Top 7 exercises that should be part of your workouts.
Updated: Mar 8
Here's a list of 7 essential exercises.
These exercises are foundational. They concentrate on the primal movement patterns the body is physically capable of and designed to perform.
Now first things first - this list is not to be taken as gospel.
Always remember that we all have different fitness goals, needs, levels and skills.
Don’t you ever push through or load an exercise that you cannot do correctly. Instead breakdown the exercise, work on the foundations and possible weakness and buildup slowly. Say for instance you cannot perform one or many of these exercises mechanically correctly. Then you’d need to establish the reason/s which are stoping you to perform the exercise correctly and work on them. Ex: Cannot perform a squat throwout its full ROM (Range of Motion) because you do not have the required hip mobility. Then you need to work in your hip’s ROM (and possibly stability) before loading.
Please note that the reason/s that might stop you to perform and exercise with perfect mechanics can be multiple and sometimes difficult to determine. This is why training with a fitness professional can help you to go further, minimising the possibility of injury and maximising gain per training time.
(You don’t just try to fix your leaking tap if you do not know how to, then do not try to fix your movements mechanics if you don’t have the knowledge. Moreover, plumbing parts can be changed, your body parts can be not - be careful!)
With those guiding points in mind, my 7 exercises list is based on exercises that I consider best for achieving the major goal of most trainees: Improve overall fitness and wellness.
Squats replicate a primary movement pattern that most people use everyday, whether it’s getting in and out of a chair, using the toilet, or picking items off the ground.
There is a version of squats available to suit every one. Whether it’s supported bodyweight squats for the beginner or heavy loaded squats for the more advanced trainee, the movement is the same, the only variance is the way the movement is loaded and the depth.
Squating uses all the major muscles in your legs and when performed correctly uses numerous muscles in the upper body (including all core muscles) to help stabilising the spine, specially when loaded.
2- Push up
Push up is a compound exercise that uses all the big pushing muscles of the body – namely the chest, shoulder and triceps. It also requires engagement of the core muscles to maintain a safe ‘neutral’ spine position throughout the movement. You can think of it as a moving plank.
The push up can be modified to suit any one. Full push up or even clapping, decline (and the list goes on) push ups can be performed for the more experienced and able people, while push ups can be also performed with an inclination against a bar, bench table or even a wall to make the exercise easier for beginner. Have in mind that pushing up on the knees greatly modifies the exercise mechanics, does not get the core muscles involved as much (if any) and thereafter it does very little for improving your “real” push up capacity (so if you do want to improve your strength for pushing up, kneeling push up is not the way to go)
3- Pull up / Chin up
Using all the big pulling muscles of the body – all the back muscles, the shoulders and the arms, the chin or pull up is a great exercise for torso strength and postural stabilisation.
Stronger or more experienced people can perform full vertical chins from a bar, rings etc and even weight can be added to make the exercise harder. Less experienced trainees can perform pull ups (also called row pull up) onto a lower bar, keeping their feet on the ground and thereafter minimising the total amount of bodyweight they have to pull.
When appropriately performed and loaded the deadlift uses more muscles than any other resistance exercise: all the lower body muscles, and the majority of the upper body muscles. Making it the king of the gains and a superve exercise. However, due to its compound nature (multiple joints and muscle groups engagement) and specially its high spine stability requirements, it is a complex exercise and generally speaking unsuitable for beginners.
5- Step up
Though the less expected of the list and many times forgotten, this beauty it’s a massive gainer. It works most lower body muscles. It also replicates a primary movement pattern and it’s a must do for trainees into running, trekking and / or climbing as it works on hip, knee and ankle stabilisation and strength particularly when performed with a prolonged eccentric phase.
Unlike lunges, squat and deadlift, majority of people can perform it without modifying it due to its simple mechanics and lesser joint load than its counterparts.
The most important function of your core muscles “abs” is not to flex or extend your spine but to stabilise your spine (including the sacroiliac joint) and arguable the hip. As this is exactly what you need to do to hold a plank -recruiting all core muscle to stabilise your body- it’s the most functional exercise there is for core conditioning. It also has multiple variants and can be scaled to all fitness levels and skills.
The most hated exercise in the world unfortunately made it to my list :) Not (only) because its diabolic nature, but due to its gigantic gains. The burpee is really a combination of several exercises / movements, some of which can also be found on this list (squat, plank and push up). As to be expected from an exercise that combines so many moves, it works every single muscle in your body (yep, upper, lower and midsession) and its possible the best exercise there is to work muscle endurance capacity.
As per all complex movements, its full version is not suitable for beginners and it needs to be scaled accordantly to the trainees’s needs and movements skills. Ex: if you cannot perform 5 consecutive full push ups perfectly, surely you will have to modify it heavily as otherwise you'll end with lower back pain.
I outline above the seven most important functional movements that everyone, including you, should master.
The information contained on the on Workout Australia website, Articles and so on, is not intended to be a professional MEDICAL advice, diagnosis or treatment in any manner.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition.
Tomás Agustin Würst, Fitness Trainer, Yoga Teacher and Manager Director at Workout Australia. Have a question? Get in contact: email@example.com