Top 5 Essential Exercises

So after seeing the post on Whole9 about the top five foundational movements for health, I decided to ask some of the staff at my gym what their top 5 would be. It is interesting to see the similarities, but also the differences between the lists.
These variations in what people consider the top 5 come occur for numerous reasons. To name a couple: personal biases (ahem…Candy with pull ups because she really doesn’t like them) and fitness goals.
Trainers also come from different fitness backgrounds. For example, I want to be able to lift a ton of weight and do any physical activity asked of me. So in my opinion, there is no need to do planks since almost every other move works your core. I want to only do moves that will increase my strength and my ability to take on any activity!
Nick on the other hand doesn’t care how much weight he can lift. He would rather look good and be a world champion in Brazilian Ju-Jitsu. Can’t really blame him! He is an awesome fighter! Nick has a background in self-defense and is very focused on injury prevention so he focuses on strengthening the core, which is why he has planks in his top 5.
The thing that is similar between all of the lists, is that all the moves selected really work the entire body. They may have a “focus,” but they do work almost every other muscle group. Even planks work more than just your core (abs and low back). They also work your shoulders and quads to just name a few other muscles!
Take a look over our lists and the ones on Whole9! What would you add to yours?
My Top 5:
  1. Deadlift – My favorite exercise! Great way to develop overall strength!
  2. Push up – Great upper body and core move! Plus it is super functional. Everyone should be able to press themselves up from the ground!
  3. Pull up – One of the hardest exercises in my opinion, which also makes it one of the best. Increase your upper body strength and strengthen your core! Plus, if you ever want to go rock climbing or even just fall over a cliff, you can pull yourself up! 😉
  4. Squats – Ok I’m cheating a bit here because I think that back squat, front squat and overhead squat are all really good. If I had to pick just one though, I would pick front squat. It honestly is the best to develop upper back strength, core strength and leg strength. Plus with deadlift on the list, it isn’t bad to have a squat that is more quad focused.
  5. Sprints – A super intense, efficient way to get in cardio! It also helps you develop your type II muscle fibers and a strong cardiovascular system. The only cardio I love to do.
And if I were to make mine a Top 10, I would also add: Burpees, Cleans to Press, Back Rows, Dips and pistol squats (or 1 leg squats). Those are all awesome moves that really work the whole body!

Brian’s Top 5

  1. Push up
  2. Pull up
  3. Clean to Jerk
  4. Lunge – A great way to work the lower body but not let one leg dominate and become stronger.
  5. Sprints

Nick’s Top 5

  1. Planks – A great exercise especially if you are in a sport that requires great core strength. It is also an essential move for all beginner exercisers!!
  2. Push ups
  3. Squats
  4. Pull ups
  5. Clean to Press

Candy’s Top 5

  1. Push ups
  2. Deadlift
  3. Clean to Press – A great power move that is similar to the deadlift but does more to strengthen your type II muscle fibers. The press is also a great upper body move that really strengthens the core!
  4. Sprints
  5. Front squats

Posted on April 26, 2012, in Benefits of doing "man" exercises, Workout and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on Debbie Does Fitness and commented:
    Made me start thing what would my top five be…..squat, lunge….this requires a bit more thought!

  2. Awesome post, I love how into living a healthy life style you are. Most of the females I train do not believe that theses exercises are essential and tend not to push thereselves hard enough through them. I will show them this blog for extra motivation. Thanks again

  3. I love this post and those exercises you and the others listed. I didn’t know that the front squat worked the upper back and quads more than the back squats. I was avoiding them because my wrist flexibility limited the weight I could put on the bar. But since it has its own specific purpose, I will work on them. I don’t know how to do the clean to jerks or clean to presses, but I’ll google them and check it out.

    • Hi Ada

      To make front squats easier on your wrists, use straps. You can wrap the straps around the bar and then your hands so that your wrists don’t have to be bent backwards. You can also rest the bar on the front of your shoulders and then cross your arms over so that your palms are facing the ground gripping the bar.

      Be careful with cleans. I recommend having a trainer show you any olympic lift. They are very technical and complex moves and in my opinion aren’t best taught through video. Just be careful when first attempting cleans, snatches or even jerks.

  1. Pingback: One Exercise For The Rest of Your Life | Man Bicep

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