LAST week we talked about exercise from the standpoint of what a week might look like. This week we’ll talk about it from the point of view of what a single workout might look like.

But without actually just writing a program, and especially without video to help explain exercises, this is awkward.

So what I’m going to do is suggest the six major types of movement patterns, and exercises that can be used to train them, some of which should be included in a strength training workout routine.

For most people it would be a good idea to include one or two exercises from each heading and perform them a couple of times a week as part of their strength training routine.

Push

Pushing work should include some form of horizontal push (like a bench press, push up, floor press or machine chest press) and some form of vertical push (like a shoulder press using a machine or free weights). Pushing could also include other angles like dips or incline bench/chest press.

Pull

Just like pushing, pulling work should include some horizontal pulling (like single arm rows, machine row, inverted row or cable rows) and some vertical pulling (like pull ups or lat pulldown). It’s really easy to end up doing more pushing that pulling work so REALLY make sure to get these in, maybe even doing slightly more pulling than pushing exercises.

Squat

Squatting variations include body weight or goblet squats and squatting with a barbell but also variations like leg presses, hack squats (depending on the equipment available to you) and split squats.

Lunging

The three main lunge patterns I would use with clients would be reverse lunges, walking lunges or step ups.

Hinge

Hinge exercises I would suggest include deadlifts, stiff leg deadlifts, single leg deadlifts, good mornings and hip thrusts.

Carry

Carrying heavy loads is fantastic strength and core training but is hard to sell people on because holding heavy weights and walking up and down the gym for as long as possible without stopping isn’t glamorous enough to be effective in their heads. Simple variations include farmer’s carry and single arm farmer’s carry.

Of course, you don’t have to pick your exercises yourself, you can probably speak to the instructor in your gym and get a basic program written for you or contact a trainer like myself if you want something more detailed. There are no exercises that you must do but something from each of the headings above would probably be a good idea (so if you hate push ups try a floor press instead, hate back squats try leg press etc.). The list of variations above is by no means exhaustive, the ones listed are just the ones I find most useful for my client base.

Progression

Someone told me “progression” will probably be on my tombstone one day. I must go on about it a lot! It’s really important though. Personally, I think most of your workouts should be made up of the exercises listed above but even if you don’t agree on that please make sure the exercises you do pick are such that they have ways you can actively pursue being better at them and then actually do that!

If a person does 10,10,10 shoulder press using 3kg today then the next day they should be trying for 11,10,10 or maybe 10,10,10,10 or even 8,8,8 with slightly more weight (then 9,9,9 the next day then 10,10,10 and then increase load again…) or whatever pattern makes sense. Just actively push to do a little bit better than the last day.

This is how weight training works. There should almost always be some little bit of progress. Far too many people are stuck because they just go through motions (or because they chose needlessly complicated or flashy exercises that have no way to actively progress them).

The changes day to day might seem really small but as they add up over months or even years it’s the active pursuit to DO better that will help your body BE better.