The Only 4 Exercises You Need to Build a Rock-Solid Physique
This is simplicity in its greatest form! I've included 6 exercises in this list with 4 overarching ways of moving. These 4 moves, when combined together regularly, are the only exercises you’ll need to really push the boundaries on your fitness abilities and develop a rock-solid body. This post is made for the exercisers that like consistency with their workouts, as well as a fast way to view and achieve progress. I'll be explaining how to do these movements, and why they are important. The 4 movements consist of:
An Upper-Body Push
An Upper-Body Pull
A Lower-Body Push
A Lower-Body Pull
Upper-Body Push: Push-up and Dip
An Upper-body push utilizes the front part of your upper body (chest and shoulders) and the back part of your arms (triceps).
Everybody, for better or worse, has tried to do push-ups before! Incredibly functional move, helping you get up and down off the floor.
For the starting position of the push-up, imagine that you’re grabbing a steel bar with your hands in front of you and you want to bend the bar so that your hands are facing eachother. You need to push down your shoulders while engaging your lats and chest. Now do the same thing, but this time, place your hands on the ground. This is how you should be engaging your upper-body to get the most out of this movement. Place your hands about shoulder width apart. Tighten your abs to keep your whole body straight, like a piece of wood. Descend to the ground with your chest while keeping your elbows close to your body. While keeping your body totally straight, press against the ground until your arms are straight. That’s one push-up.
A dip is a more challenging pushing move, so don’t expect to do as many as push-ups. To do a dip, place your hands on the dip bars at equal distance. Jump up so that your arms are totally straight and your body is completely off the ground. Tighten your core so that your upper body is straight. Keeping your elbows close to your body, lower yourself down until your arms are at a 90 degree angle. Finally, push against the bars until your arms are straight. That’s one dip.
Upper-Body Pull: Pull-up and Row
An Upper-body pull utilizes the back of your upper body (back and rear shoulders) and the front part of your arms (biceps).
As described above, you will need to “bend the steel bar” by pulling your shoulders down and tightening your lats.
Pull-ups are one of the most challenging exercises, because it requires so much upper-body strength. But, there are a few substitutes to build your muscles for the movement if you’re not able to do one yet. If you tie a resistance band around your pull-up bar, you can use it to take some weight off of your pull-ups. Here’s a good video that explains how to do them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yqudG7vnow. Another great substitute is a lat pulldown machine, which works very similar muscles as the pull-up and you can precisely add or remove weight as needed.
If you’re ready for a standard pull-up, find a bar that you need to jump to grab so you can extend your legs while you hang. Place your hands a little wider than shoulder width apart. Tighten your core throughout the movement. As you begin to pull up, make sure your elbows are flared outward so that you’re primarily using your back and not your biceps. Get your chin above the top of the bar, then slowly bring yourself down until your arms are at a complete hang. That’s one pull-up.
The bent over row is also an upper-body pull move. I'm describing the lawnmower, which is a one-armed row. Place your left leg in front of your left with a wide stance. Lean your upper-body forward until you're almost parallel with the floor. Place your left elbow on your left knee. Grab the dumbbell with your right hand. While keeping your elbow close to your body, pull the weight backwards. Then, while still in control of the weight, bring the weight back down to straighten your arm.
Lower-Body Push: Squat
Squats are primarily focused on building strength the front part of your hips and the front part of your legs (quadriceps), but when done at a high intensity and/or with heavy weight, the squat is a full-body exercise.
Have you ever been to a porta-potty with a certain smell and look that gave you the heebie jeebies? You’re definitely not sitting on that toilet, you’re gonna need to hover. Now you’re doing the squat!
Place your feet about shoulder width apart with your feet facing straight in front of you. Now, press back on your heels as you push your butt backwards. While pushing your butt back, keep your upper-body almost straight up and down in the air as you would be standing. After pressing your butt backwards, press your butt downwards towards the floor. Hold this position for a second, then press from your legs and get back into a standing position. That’s one squat.
Lower-Body Pull: Deadlift
The deadlift focuses primarily on working the back part of your hips (the butt) and the back part of your legs (hamstrings). When heavy weight is used, this is also an upper-back exercise (traps and shoulder-blades).
Jump in the air as high as you can. Practice jumping 3 or 4 times as high as possible to get a feel for where you should be placing your feet, how low to get down before springing upward, and what parts of your body are moving in what directions. Now, get down to jump up in the air again, but this time, right before you push against your legs and explode up into the air, stop at the bottom position of your jump. This is the perfect starting position of your deadlift!
Notice how your body leans forward, your upper body is straight, your lower-back is flexed, and your legs are partially bent. Keep your gaze on the ground about 3 feet in front of you. Now, take your weight so close to your body that it actually touches your shin. From here, you’re going to start to lean your upper-body backwards until you’re standing up straight. That’s one deadlift. The most important part of this move is working to get your upper body parallel with the ground at the body of the movement, and perpendicular with the ground at the top of the movement.
Those are the 4 movements. If you just performed these exercises exclusively for a year and gained mastery of them (increasing weight, increasing speed, increasing proper form, increasing coordination, etc.), you would create a rock-solid foundation for yourself. It would also prepare you for almost any other type of athletics.
You might be asking a few questions:
What about cardio? What about abs? Why do most dogs bark aggressively as you walk towards the door but then have no intention of really protecting the house and flop onto their belly to let you pet them? Here, I’ll be addressing the first 2.
Anytime you increase your heart rate through movement, you are building your cardio. If you perform these movements at a high-intensity and work till muscle failure (you can’t do another rep), take a look at how high your heart rate is. Strength training can be a great way to build cardio. But, if you want an added bonus of extra cardio, as soon as you’re finished with one exercise move straight onto the next one with no breaks. This can be performed in a circuit style, and is one of the fundamental ways I help my clients with weight loss and muscle gain.
And what about abs? None of these movements directly work your abs, but with all of them, your abs and your core are used to incredible degrees. All of these movements require you to tighten your core and use it as a point of strength, balance, and keeping proper form. These moves will develop your core strength.
The way I’ve described and shown you how to perform these exercises is just the most typical way of doing them. But you can add so much variation to these moves, you can create infinite combinations of workouts that will challenge you and help you grow for years. Increase or decrease the distance between your legs; increase or decrease the distance between your arms; pull primarily with your bicep, shoulder, or back; push primarily with your tricep, shoulder, or chest; add bands to increase or decrease the difficulty; increase range of motion; decrease range of motion; change the angle of work; change the intensity, the reps, the sets, the rest, or the order the movements are performed.
If you're interested in learning these and many more movements to achieve your fitness goals, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 240-380-8022.