One of the biggest hurdles in getting motivated at the gym is figuring out which exercises to do once you get there. Despite our best efforts, not everyone is in the right shape or at the right life stage for an intense workout every day. But thanks to a wealth of options, you can still get in your regular exercise without engaging in high-intensity, high-impact routines. No matter your age or perceived ability, there are certain exercises that have incredible benefits for every BODY…
So let’s talk about the top 5 exercises everyone should be doing, but instead of thinking of it as 5 specific exercises, let’s look at it as 5 different movement patterns, with a multitude of exercises that engage that specific area in varying ways.
Our brain doesn’t think in single muscle groups, but in terms of movement patterns. The body evolved to have 5 predominant movements: Pushing, Pulling, Hip-Hinging, Squatting, and Core Stabilization. So, let’s go over a few exercises for these movements.
Push: This category of exercises include all exercises that move the load/weight away from the body in relation to the torso, or at least in that direction. It usually consists of movements in the sagittal plane (shoulder flexion) or frontal planes (shoulder abduction). Furthermore, this normally means its movements create shoulder abduction and/or flexion and extension of the elbow (pushing).
The following are examples of vertical and horizontal push exercises:
- Push Press
- Military Press
- Flat Bench Press
- Seated Shoulder Press
- Incline Dumbbell Press
Pull: This category of exercises also includes moving a load/weight vertically in relation to the torso, or at least in that direction. However, it usually consists of movements in the sagittal (shoulder extension), frontal, or transverse planes (shoulder adduction). Furthermore, this normally means its movements create shoulder extension and/or adduction with elbow flexion (pulling).
The following are examples of vertical pull exercises:
- Pull-Ups (Close-Grip, Wide-Grip, Supinated Grip etc)
- Lat Pull-Downs
- Bent Over Row
- Plank Rows
Hip-Hinge: This category of exercises is comprised of exercises that involve a hinging motion at the hip joint, with little to no knee movement. These hip dominant exercises are initiated by a contraction of the hip extensors (e.g. glutes, hamstrings) and spinal erectors to extend the hip. These exercises tend to be more of a pulling action as oppose to a push, except in the idea that you should be pushing your hips through as to activate the posterior chain.
The following are examples of hip hinge exercises:
- Romanian Deadlift (RDL) and its variations (e.g. single-leg)
- Kettlebell Swing
Squat: This category is classified by movements in which the knee is the dominant lever during the exercise.
The following are examples of knee dominant exercises:
- Single-Leg Squats (Pistol, Bulgarian, Knee-Tap, Elevated)
- Low-Box Step up
- Lunge (Forward, Backward, Lateral)
- Leg Press (position-specific)
Core Stabilization: The muscles of the core are known as the powerhouse muscles and provide a solid base upon which all other muscles can work upon to initiate movement. A comprehensive strengthening program of your core muscles can be used for injury prevention, rehabilitation and sport performance enhancement.
Remember “functional” simply refers to practicality and usefulness. Therefore, during program design it is essential that exercises are selected based upon their function and usefulness to the client and not on the attractiveness or difficulty of the movement. Although exercise professionals may select their exercises using a different labelling of movement patterns, or perhaps none at all, a large quantity of coaches currently use these presented here in this article as they are the most scientifically validated.