Train movements not muscles

If you’re new to the gym then knowing what to do can be confusing.  The gym is full of benches, machines, plates, bars, dumbbells and loads of other equipment that you’re not sure how to use.  Or you might go to the gym on a regular basis, but end up doing the same workout you saw in last years Mens Health magazine.  You do the same exercises, in the same order, using the same weight.  And it’s no wonder why you see no results.

There is a lot of free information in magazines and online.  Programmes, celebrity workouts, new exercises, training splits and articles claiming ‘the best workout' leads to not knowing what will be the best approach for you.  While it's great to have so much free information many fads and faddy exercises become popular and people can waste a lot of time on exercises that aren’t effective.  Also some of these programmes aren't practical.  ‘Bro’ training splits focus on working specific muscles on specific days which requires you to be in the gym 6 days a week.  If you miss a day or two, then you risk results.  


Adherence is the most important thing when it comes to training.  If you don't go to the gym, then the best programme means nothing.  That’s why training needs to be simple and effective.  When it's simple you're more likely to train, which leads to consistency which will get you results.  The template I’m going to share today is really simple.  Instead of focusing on specific muscle groups on specific days, you focus on 5 key movements every time you go to the gym.  This template was popularised by Strength and Conditioning coach, Dan John.  These are 5 movements all humans should be able to execute without pain, and which transfer over into everyday life.  If you can perform these movements correctly using bodyweight, then under load you will build a stronger body that will last a lifetime.

The 5 movements are:

  1. Push 
  2. Pull
  3. Hinge
  4. Squat
  5. Loaded Carry

Simply choose an exercise from each category and perform it every time you go to the gym.  It doesn’t have to be in this order (although I would include loaded carry last) If you go to the gym 2 to 3 times a week then this is great, as if you miss a day you simply perform all movement patterns next time you're in the gym.  Hitting each movement will help build muscle, burn fat and the body will become more balanced which will improve posture and prevent possible injuries down the line.

Here are some exercises from each movement category.

  • Push. Bench press variations, push ups (weighted, or elevated) , military press variations, floor press variations, land mine presses.
  • Pull. Bent over row variations, chest supported row variations, TRX back row, inverted row, single arm row, chin and pull up variations, lat pull down (different grips)  

side note:  you can split pulling into horizontal and vertical pulling movements.  Horizontal movements retract the shoulder blades which will help to improve posture and muscle imbalances.

  • Hinge. Deadlift variations, (barbells, dumbbells, partial range, different stances and equipment) (Romanian deadlift) hip thrust variations, glute bridges, back extension, reverse hypers, pull throughs.
  • Squat. Squat variations (barbells, dumbbells, partial range, different stances and equipment) lunge variations (step ups, split squats, walking lunges)
  • Loaded Carry. Farmers Walk variations, Sled and prowler variations, walking lunges

Dr. John Rusin has taken this a step further and encourages 6 Foundational movement patters we must all do.  Click the link to read a great article. 

Now you have some exercises for each movement category you might be wondering how you structure them into a session?  

There are many ways to structure a session and this depends on your lifestyle, goals, limitations, and muscle imbalances .  If you’re interested in a training programme that's specific to you, and will get you real results then hit me up.  Or keep a look out for next weeks blog where I break down a session into 5 stages that will help you lift heavy to build muscle, scorch body fat and prevent injuries.  These 5 stages will prime the body ready for action, and keep you in the gym for the long term.  

Here is an example training split for someone that goes to the gym twice a week.  

Full Body A

Barbell Deadlift 4 sets x 6 reps (hinge)

DB floor press 3 sets x 12 reps (push)

Bulgarian split squat 3 sets x10 reps/each leg (squat)

Cable row 4 sets x 12 reps (pull)

Single arm farmers walk 3 sets x 30 sec/side (loaded carry)


Full Body B

Zercher Squat 4 sets x 6 reps (squat)

If you are unable to perform a zercher squat do a goblet squat

 DB chest supported row 3 sets x 12 reps (pull)

DB RDL 3 sets x 12 reps (hinge)

Incline DB Bench press 3 sets x 10 reps (push)

DB farmers Walk 3 sets x 30 sec/side (loaded carry)

As I wanted to make this as simple as possible these sessions are in their simplest form.  A common structure that I followed is to start the session with a main lift.  This is the time you are warm up and primed to lift as heavy as possible.  The remaining exercises are your accessory exercises, and can be performed as a superset or in a circuit fashion.   

I hope this helps?  And you can see training doesn't have to be complicated.  In fact the best results will come from the simplicity of a programme.  New exercises come and go, and there is a reason barbells, dumbbells and a group of key exercises have been around for a lifetime.

E mail me if you would like to know more or are unsure of some of the exercises in each category.  Have a look for next weeks blog on how to structure a session, and next time you go to the gym train movements not muscles.