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The Only 4 Exercises You Need

The Only 4 Exercises You Need

By Bobby Jackson

The gym can be a very complicated place. With so many different types of equipment, and the constant evolution of equipment technology, it’s almost impossible to understand it all. Not just simply how to use everything but if/when you should be incorporating certain pieces into your workouts. Luckily, our muscular anatomy and biomechanics remain constant. Once we truly understand the basics of how our body moves (the interactions between our muscles and joints) it’s much easier to structure effective workout programs. This article will lay out the 4 most efficient yet simple exercises that can transform your entire body.

  1. Squats

As a strength and conditioning specialist, I often hear that clients experience discomfort in the knees, hips, and/or back while performing squats. This discomfort usually ends up causing the client to completely avoid using the exercise. However, the discomfort tends to be caused by one of two easily fixable things, improper form or simply using too much weight. Once our form has been tweaked, and the right amount of weight is being used, this is an extremely efficient exercise as it targets the major muscles of the legs, hips, and back simultaneously.

  1. Deadlifts

Even simpler than squats is the deadlift exercise. The entire movement of a deadlift is to pick up a weighted bar off of the floor in front of you, lift it into a standing position with your arms straight down, and then lower it back down to the floor. With such simplicity, deadlifting is one of the most compound, multi-joint exercises possible. Starting in the hands, deadlifting targets the forearms, biceps, shoulders, traps, lats, core, hips, and legs. Due to how compound the deadlift is, and it’s emphasis on the back and hips, it requires excellent spinal alignment. Similar to the squat, our form on the deadlift should be very good before adding a significant amount of weight to it.

  1. Pull-Ups

The pull-up (palms away) and chin-up (palms towards) are the kings of the upper body exercises. Unfortunately, due to the difficulty of lifting our entire body weight up off of the ground, they are not often used.  Luckily, there is a common variation that gives us the same range of motion but allows us to lighten the load, the Lat Pull-Down. The Lat Pull-Down is typically done in a seated position with the hands pulling some type of handle or bar down towards our head. Regardless of which variation you use, the portion of the movement we should focus on is not where the hands are in relation to our head but pulling the elbows towards the hips. This emphasizes the activation of the lats (under the armpits), which are the largest muscles in our upper body.

  1. Dips

Our final exercise, dips, gives us a thorough breakdown of our chest and triceps. However, similarly to pull-ups with an issue of difficulty, there are some variations that give us the same range of motion but allow us to lighten the load. Decline bench/dumbbell press gives us the same low (angled towards our hips) pressing movement. This emphasizes activation of the lower chest as well as the triceps during elbow extension.

These 4 exercises are some of the oldest, most simple, yet unbelievably effective movements we can possibly do in the gym. These movements and their variations are the fundamental building blocks of almost every professional athlete’s training program. The athletic foundation that they build, and their ability to completely transform our bodies is unbeatable. Just remember, when working these movements into your own routine, you must start by mastering the correct form before any significant weight should be added. However, once proper form is achieved consistently, and the foundation is built, the sky’s the limit.

the only 4 exercises you need

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