Did you answer pull-ups, push-ups, and jump squats? Eh, I guess it depends on your goal, because if I had no gym equipment, those would be my top three bodyweight movements. I guess it also depends on what you’re trying to achieve. For this article though, my top goals are fat loss, muscle hypertrophy, and an increase in strength and power.
Here are my top 3 exercise choices for those goals:
1) Barbell Clean and Press
If you’re in a commercial gym, how often do you see someone performing this movement? Not that frequently I bet and that’s a shame. This is by far one of the best exercises for fat loss, power, strength, and muscle hypertrophy. Not to mention the increase in efficient nerve impulses, coordination, mobility, and acceleration. You work your entire body during this lift: from the calves, quads, hamstrings, hips, and glutes to deadlift the weight from the floor, to your core, rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis for stabilization, to the extensors of the lower lumbar spine, to the lats, rhomboids, traps, and rear delts, to your chest, shoulders, bis, and tris for the press. This is a full-body movement. Don’t think this’ll work for your fat loss goals? Perform 10 sets of 10 reps while increasing weight on each set, keeping your rest period under 60 seconds between each set, and I bet it’ll rival any type of cardio class you ever took.
2) Barbell Squat
Think this is just a lower body movement? Wrong. Squats primarily work the muscles of the thighs and buttocks, such as the calves, quads, hamstrings, and glutes, but just like the clean and press, the muscles of the lower lumbar spine and core are all VERY involved in the squat movement. Trying to improve upper body mass? Yeah, the squat may not be your best bet, but you are making a bad decision leaving it out of your top exercises to perform. Ever squat heavy, and then two days later say, “Man, my abs are SORE.” Yeah, that was from the squats. You should always perform squats with a FULL RANGE OF MOTION. Meaning, the hamstrings should touch the calves at the bottom portion of the movement, or what we like to call “ass to grass”. Consistently squatting with poor form or doing partial squats will increase your likelihood of developing injuries, having knee problems, and decreasing your flexibility.
You knew this one was coming right? It’ll be very hard for you to find anyone that wouldn’t include the deadlift in their TOP exercises for increasing strength, power, and overall muscle mass. This is a FULL BODY movement, which can’t really be said about the squat. You work hundreds of muscles during this exercise. It’s no wonder you feel completely exhausted after performing just 4-5 heavy sets of these buggers. Have you ever noticed that some of the most grueling and affective fat loss and conditioning circuits all include the deadlift within their program? That is no coincidence. You can get shredded by performing deadlifts three times per week. Believe me, I’ve done it. If I were given the scenario of only being able to perform ONE exercise for the rest of my life… it would be this one right here; the deadlift.
Remember, as with any exercise, these must be learned correctly and performed correctly. Attempting to perform these exercises without learning proper form will highly increase your risk of getting injured. In my opinion, these are all contraindicated movements. Learn the form first before adding weight. And once you learn the form and it is perfected, start with lighter weights before you move toward the heavy end.
Train hard and train smart.