The Cornerstone Strength Exercises

During all the years I have spent training, I can’t even tell you how many different books, articles, magazines, and DVD’s  I have sifted through trying to find the best exercises and programs. Gotta look for that secret edge, ya know…Well folks, here’s what I found. No matter which way ya slice it, the traditional compound movements work the best. I’m sure its safe to say most of us have been up late night and came across infomercials that promise the latest and easiest gadget to give you that six-pack you’ve wanted for 10 years. Most, if not all of them….bullshit. Just another way to get in your pocket. The ab rocker chair, the Gazelle (that gay thing that looks like skiing in place), and best of all….wait….the shake weight. HA! You know why people, and maybe even yourself, bought these things???? Because they wanted to be lied to. That’s it in a nutshell. Well, after years of jerkin’ off to every different exercise and program under the sun, I’m gonna cut through the red tape and give you the most effective, or bang for your buck exercises out there and show you how I put it together. They are as follows:

  1. Chin-ups/ Pull-ups. Has there ever been anything invented that works your entire upper body more effectively that this old standby?? I don’t think so.
  2. Bodyweight Rows off of straps or a rope. Extremely effective for building up your upper back, grip strength, and surprisingly, your biceps.
  3. Dumbell/Barbell Military Press- go heavy on these and watch your overall strength development skyrocket.
  4. Bodyweight Squats/Progressing up to the One-legged Pistol Squat- I know it’s gonna come under scrutiny, that the barbell squat is the ultimate lower body exercise….but at what expense?? First of all, your placing a heavy-ass load on your spine and you don’t think thats not gonna cause you some problems down the road? Speaking from experience, it did for me. Also, if your an athlete, you still need to be able to run, jump, fall, dive, etc…, and I have found that people who devoted a lot of time to the barbell squat lost a lot of these qualities in the process. There’s a reason why many people involved in combat sports steer clear of loading up the barbell. 9 times out 10 is just to impress some broad at the gym, and little do they know that at the end of the day, that chick doesn’t really care about that anyway. But that’s a whole nother post. Bottom line, stick to bodyweight squats, one-legged pistols, and the glute-ham raise and you’ll be fine. You can use strongman implements when you want to work on total body strength.
  5. Glute/Ham Raise
  6. Hanging Straight Leg Raises/knees
  7. Dips- a close second to chin-ups/pull-ups for upper body development. Believe it or not, great for working the chest as well if your not interested in developing breast-like pecs from 62 sets of bench presses.
  8. Hammer Curls/Ez-Bar curls- Curls for the girls…..
  9. Push-ups/push-up variations- wide grip, close grip, regular, elevated feet, with a weighted vest, doesn’t matter. Just do ’em.
  10. Trap Bar Deadlift- Doesn’t get any more simpler that this people. Load a hex bar up with some heavy weight and lift it off the floor. The hex, or trap bar, is great because it allows you to load it up without placing all that weight on your spine. The lift with this type of bar actually turns it into a squat/Deadlift combo, with much less chance of injury to the lower back. One word. Awesome.
  11. Deadlift/Rack Deadlift- For those of you who have been hangin’ around a weight room for a significant amount of time and have the deadlifting technique down pat, I added this one on the list. Rack Deadlifts are great because you start the movement a little higher up on the body as opposed to starting on the floor, allowing you to use a significantly larger amount of weight. I added this to the list because there is something about having that amount of weight in your hands that gets the blood goin’. It does for me anyway. Before you attempt this lift, I would strongly suggest strengthening your lower back and abs. You must work these areas to protect yourself from injury on heavy Deadlifts/Rack Dead’s. Which brings us to the final exercise..
  12. Ab wheel roll-outs/Standing wheel roll-outs- You know that ab wheel with the handles that you hardly see anyone using anymore?? Ya, that one. It works great. Do yourself a favor and pick one up. Start out on your knees and work up to about twenty. Once you hit that point, try to stand up about three or four feet from the wall and extend out until the wheel hits the wall. Return. As you progress, start moving further and further from the wall. This device is great for developing lower back and core strength, along with a hidden benefit of hamstring development.

That’s it. These are the main exercises that I rotate on a regular basis. Like I said in the Intro, the whole trick to making consistent gains, while not burning out or getting injured, is to make subtle changes once you hit a training plateau. I will break this down further and give examples in the following posts.



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