Do you even lift Bro?
Resistance training is one of the best ways to increase strength, increase skeletal muscle, and decrease body fat. These improvements lead to tremendous health and quality of life benefits including but not limited to: better sleep, improved self image, more stamina, better balance, and decreased risk of injury. These are benefits that everyone should enjoy, however, not everyone chooses to.
According to a 2008 Gallup poll, 59% of Americans claim to regularly engage in moderate exercise, while only 15% of Americans report doing regular weight training. This means that roughly 45% of Americans regularly exercise but include no resistance training, and a full 85% of Americans do no regular resistance training. A full 85% of Americans are missing out on the benefits they might enjoy by adding resistance training to their weekly schedule!
So why is this the case? I'm sure there are a lot of contributing factors. Lack of access to weights, intimidation, and confusion over where to start surely play a role. The purpose of this article is to put forward a simplified approach to resistance training that will encourage people to overcome these obstacles.
This method of exercise simplifies things by breaking a workout into five basic movements. The movements are: upper body push, upper body pull, Core, lower body push (squat), and hip hinge (posterior chain). There are literally thousands of variations of lifts that can be implemented for each different movement. I like to work one variation for a month or two then change it up.
Upper Body Push
Anything that requires you to push something away from your body qualifies as an upper body push movement. Some variations will be pushing in front of your chest, while some will require pushing things above your head or below your chest.
Basic Exercises: Push-up, dips, bench press, overhead press
Upper Body Pull
The functional opposite of the upper body push, this movement requires that you use your arms to pull something toward your body (or your body toward something). Again this movement could be executed directly in front of your chest, above your shoulders, or below your chest.
Basic Exercises: Pull-up, bent row, 1-arm row, high pull
Core movements are the basics of every other type of movement we do. As such, the core abdominal muscles are actually being worked during every other type of movement. However, it is certainly important, for many reasons, to train these muscles as a group. I sub-divide core exercises into strengthening and stability exercises. Strengthening movements will improve strength through a range of motion, while stability exercises help develop anti-movement. Anti movement is simply the ability to hold still while resisting against outside forces (including gravity).
Basic Strengthening Exercises: Sit-ups, crunches, reverse crunches, leg raises
Basic Anti-movement Exercises: Planks, V-sit hold, L-sit
Lower Body Push (Squat)
Lower body push is any movement requiring you to use your legs to push something away from your body. I would subdivide this movement into squat movements and lunge movements. There are literally thousands of variations for each so I will just name some of my favorites
Basic Squat Exercises: Body weight squat, kettlebell goblet squat, one legged squat (aka pistols), overhead squat
Basic Lunge Exercises: Body weight lunge, 2-dumbbell lunge, overhead lunge, kettlebell lunge and twist
Hip Hinge (Posterior Chain)
The hip hinge is a somewhat controversial movement because some people worry it exposes lifters to unnecessary risk of injury. However, when done correctly this type of movement has the potential to revolutionize your training! The hip hinge strengthens the entire posterior chain including upper and lower back, trapezius, qlutes, hamstrings, and even calves. If you have never trained this type of movement please be very careful and start light. Below is a short Youtube video explaining the movement.
Kettlebells are by far the easiest and most cost effective way to implement this type of movement in your training. If you have never trained the hip hinge, I would start with the kettlebell deadlift and progress to the kettlebell swing. I've looked all over, and Amazon.com seems to have the best prices on kettlebells.
There are a number of other exercises I would consider hip hinge/posterior chain movements: Cleans, snatches, good-mornings, Romanian deadlifts. All of these can be executed using a kettlebell, barbell, or dumbbell.
This method of programming my resistance training has worked well for me, and I hope it will work well for you. It's simple and versatile enough that, with a little creativity, you could exercise forever using only this framework. If you were intimidated by resistance training before, I hope this simplified program will give you the confidence to give it a try!