In this post, we’re talking about the best exercises that give you a whole host of benefits, yet are still relatively simple. For example, you won’t be standing on a bosu, pressing a kettlebell, and doing a cable row at the same time.
While this guy on the left looks like he knows a thing or two, the risk vs. reward in this situation is a bit high on the “risk” end. Movement doesn’t need to be complex to be effective. Although, that is extremely impressive- both physically and organizationally.
As you can imagine by reading the blog, or by meeting me - applying simple logic is big with me. What goal are we trying to achieve with the exercise? Strength? Mobility? Both?
If it gives you a lot of great benefits while being relatively easy and also safe to perform, then I’m sold.
Check out my favorites:
1. Trap Bar Deadlift
Anytime you can deadlift, I’m in. There’s a few reasons it’s number one for me. Mainly, it becomes a different lift when you take the load from the from of the front of the body and move it to the sides. From a physics standpoint, it’s easier to learn, and much safer. I can coach someone to deadlift with a good amount of weight while they feel safe at the same time. Not only do you get total body strength from this movement- but you’re using a lot of muscles, which means you’re burning through calories like crazy (and feeling like an absolute boss).
2. Goblet Squat
Again, a lower body movement that requires total body strength. When we think of squatting, many people think that you have to throw a barbell on your back and just start going to town as heavy as you can handle. But, there are certainly other ways to squat that have a whole host of benefits. The Goblet Squat is great because it places the load on the front of the body, which really helps people to understand the pattern early on. With that said, trying to hold a really heavy dumbbell or kettlebell in your hands and perform the movement is also super challenging for your trunk and upper body.
3. Turkish Get Up
Man, if there is an exercise that is more humbling than a well performed TGU, please let me know. From a mobility, strength, and efficiency of movement standpoint, you get a lot. Mike Robertson did an awesome step by step article about breaking this thing down (HERE). I like to think of just connecting the dots with this exercise. You need to be strong, but you need to be graceful. It’s the perfect balance of a learned skill and mental fortitude. Try sets of 3 on each side, and you’ll know what I mean.
4. Push Up
Come on, you know what you’re getting here. But in all honesty, there’s a reason it has withstood the test of time. It is awesome at building shoulder stability, strengthening the rotator cuff, as well as building trunk stability. Push ups might not be sexy, but they are a staple in programs for good reason. You can easily vary them to bring them to your level. To make them harder, try to march your feet between each rep. Need them easier? Put your hands on an elevated smith machine bar and dial in your technique.
5. Kettlebell Swing
Cardio? Power? Awesomeness? You get it all here. When you get done with a long set of swings, it’s almost like you want to go night night for a bit, but you know that you are just hammering your workout so you keep coming back for more. What I like about them is that it becomes an easy way to progress your hip hinging with some speed and power, while jacking up your heart rate. Just like the Turkish Get Up, you learn how to control your movement and keep the body in a safe place. And oh yeah, the glutes love it.
6. TRX Rows/Chin Ups
Technically I have two exercises here. I simply cannot decide. Both just really awesome pulling movements. Chin Ups are certainly the king of upper body exercises, but a lot of people struggle doing them with halfway decent technique. Enter the TRX Row. It’s easy to regress or progress for people, and helps teach scapular retraction and rotation. This is a great way to get yourself to build trunk stability and upper back strength if you are looking to dominate some Chin Ups. Awesome exercise for the gunz too.
7. Half Kneeling Cross Body Lifts/Chops
Bit of a curveball here. With these movements, you have a great core exercise that utilizes the ENTIRE body. Not only will your abs be screaming at you, but your legs and shoulders will be saying:
Seriously, if you do these exercises correctly, you are smoked. Your heart rate is up. Your muscles are on fire. You are gaining trunk stability, foot strength, shoulder strength, and a freaking iron clad will that can get you through anything.
8. RFESS (Rear Foot Elevated or "Bulgarian" Split Squats, although that name has been outlawed in 17 states)
I’ve never had my quads burn as much as you do with this one. (I know, I’m selling it pretty well for the people that hate any form of lunge, but hear me out) Not only do these make your legs super strong, but you get a great mobility benefit from them from opening up your range of motion and getting low. It stretches out the front of your hip, quad, and ankle, while building some single leg stability. For strength, try some heavier sets for 5-8 reps a side. For some good ole leg endurance, try sets of 8-15 reps per leg and send your hate-mail via the contact box on the home page.
Give these exercises a shot and you’ll be glad you did. When we think about exercise, it should be simple but effective. Sometimes less is more.