Mastering the Basics: What exercises should I use in my workouts?

A few days ago, I addressed the topic of a Total Body focused workout routine vs. a bodybuilding type of program (where you're splitting your training days by body part).

You can watch the video above (Please subscribe!!)

Anyhow, I said I would provide a basic template on how to make sure your workouts are effective, efficient and balanced. So here it goes!

First thing is first.. warm up properly and intentionally. You not only want to get your body warm and raise your heart rate a bit but you need to prime your body for the movements and exercises you're about to do. I'll create another blog post about how to prime your body for specific movements. For example, if you were warming up for back squats, your glutes and hips need some serious mobilization and activation (among some other important elements). So that means I wouldn't do 100 jumping jacks to simply get my heart rate up and then head over to my first set of back squats, ya dig?

Remember what I said in the video? Master the Basics. 

  • Push
  • Pull
  • Squat
  • Hip Hinge
  • * Single leg work

There is a TON of variability within those categories. I'll touch on a few options for each but by no means is my list exclusive (far from it). Remember, we're focusing on getting REALLY good at the basics before we get fancy. 

Push - Vertically, horizontally and at various angles. Push ups (various angles), over head pressing, bench press, etc. 

Pull - Vertically, horizontally and at various angles. Pull ups, chin ups, inverted rows, bent over rows, etc. 

Squat - Movements with a lot of hip and knee flexion (bending). Back squat, front squat, goblet squat, etc. 

Hip Hinge - Movements with a lot of hip flexion (some knee flexion) and a focus on your back side (glutes and hammies). Deadlifts, RDLs, kettlebell swings, glute bridges, hip thrusts, etc. 

*Single Leg Work - Step ups, lunge variations, split squats, single leg RDL's, etc. I think this is often neglected in many people's movement pool. It's very important to be strong on each leg and to address any imbalances. Sprinkle single leg work once per week as one of your main strength movements. 

Those 4 categories should make up the majority of your training. As I mentioned, there is nothing wrong with some isolation and accessory work. In fact, I encourage you to add some in to build up your weaknesses but always have the compound (multi-joint) movements as a priority. 

All of those basic movement patterns above can be performed using barbells, dumbbells, kettle bells, sandbags, resistance bands etc. The list goes on. 

What to do next?

Choose somewhere between 3 and 6 movements from those categories above (we need a mix and balance) that you will use for your training that day.

I always recommend having 1 or 2 main lifts to focus on developing your pure strength. This means using moderate to heavy weight, 2-4 sets of 6-12 repetitions and resting in between your sets. Don't get too caught up on the numbers.. challenge yourself with some weight while maintaining great form and positions. 

Then you can use a few other movements to make the workout well rounded. These movements could include some direct core work (rotational and/or anti-rotational exercises)

Here is a sample day:

You main lifts could be deadlifts (4 sets of 6, adding weight each time) and push presses (4 sets of 6, adding weight each time).

Then you could do a circuit type of workout where you execute the exercises and their assigned repetitions with minimal to no rest. 

Let's say you would do 4 rounds of: 20 single arm Russian kettlebell swings (10 each), 16 step ups, 12 Inverted rows on a pair of rings or TRX and 10 burpees. 

Above is just a sample of what a total body workout looks like - it has a variety and balance of pushing, pulling, squatting and hip hinge.

And every workout doesn't need to have a movement from each category. Some days can be more upper body focused or lower body focused... you could even do a pulling focused day and a pushing focused day. The main take away is that over the course of the week you want a healthy and challenging balance.

If you don't know how to perform an exercise properly (or even if you THINK you know), all of the trainers at SPSC Crossfit are experts in teaching people how to move well. Hell, maybe you don't want to think about ANYTHING and you just want to get an effective workout in... we will handle it all! 

We offer private training in addition to group training - a little something for everyone. Click here to get started with us. 

Keep it simple, keep it smart and effective. Train to support your goals. 

Be The Pelican.

-Nicole Race, Co-Owner St. Pete Strength and Conditioning, home of SPSC Crossfit 

nicole@spscgym.com