The Best Exercises

Of course, there’s no such thing as the best exercises but there are some exercises that are almost universally well suited to almost the entire exercise population.

How good a particular exercise is for you, depends on your goal and your situation. For instance, a barbell back squat might be a great exercise for building strength but is of only limited benefit if you need to build a significant capacity of steady-state stamina. Equally, a trap-bar deadlift could be a great tool for building explosive power but if you’re currently dealing with a low back injury/discomfort you can’t avail of it.

For us, the first criteria for any exercise is that it shouldn’t have a high potential for injury. We love box jumps, they’re fun, build power and with certain protocols can give you that heart-pumping feeling of being alive but we rarely prescribe them because too often we’ve seen people getting carried away and injuring themselves. Nothing puts more of a damper on a workout than a pair of bleeding shins. In the rare instances when we do prescribe box jumps, we insist on stepping down from the box rather than jumping down and on a one second reset between each jump.

Next, given we’re all about being time-efficient, we prefer our exercises to hit multiple muscle groups. No exercise is going to do every single muscle group but something like a push-up will work your core along with your triceps and chest as opposed to the kind of horizontal pushing you’d employ on a seated bench machine.

The one exercise a lot of people automatically suggest as the ultimate exercise is the burpee and it has a lot going for it. Some people append a chin up to each rep so it hits almost everything e.g. legs from the squat (and optional jump), chest from the push up portion and back from the chin. The only two drawbacks are burpees can be hard on people who have a lower back injury or rigidity and, secondly, they’re very demanding on the  cardiovascular system which can limit their effectiveness if building strength is the objective.

So, bearing these things in mind, here are a few of our best exercises:

Reverse Lunge: works balance as well as strength and because you’re working one leg at a time, you can progress for a lot longer with just bodyweight or a single weight (dumbbell or kettlebell).

Pull Up: we prefer either neutral grip or overhand pullup to the easier (and possibly more popular) chin up as we feel that they’re kinder to people who have problematic shoulders. This works the back, arms and core. A lot of people struggle with the pull up and there are some ideas on progression in the exercise directory.

Push Up: as pointed out above it works more than just the chest and triceps. To make it more difficult something as simple as raising your feet or changing the tempo can make a world of difference. Equally, it can be scaled down by raising the height of your hands using either a step, desk or table.

(Dumbbell/Kettlebell) Overhead press: works the shoulder and triceps but if done while standing (our preference) you get good core work too.

(Standing, Bent Over or Inverted) Row: another staple of our workouts, getting the back engaged in a horizontal plane. This versatile movement can be done with dumbbells, cables, bands or from a bar with feet elevated.

Kettlebell Swing: a great exercise for working the hip hinge and giving you a good cardiovascular workout.

There are instructions for all of these exercises and many more great ones in the exercise directory.

There are lots of workout ideas on our workouts page. But here’s a new ‘best exercises workout’ that you can do with Mininal Equipment and a Kettlebell:

You’ll be using the EMOM (Every Minute on the Minute) where you’ll set a timer and at the top of every minute you’ll begin the next exercise. You perform the target number of reps and then rest until the top of the next minute. You can either use the second hand on your watch or there are a number of apps available for smartphones which allow you to easily build a timed routine, one smartphone app we’ve found to be good is called Seconds.

Remember to look at our Guidelines for guidance on how to attempt the prescribed reps, essentially we never want you reaching harder than an ‘8’ in effort, if you hit ‘8’ and haven’t gotten the target reps, just stop. Equally, if you’re finding the prescribed amount of reps isn’t hard enough increase the number or the resistance.

For 4 rounds:

Minute 1: Reverse Lunge, left leg, 12 reps.

Minute 2: Reverse Lunge, right leg, 12 reps.

Minute 3: Pull Up 6 reps.

Minute 4: Overhead Press, 8 reps.

Minute 5: KB swing, 12 reps.

Minute 6: DB Row, left and right arm, 8 reps

Minute 7: Push Up, 10 reps.