lower back.
  6. Anything on the smith machine because that’s as fake as fake can get. The whole point of barbell training is to strengthen synergists and stabilizers along with prime movers (agonists) and antagonists. By restricting the movement of the bar to only up-and-down the smith machine removes the synergists and stabilizers our of the equation resulting in uneven strength distribution which is a recipe for disaster.

While we are on stupid exercises, this one is a whole new level of stupidity!

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