My Favorite Exercises

As I’ve mentioned before, I much prefer people train movements and not muscles. Unless one has a goal of being a bodybuilder, isolation exercises should have a very small part in one’s training program. I say small part because I have no issue with someone wanting to do some curls for their biceps or some type of triceps move to try to build some bigger guns…I just wouldn’t devote an entire day to training ones arms.

That being said, I had someone ask me the other day what my favorite exercise for each body part is? The more I thought about it the more I realized that this was a more difficult question then I had originally thought. Even though I don’t like training ‘body parts’ I feel that most all of these exercises train both ‘body parts’ and movement patterns.

Explosive – I’ll start the list off with the only non-muscle group exercise and I’ll make quick and easy. To me hang cleans are the choice because they train that explosive burst and are very safe due to starting from the hang position instead of starting from the floor.

Chest – Most people would think this was the easiest choice on the entire list. I’m sure most everyone thinks bench press right off the bat. But I’m going to go in a little bit of a different direction, and since this is my list, you’ll have to deal with it. I’d go with incline dumbbell presses. Heavy benching week after week takes a major toll on my shoulders so I tend to cycle heavy benching in and out of my program where incline movements don’t seem to ever bother me, which is why I tend to lean towards dumbbell incline presses.

Back – To me this was probably the easiest body part on the list; Deadlifts. If you want a big upper back you need to be deadlifting. You show me someone who has a big deadlift and I’ll show you someone who has a massive upper back, the two go hand in hand. I personally prefer the trap bar deadlift over the traditional deadlift but at the end of the day it’s more personal preference than anything else. Figure out which you prefer and get after it.

Shoulders – To be honest, shoulders are a tricky muscle group to pin down. My initial thought would be some type of overhead press but there are some issues with overhead pressing. For starters, any athlete that plays an overhead sport (baseball, swimming amongst others) probably would be better off staying away from any type of overhead movements. Secondly, many people these days sit in front of a computer for hours and hours a day, leading to poor posture, which leads to the inability to overhead press properly. Assuming you are in neither of these categories I would recommend either a standing military press or push press.

Abs/Core – How about some interval training, or in the words of Mike Boyle, some “table push away” might do you some good.

Quads – Okay I lied, this may have been the easiest muscle group on the list. If you want some tree trunks for legs, you need to squat. To me there isn’t a huge difference whether you prefer to front squat or go with the traditional back squat, but either way you need to be squatting to parallel. If your femur isn’t parallel to the floor, you’re not really squatting. If you want to know how not to squat, go to any commercial gym and you’ll find tons of guys not coming anywhere near parallel.

Hamstrings – RDL! I’m a huge fan of all types of RDL’s. Whether your weapon of choice is the barbell or some dumbbells, have at it. You could go with the single leg variations or going with the traditional double leg version, doesn’t matter, there all good. If you had to pin me down and pick just one, I’ve become a big fan of single leg RDL’s with a dumbbells.

Glutes – A muscle group that is often overlooked but also a muscle group that both guy and gals always seem to check out when the opposite sex walks by. I find the barbell bridge to be my favorite movement. It’s pretty straight forward and you can really start loading up the weight on these for a solid can!

Things to Read to Get You Over the Hump 12/21

Here’s a few good reads from the last week to keep you busy while trying to get through another productive day at work:

Do You Have A Management Problem? by Martin Rooney

A post that ANYONE could learn from. Time and time again you hear people complaining about how they don’t have enough time to do this and don’t have enough time to do that, yet in reality you have plenty of time, you just don’t manage it very well. I’m not one to complain about having enough time to get things done throughout the day, but realize after reading this I still could make much better use of my time from day-to-day.

The 20-Minute Hero: Workout Program, Meals, and More by Nate Green

A very similar read by Nate Green as the previous read by Martin Rooney…all about time management and making the most of every free second during the day.

The “Act” of Exercise by John Izzo

An interesting take on exercise, a take that I sort of agree with the more and more I think about it.

Women: Running into Trouble by John Kiefer

In all honesty, I’m not a huge fan of running, especially long distance running. I feel there are much better ways of getting into shape and dropping weight and/or body fat through shorter, more intense bouts of cardio. On the other hand, running is better than nothing at all and I would never try to talk someone out of running if it is something that they enjoy doing. If the options for someone are going for a long run day after day or sitting on the couch day after day, I’ll always be on the side of going for the long run. That being said, this is a pretty good article on running. The author is a little biased – okay a lot biased – but there is a lot of good information that may open some eyes to people who haven’t seen it before.

The 7/4/7 Protocol – A New Rep Scheme for New Muscle Gains by Nick Tumminello

Interesting rep scheme from Nick Tumminello. I’ll certainly give it a shot at some point and see how it is, but I have a feeling its something that I will like and something that I think you could get really creative with and have some fun.

The Complex From Hell

With the weather changing and the likelihood of being able to go outside and do some sprints on the track or any other form of outdoor conditioning becoming less and less likely as the days pass, I find myself trying new and different things on a weekly basis in order to get some type of conditioning in a handful of times a week (even thought I hate it with a passion). A while back I wrote about the TABATA protocol that I have been performing 1-2 times a week (usually 2), which I love because it’s over in 4 minutes and it kicks my butt.

That being said, recently I have been performing a barbell complex followed by 20-30 seconds on the ropes. It goes a little something like this…

BB Row x 5

RDL x 5

Hang Clean x 5

Front Squat x 5

Overhead (Military) Press x 5

Ropes for speed x 20 seconds

Rest 60-90 seconds

Repeat 3-4 times


You can perform the exercises in a couple of different ways. You could perform everything by itself, doing 5 barbell rows, 5 RDL’s, and so on which I have been doing. You could also combine the movements by performing 5 barbell row’s into 5 RDL’s and then 5 hang clean to front squat to an overhead press, a little something like the following video. Either way works, the key is to never let go of the barbell and move fluently from movement to movement.

For anyone who hasn’t done this before, I know what you’re thinking, and it is so much harder than it looks. A word of advice, pick a weight that you think is going to be too easy because I promise by the time you get to rounds 2-5 you’ll be glad you didn’t pick a heavier weight, you’ll be humbled quickly, AND it’s not really about the weight that you use and more about the nonstop, high intensity aspect of each of the successive movements. I speak from personal experience when I say that the weight can and will humble you very quickly.

Also, if you don’t have access to ropes, which many of you probably don’t, you have a couple of options. You could just stop after the barbell complex because I’m sure once you get through a couple of them you’ll be gassed, you could drop the bar and pump out 5 push up’s, or you could even go jump on the bike/treadmill for a quick 20-30 all out sprint. To be honest, for beginners simply performing the barbell complex will probably be enough.

Finally, the movements I picked are by no means set in stone. I personally use these 5 movements because of the ease/flow from one movement to the next, not because these are some special and/or better than other movements…by all means get creative and make it work for you. Just remember, the goal is to move from movement to movement with no rest between each movement all while never putting the barbell down.


Things to Read to Get You Over the Hump 12/14

Here’s a few good reads from the last week to keep you busy while trying to get through another productive day at work:

Learning to Speak Coach by Mike Boyle

Really good read by Coach Boyle on how to make sure you as a strength coach are on the same page as the head coaches of your respective teams. Even now some coaches aren’t 100% on board with having their athletes participate in a strength and conditioning program but if you can learn to speak ‘coach’ you may have a little bit moe success in getting the head coach on board.

Our Manifesto By Mike Boyle

Make no mistake about it, I’m a huge fan of Coach Boyle and his writing. This is a pretty short and quick read about a few rules to always remember when training athletes but is a good read for strength coaches and even personal trainers.

Get That Squat Up by Tim Henriques

This one hits home for me since I have always been a pretty weak when it comes to the squat. Tim runs through a 3 Phase program to help anyone bring their squat up to a respectable level. I might have to get on this program myself sometime in the near future.

The Contreras Files – Volume 1 by Bret Contreras

So much content in this article its unreal, from the “Shoot your family” scenario, glute activation, and learning the hip hinge amongst many other things. For anyone that isn’t familiar with Bret he is a really smart guy, smart enough to be enrolled in a PhD program at the AUT University in New Zealand studying Sport Sciences.

Ladies: Tips to Make You More Comfortable in the Weight Room by Jen Comas Keck

The title says it all. A lot of women are intimidated by getting into the weight room with all the “muscle heads” when in fact they shouldn’t be at all. Jen lays out a handful of tips on how to overcome these fears and get in some real strength training.

Things to Read to Get You Over the Hump 12/7

Here’s a few good reads from the last week to keep you busy while trying to get through another productive day at work:

Are You Daily or Occasionally? by Martin Rooney

Great article with Martin reflecting back on his career and how he has grown into a great fitness mind through working his ass off day in and day out, not just occasionally.

How to Set-Up to Deadlift Properly by Tony Gentilecore

The deadlift is an exercise that not many people do yet everyone should be doing. Tony breaks it down how to properly set up for a deadlift so that anyone should have a pretty good understanding on how to properly execute the lift.

Addressing Weaknesses in Training and Life by Mike Robertonson

Interesting take on how to go about attacking weaknesses. Most people will tell you to hammer away at your weakness until it becomes a strength or at least on par with your strengths, but Mike thinks a little differently and I have to say I kind of agree.

The Benefit of Hill Sprints by Joe Lightfoot

I love hill sprints and you should too. An absolutley brutal and effective workout if done correctly. Read the article, find a hill on a nice day, and crush yourself.