5 Foundational Exercises Everyone Should Do

There are a lot of exercises to choose from when you’re building a fitness program.  Too many options can give you a case of training ADD.  Regardless of your individual goals there are 5 exercises that should be the foundation of your strength and conditioning regimen.

And yes, every athlete can benefit from more strength and conditioning.

  1. The Deadlift (DL) is superior to all other exercises in developing the posterior chain.  This bang-for-your-buck lift works almost every muscle in your body except your pecs.  It’s benefits span across the exercise spectrum from rehab and corrective exercise to max strength.  Deadlifting is the foundation to Olympic lifting and kettlebell training.  In doubt about what exercise to do?  The answer is “Deadlift.”
  2.  The Turkish Getup (TGU) is a complete total body lift.  Need more core strength?  TGU.  Need more shoulder stability…or mobility…or pressing strength?  TGU.  Glut activation?  That’s right, TGU.  If your numbers are moving north in the TGU you can bet they’re moving north in every other exercise.
  3. The Squat (SQ) has long been the gold standard exercise for lower-body strength and development.  It is also arguably the best single exercise for building muscle.  All varieties of the squat: the back squat, front squat, overhead squat and more pay huge dividends.
  4. The Pull-up (PUP) is one of the most basic and most effective exercises for developing pulling strength and a great physique.  This one exercise with all of its variations can hit every muscle in your upper-body from your fingers to your abs.  You are only limited by your imagination and the dedication to stick with it.
  5. The Push-up (PU) is the partner exercise to the pull-up with the same benefits, except it develops pressing muscles and strength.  Until you can do 15 strict bodyweight push-ups with perfect form you shouldn’t even consider bench pressing.  The Single-arm Push-up (SAPU) is one of my personal favorite exercises and in my opinion is unsurpassed in its ability to develop superhuman abs, pecs, shoulders and triceps.  In 2013 I spent 8 months using the SAPU as my only horizontal pressing exercise.  The first time I bench pressed after those 8 months I did 225 lbs. for 16 reps in a 30 second timed interval.  It felt effortless thanks to the tension I had learned to create with my Single-arm Push-ups.  They also forced me to get better about keeping my elbows in when I press, which is the most efficient way to press.

If I had to pick only 5 exercises to do for the rest of my life, these would be my picks.  The best athletes and bodies in the world have been built using these movements as a foundation.  If you haven’t already, add them to your training program and break through plateaus to transform your body.

Be strong, move beautifully!