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  • Clem Duranseaud

The Only Four Exercises You Need

Updated: Jan 5

Planning your training routine can be a little daunting with all the exercises out there. I like to keep things simple and organize my workouts around 4 main lifts: a squat, a push, a pull and a hip hinge.

My exercise selection varies according to my current goals and preferences. I like to stick to the same exercise for 4-6 months, get good at it and then change it for a similar exercise.

Each of these main lifts have many, many variations. This is good because it keeps training interesting and facilitates our exercise selection.

What matters most in an exercise program is the consistency. Jumping from one training program to another every month is not as good as sticking to the basics

Let's take a look at these four lifts more closely.

The squat

Squatting is a fantastic exercise to build leg strength

Dubbed king of all exercises, the back squat is the corner stone of any strong body. Working your legs, hips and core muscles makes it a very efficient exercise.

Favourite variations

  • Barbell back squat

  • Barbell front squat

  • Zercher squat

  • All variation of lunges and step ups

  • Split squats

On top of being a great overall exercise, it requires proper mobility at the hips and ankle as well as proper breathing mechanics to be done effectively.


The press

A barbell shoulder press

My go press exercise is the over head barbell shoulder press.

From a functionality stand point, you will get more out of this exercise than benching.

What I like most in this exercise is the core work you get out of it that you don’t get in any type of lying down exercise.


1. Keep your core engaged the whole time.

2. Focus on pushing your elbows out and up.

3. Bring the bar down to your collar bones for full range of motion.

4. Stop if your back start arching back.

Favourite variations

  • Dumbbell shoulder press

  • Barbell bench press, flat or incline

  • Dumbbell bench press, flat or incline

  • Dips

  • Landmine press


The pull

A pull up at the Canarvon park in Vancouber BC

The pull up ranks first because of it’s simplicity. You can do pull ups anywhere as long as you have something to hang from.

It can also be made easier by using bands to help you go up.


1. Explore the different variations of pull ups, there are hundreds out there. The each will work slightly different muscles but the lats will always be working.

2. Keep your reps controlled, you will get more muscle engagement that way. Try to go up in 1 or 2 counts and go down slowly, 2-3 counts.

3. Think about pulling your elbows down and back.

Favourite variations

  • Seated row

  • Bent over barbell row

  • Single arm row

  • Wide grip grip lat pull down


The hip hinge

Trap bar deadlift in the APT gym in Vancouver BC

The hip hinge includes all deadlifts variations and works slightly more hamstrings and back muscles than the squat.

If you find that deadlifting doesn't work for you, hip thrusts offer a great alternative exercise.

Favourite variations:

  • Barbell deadlift

  • Trap bar deadlift

  • Dumbbell deadlift

  • Hip thrusts

  • Single leg deadlifts

  • Barbell cleans



These four types of exercises target all major muscle groups and will make sure no stones are left unturned in your program. Keep things simple and work hard on all four.

Here are three potential workout splits according to your workout frequency.

Gym 1-2 times a week

Workout 1

A squat

A push

A pull

A deadlift

Repeat the same workout twice per week and change up the exercises every other week.

Gym 2-4 times per week

Workout 1

A squat

A pull

2 auxiliary exercises for each

Workout 2

A dead lift

A push

2 auxiliary exercises for each

Repeat these two workouts twice per week and change up the exercises every other week

Gym 4+ times per week

Focus on one main lift per workout with 3-4 auxiliary exercises for each.

Switch up the main lift every 3 weeks.

Enjoy the gains,


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