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We are getting fitness-y today with my 10 go to exercises for strength and hypertrophy, specifically.
Most people have their go to 10 exercises even though they haven’t directly identified them.
These are the exercises will likely be the most bang for your buck + exercises that you ENJOY and WORK WELL for you.
Why identify these?
Well, especially when it comes to intuitive lifting, or lifting on the fly, it’s nice to have these go to exercises in your back pocket.
When I traveled the world for a year, it was easy to throw together workouts when we’d get a gym membership or a drop in, because I know my GO TO exercises.
Here they are in short, and then I’ll break down WHY I have chosen each one as opposed to other potential exercises.
Also, I have this in an old IG post if you really want to go digging, but I’ll also tell you here, where each video was taken, IF you don’t happen to go searching for the post.
▪️Front squat (Chiang mai)
▪️Sumo dead (Budapest)
▪️Hip thrust (Arequipa)
▪️Bulgarian split squat (Budapest)
▪️B stance Romanian Deadlift (Santiago)
▫️Bench press/Push up (couldn’t find Vietnam bench video, so you get Peru)
▫️Strict press (home lol)
▫️Pull up (Burges, Belgium)
▫️Seated Row (Chiang Mai)
▫️Farmer Carry (not videoed)
🔺If available high box lateral step ups or pull up machine step downs.
I hope you can see that these are, for the most part, based around the five mother lords of movement – push, pull, squat, hinge, and carry.
Within those top ten, are then your unilateral (single arm and leg) variations of those. Which are also game for your top 10.
Starting at the top…
I chose front squat over back squats because I can personally get more out of front squats than back squats. I get a larger range of motion due to the upright chest. The pillar strength demand is intensified, and IF my low back is irritated or I am short on time, front squats are just a more comfortable option for me. And they light up my quads and glutes.
You notice that I opted for sumos over conventional dead’s. I highly enjoy both variations of dead lifts. But sumos are my preference especially while traveling. I enjoy the mobility piece of them. That’s the only thing missing in conventional for me. Though I feel anatomically I fit both positions very nicely. Some people will have a large draw to conventional or sumos based on their body’s natural ability to get into the set up position. That’s totally fine, and normal.
I just love a good hip thrust. If you want to build your glutes in the most time efficient way possible, you should be thrusting. They also work well with supersetting with other exercises for efficiency of space, time and equipment. You can use the same bar for deadlifts or RDL depending on the load, or use the bench for Bulgarian Splits Squats or step ups.
Speaking of, one of my all time, if not my all time favorite exercises is the Bulgarian Split Squat, aka Rear foot elevated split squat, aka back foot elevated split squat, RFESS, or BFESS. You get it. This is my go to single leg exercise. I can load the shit out of her, and absolute destroy my quads and glutes regardless of if I have access to literally anything else. They’re a different devil, you know? You get an oxidative response, muscle fatigue and range of motion all in one. Which is the worst, but also, like, the best.
Last up for lower body is specifically the B stance RDL – I also love a true single leg RDL. Truly I would chose a nordic ham curl but the availability of that is just not ideal and I wanted a hamstring bias at the lengthening end range. Which we get with the RDL. B stance over single leg because it takes out the demand for balance and I can load more weight.
Moving on to upper body!
Bench press and strict press of course. These are your staple, and timeless horizontal and vertical presses exercises. Barbell versions of both simply for simplicity and bang for your buck. But dumbbell variations would do the trick as well.
Pull ups – But actually chin ups because I like the bicep bias more than with pull ups. If you want to work literally your entire back and part of your front, and your arms, do pull up variations. Assisted or not, they are the king of vertical pulling. And getting stronger in pulling exercises can actually strengthen your pressing as well. So, there’s that.
Seated Row – You could also do a barbell inverted row for horizontal pulling but I just have a special love for the control and neutral grip I get with a seated row.
Last but certainly not least: the farmer carry. Straight up, grab two big ass kettlebells and walk it out. I LOVE THEM. Carries are so underrated. The cardio demand never ceases to amaze me. You get your pillar work, and grip strength all in one. They’re simply the best.
There are my personal top 10 go to exercises for structured programming or lifting on the fly.
From your GO TO’s, you should be able to throw together an efficient upper body, lower body or full body training session and ENJOY doing it. Which is the point after after all.
Depending on your season of life, you are likely not “throwing together” every workout (hopefully). But it can be beneficial to know your 10 (or so) GO TO exercises.
What are your fav compound movements that work well for you? And what larger accessory pieces do you feel + enjoy the most? Figure that out and you have your top 10.
That wraps up this quick little episode. Hope you enjoyed.
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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.
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