If you could only perform five exercise movements for the rest of your life, which five would you do? This was the question we recently posed to twelve of the most widely respected fitness experts and strength and conditioning coaches – assuming their clients’ goals were general health, fitness and longevity (and not a specialized sport). The answers we got back were intelligent, well reasoned, and sometimes surprising. (And yes, some responses pushed the limits of just choosing five movements – but we let those slide.)
Join us this week as we outline our three part series on the top five foundational movements for health in Part 1 (Monday) and Part 2 (Wednesday). and then analyze the results in Part 3 (Friday).
Dan John has been teaching and coaching for well over thirty years. He is the former Strength Coach and Head Track and Field Coach at Juan Diego Catholic High School in Draper, Utah. Dan publishes a newsletter called Get Up, and contributes to dragondoor.com and t-nation.com, and magazines like Men’s Health and Outside.
Farmer Walks: It’s the one stop answer to any and all fitness questions. I would put “Hill Sprints” in here, too, but some people can’t sprint any more. I once did 165 in each hand with a really thin handle and went for several laps at a Highland Games. I thought I was going to die and I never asked the idiotic question “what muscle does that work?” (For other variations of loaded carries, see this Dan John article on T-Nation.)
Goblet Squats: Yep, I invented them and, yes, you should do them. A corrective that can build strength, mobility and flexibility or a strength move that can correct. (For the full description, read this article.)
Swings (Or a deadlift variation): You need to hinge. You need to hinge either for high reps or high load.
One Arm TRX Rows with the Feet Together: it’s your one stop shop for planking, upper body asymmetry questions and abdominal wall work. Enjoy.
One Arm Press: if I could do ONLY one lift, it would be this. I wrote a long piece on this not long ago. Read it.
Eric Cressey is president and co-founder of Cressey Performance, just outside of Boston, MA. Cressey is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and received his Master’s Degree in Kinesiology from the University of Connecticut. He has authored over 200 published articles.
A Lunge Variation: We spend a good chunk of our lives in single-leg stance, so it’s important to train stability this way.
A Deadlift Variation: People get hurt picking things up all the time, and these exercises are a great way to get started on prevention by teaching proper lifting technique and building sufficient strength.
A 1-arm Row Variation: Most folks spend too much time hunched over a computer, and incorporating rowing variations can help to improve posture. Using a 1-arm variation helps to build a bit more thoracic mobility in the process, too.
High Knee Walk to Spiderman with Hip Lift and Overhead Reach: This one is somewhat of a “catch-all” mobility drill. (You can see an example here.)
An Anti-Rotation Chop Variation: These are great ways to build rotary core stability and help maintain hip mobility. (Example here.)
Rob MacDonald (“Maximus”)
Rob MacDonald is the General Manager and Training Director of Gym Jones, and a former professional MMA figher with the UFC. He is a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Shah Franco (Sylvio Behring lineage), and the current Ring of Fire light heavyweight World Champion.
Overhead Squat: You can have strong legs, but if the “core” is weak you cannot apply that strength in a sport or real world application. Nothing sorts out your “core” more than putting a weight overhead.
Turkish Get-Up: A whole body movement that teaches balance, coordination, and body awareness. It also gives the shoulder a lot of time under tension in which it has to stabilize the weight in various positions. This adds an important injury proofing dimension to the exercise. They can be done heavy to develop strength and also be done light on a recovery day.
Deadlift: If you want to get strong pick up a heavy weight. They can also be done light for form and can serve to strengthen the “core” and the posterior chain. One of my favorite exercises for developing raw strength and for correcting postural issues.
Front Squat: A great exercise for developing leg strength that places far greater emphasis on “core” stability than the back squat and also carries with it a far less risk of injury. There is a lot of truth in the statement “everybody needs to squat more”.
Airdyne: A low impact cardiovascular tool which utilizes quadrupedal movement therefore sending the oxygen demand created by the body through the roof. One of the best all around conditioning tools I’ve come across. It’s not just a bike for senior citizens. People around here call it “Satan’s tricycle”.
Michael Rutherford (“Coach Rut”)
Michael Rutherford has over a quarter century of fitness coaching experience. His experiences include working with competitors from the ranks of international, Olympic, collegiate, high school, middle school and elementary school aged athletes. Coach Rut has also worked in hospital wellness environments and rehabilitation clinics.
Push: Visualize standing upright. Now any angle from hands supine at the sides to arms extended overhead. Just PUSH.
Pull: Same as a push. Any angle from hands supine at the sides to arms extended overhead. PULL! From a lifelong perspective a 90 degree horizontal pull is very healthy.
Ground-to-Overhead: Pulling a load from the ground and then placing it over the head is the essence of a functional movement pattern.
Three-Point Lunge: Stability, mobility and strength in a unilateral movement pattern. (Refer to this video example.)
Weighted Swing: So simple, primal, and versatile. Trains and reinforces hip function. Can also serve as a metabolic conditioning move.
James Fitzgerald (“OPT”)
James is the founder of OPT and a full time husband, father and fitness athlete. His 16+ years of experience and service as a strength coach/technician, tireless practice on refining energy system work, nutritional and lifestyle balancing techniques and training of other coaches has made OPT a sought after method of bringing fitness to a Higher Order.
Loaded Step-Up: Single leg manages imbalances and still gets glute and VMO work, postural and balance takes a role in it.
Turkish Get-Up: Involves sit up, co-ordination, single arm, single leg, scapular work in open and closed chain, loads changes conditioning and purpose.
Running: We’ve been doing it for a long time, why change it? Involves rotation, postural work over longer times, and posterior chain work over short times.
Broad jumps: This explosive movement is engrained in us. Features full body extension and athleticism.
Push-Up/Plank/FLR: Features scapular stability, upper body endurance and midline support. (FLR - picture courtesy of Gym Jones.)
Dallas Hartwig has been a strength and conditioning coach and licensed physical therapist for more than ten years. He is one half of Whole9, and most recently authored the book It Starts With Food, to be released in June 2012. He is an RKC certified kettlebell instructor and holds numerous fitness and nutrition certifications.
Turkish Get-Up: If there’s one truly “full body” exercise, it’s the TGU. Stabilizing weight overhead while shifting one’s body position beneath the weight develops key stabilizing muscles and addresses often underdeveloped unilateral strength. Getting up from the ground is a fundamentally human pattern, and is totally scalable for lifelong strength and functional mobility. Light TGUs are also excellent for recovery.
Man-Maker: Man-makers include components of an upper body push and pull, multi-planar trunk stability, and the ability to scale from heavy to very light, depending on the desired training effect. Man-makers have it all – full-body strength, a beefed-up core, cardiovascular conditioning, and a tough-sounding name. Unfortunately, the Gym Jones man-maker page gives us a 404 error, but here’s a Mountain Athlete video demonstrating the basic idea.
Power Clean + Push-Press: Picking up something heavy fast drives profound physical adaptation. Power clean and push-press develops explosive hip and leg power, tremendous trunk strength, and builds the ability to put heavy objects overhead. This movement will pay huge dividends in many areas of life and sport.
Airdyne: While it may look like your Grandma’s exercise bike, the Airdyne has the ability to humble elite athletes – but is still totally appropriate for your Gram. High-intensity intervals, all-out efforts, or long conditioning recovery sessions – “Satan’s Tricycle” does them all well.
Weighted Carry: There are many variations on this theme: farmer’s walks, sandbag carries, waiter’s walks, rucksack hikes, or an Inman mile. Few movements are more universally useful than carrying something while walking, and simply carrying something heavy for distance can be startlingly challenging. Go light or heavy, long or short, uphill or over uneven surfaces… just pick something up and go.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series on Wednesday, featuring Krista Scott-Dixon, Greg Everett, Eva Twardokens, Keith Norris, Jen Sinkler, and Clif Harski.
Header image credit: Joe Petrusky