Designing efficient workouts doesn’t have to be complex. If you get overwhelmed with all the exercises and variations and worry you're missing the essentials, we have you covered.
Unless you are an elite bodybuilder or physique athlete, it is usually best to categorize your essential exercises by movement patterns vs. individual muscles worked.
Good programming starts by selecting the main movements that will form the foundation of your training sessions.
There are numerous benefits to including the basic movement patterns in an exercise program including:
- Functionality: The basic movement patterns have similar ranges of motions as everyday activities like picking something up, reaching for something, or carrying something. By training these exercise patterns, you’ll make daily tasks easier by improving your strength across these ranges of motion.
- Complete Workout: Including these movements in your program can help you develop a more balanced physique since they recruit several muscle groups. This can have a positive effect on your posture because you’ll strengthen muscle groups you may have previously neglected. Choosing exercises that focus on these movement patterns is an effective way to create a comprehensive full-body workout.
- Balance: You’ll likely notice that you improve your balance and stability as you improve at these basic movement patterns. The reason for this is that you’re strengthening your body and improving your mobility across ranges of motions and movement patterns that you’ll use in your daily life.
- Athletic Performance: If you ever peek at the workout programs of most high-level athletes, you’ll notice that they include exercises that cover these basic movement patterns. The reason for this is that aside from being used during normal tasks in our daily lives, these movement patterns are used frequently in a variety of sports as well.
These are movements that will give you the biggest bang for your buck.
So what movements are essential?
1) Knee Dominant
Here we will place all of our knee dominant movements, where the most change in the joint angle occurs at the knee.
- Squats, lunges, and step-ups of all variations.
- Primary muscles working hardest here will be the quads & glutes.
Hinges are a bit different than the knee dominant category. A minimal movement will occur at the knee joint but there will be a big change in joint angle at the hip.
- Deadlifts and good-mornings of all variations go here.
- Primary muscles targeted will be the hamstrings, glutes, and low back.
3) Upper Body Push
Upper body pushes will do just what you would think, a pushing motion away from the body in either a horizontal or vertical fashion.
- Push-ups, bench presses, and overhead presses of all varieties go here.
- Primary muscles targeted (depending on type) will be the pecs, delts, & triceps.
4) Upper Body Pull
Upper body pulls are just the reverse of the upper body push category. Pulling either vertically or horizontally towards the body.
- Rows and pull/chin up variations are at home here.
- Primary muscles targeted (again, depending on the type) will be the lats, traps, biceps, and smaller muscles of the upper back.
5) Loaded Carries
The often forgotten and overlooked movement that can build massive traps, big forearms, and perhaps provide a bigger return in keeping you pain and injury free than any other movement out there.
- Farmers walks, suitcase carries, overhead variations, and front rack carries belong here.
- Primary muscles targeted are the traps, forearms, lats, and the entire core. But in reality, heavy loaded carries force everything to work in unison.
- Carries can be included on upper or lower days if you are running an upper/lower split.
So how do you make sure to do these main movements in your workouts?
This principle is easy to follow regardless of whether you are following a full body or upper/lower split. Below are a few examples. Of course, reps/sets can be adjusted based on your personal goals.
Full Body Split
Vertical Press: 1-Kettlebell Overhead Press
Squat: Barbell Front Squat
Hinge: Romanian Deadlift
Horizontal Pull: Chest Supported Row
Vertical Pull: Chin Ups
Horizontal Press: Barbell Flat Bench Press
Carry: Heavy Farmers Walk x Down & Back
Upper/Lower Split (Lower Day Example)
Knee Dominant: Barbell Front Squat
Hinge: Barbell Romanian Deadlift
Accessory 1: 2-DB Step Up
Accessory 2: Glute-Ham Raise
Carry: 2-Kettlebell Front Rack Carry
Finisher: Sled Push
As you can see, it really doesn’t have to be that complex! If you are interested in learning more about how simple effective training really can be I recommend you check out anything from Dan John or Pavel Tsatsouline.
Now that you know the essential movements, make sure you have an essential stack to support your performance goals. This means taking a pre-workout before you hit the gym, sipping on amino acids and electrolytes while you’re at the gym, and finishing up with a post-workout protein powder.
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Alpha Amino: We’ve tailored Alpha Amino to include a well-studied 2:1:1 BCAA ratio for optimal performance in addition to 11 essential amino acids. An integral part of the Alpha Amino BCAA formula is electrolytes, which help keep your body hydrated and ready to tackle any challenge.
Whey Sport: Cellucor Whey Sport contains 30g of high-quality whey protein to help turn recovery time into muscle-growing time, and is ideally formulated for however you move by being gluten and soy-free and low in carbs, fats, and sugars.