The Only Four Exercises You Need

Updated: Mar 17

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 standard moves for the those lifts are the barbell back squat, the over head standing barbell shoulder press, the pull up and the barbell deadlift.

Of course you can mix it up from time to time, as there are plenty of variations to keep things interesting. Having those four main patterns can help you when you aren’t exactly sure to do at the gym. Just ask yourself: did I do a form of squat? A push? A press? A deadlift?

You don’t need to get fancy when it comes to training, these 4 exercises give you the best bang for your buck.


The squat

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.


1. Distance between feet and feet angle will vary from person to person slightly. For the width of the feet try to keep them no wider than shoulder width. Feet can be parallel to each other or facing slightly outwards.

2. Focus on depth first, then add weight. I can take years to hit proper depth but the results are worth it.

3. Flex your core as you go down, this will help keep your back straight and protect your spine.

4. Spread the ground with your feet, this will keep tension in your legs and hip and keep your knees aligned properly.

Favourite variations

  • Barbell front squat

  • Bulgarian split squat

  • Over head barbell squat


The 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:

  • Bench press

  • Incline bench press

  • Seated over head press

If you want a more detailed explanation, let's schedule a free assessment together so you can get a more personalized description.


The pull

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.


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 dead lift

Working a little more muscles than the squat, this exercise is a must in any training program. Best for developing strength and power, it’s a great complementary workout to the squat.


1. Keep your reps under 6. This is a personal tip, I understand some people will like to go with more rep. Keeping the reps low will work best to develop raw strength.

2. Keep your core engaged at all time to keep your back straight.

3. Smile at all times for extra points.

Favourite variations

  • The clean

  • The snatch

  • All single leg variations



These 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.

If you need help setting up a program, chat with me in person for free and we can see what the best schedule is for you.

Enjoy the gains,


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