Hey San Antonio,
Want to look like someone that works out? I don’t mean someone who does Curves or Koko Fit Club nonsense either: I mean someone notices and asks you what the hell you’re doing and how can they have (arms, legs, butt, chest, shoulders, etc, etc, etc) like you?
These are the basics and the best. This isn’t some goofy ass set of exercises you’re going to see your local CrossFit clowns doing where they’re hanging from a bar swinging like a monkey in something that almost resembles a chin up (or a fish out of water). No, no ridiculous power ups here either. And absolutely, positively, no ball slams, wall ball, burpees, or other time wasters…
People who are serious about their bodies understand the importance of free weight exercises and using machines minimally. Stabilization is important and isolation exercises and machine work doesn’t recruit the muscles required to stabilize. I see personal trainers everywhere having clients do leg extensions, tricep kickbacks, endless ab work, leg curls, and other isolation lifts. Sure, they burn, but they don’t recruit enough muscle fibers to force the body to change.
And don’t think for one second that isolating “sculpts” or “tones” a muscle – it doesn’t work that way. There’s no such thing as sculpting and toning. Fibers either grow or don’t. Use isolation work to fix weaknesses, not to sculpt. Isolation lifts should be less than 25% of your overall lifting routine.
Women, don’t discount this article as a man’s article – it’s directed at you as well. Whether you’re looking to become “sculpted”, lose fat or gain muscle, these are the exercises you must be doing.
Also, concentrate on form. Exercises like this require focus and not just doing movements. You should feel these in the assigned groups. If not, consult a pro on how to do them correctly – someone that really knows what they’re doing. Just because the kid has a “STAFF” shirt on at Gold’s or Lifetime doesn’t mean they’re qualified. Sad, but true. These exercises don’t give you room for bad form – they must be mastered and taught correctly.
1. Free weight squats. If you want nice legs, squat. These force stability in the hips and recruit the glutes (the butt), hamstrings and quads. The lower back must also be strong to do the exercise properly. Oh, and a squat goes ALL the way down, not that 90 degree nonsense. THAT is bad on the knees. Variations: front squats, hack squats, and Zercher squats.
2. Dead lifts. This is the simplest exercise in theory – the weight is on the ground, you pick it up. WHEN I see personal trainers allowing their clients to do this, they’re doing it wrong. Each rep is like it’s own set – the weight comes to a rest, and then it is lifted. Chest forward, back straight, but down, head up, weight as close to the legs as possible, LIFT. It’s that easy. Dead lifts recruit more than 70% of the muscle fibers in the body. Too important NOT to do, as they hit EVERYTHING.
3. Bench press. I like all variations of the bench press – dumbbells, inclines, declines, etc. Use them all, but really focus on the flat barbell bench press, as it is the king of upper body exercise and development. Range of motion is important – the weight MUST touch the chest.
4. Stiff-leg dead lifts. I see a lot of people doing this, but they’re doing it wrong. When you’re in the downward position, your back must be flat as a board. These lifts require concentration and not just simple movement. NOTHING will develop the hamstrings and glutes like SLDL.
5. Row, Row, Row. Pulldowns are easy and cables make us feel strong, but free weight rowing is where it is at for upper back development. Guys, nothing will make you look bigger than a broad back. Ladies, a woman with a developed back looks incredible in a back-revealing dress or a shirt, a tank top or a bikini. Again, like MOST exercises – keep the chest forward and shoulders back.
6. Glute-Ham Raises. This exercise is a beast, period. It takes a level of conditioning to do, but once it’s doable, then, well, DO IT. Another amazing posterior core exercise.
7. Dips. Another one that not every one can do, but something to work toward. Go ALL the way down, full ROM. When you can add weight to a weighted belt, add it.
8. Pull-ups. Few people do these right – body stabilized, chest forward, shoulders back. No swinging. An excellent overall developer of the upper back and biceps.
9. Overhead push press. All pressing movements have their place, and this one is no exception. Again, simple in concept, but if you have a weakness anywhere in your body, this lift will expose it.
10. Olympic lifts. These lifts (clean, jerk, snatch, etc) require more skill and experience than any of the other lifts, hence why they’re at number 10. If you’re looking for a change of pace, to bust through a plateau, a proven way to develop power and exercise that hit absolutely everything in the body, learn these lifts. Most personal trainers are simply not qualified, as these lifts are so technical that formal education is almost required to teach them. They are worth learning, but they do require a level of fitness to perform correctly.
There are other great exercises, as these aren’t the only 10 exercises that I would recommend (although if these were the only 10 you did, you’d be doing way better than 90% of people that are training today). Don’t forget exercises like pull-downs, lunges, leg press and there’s plenty of room for basics like sprinting and push-ups.
These are the ten exercises that your workout routine MUST be centered around regardless of your goal. If they aren’t the centerpiece of your workout, it may be time to reconsider why you aren’t making the progress you want to make.Boyd Myers
Personal Trainer San Antonio, Figure Contest Prep Coach
Owner, San Antonio's Top Personal Training Studio
16613 Huebner Rd (corner of Huebner and Bitters)