Y’know, it’s funny – Real World Strength is our name,
and I’ve talked at length about how we can use the movements we practice in daily life,
but I’ve never actually delineated the most important exercises to get good at.
This is assuming that you don’t compete in weightlifting or gymnastics, that you’re a regular human
who just wants to look better naked and do more stuff across the board.
Think of this as such:
If you were going to be in a war zone, what low-skill movements would be the most important to practice?
Yeah yeah, I know we spend a lot of time lifting heavy things, but let’s be real:
RUNNING IS USEFUL.
It’s the main reason the human race survived as hunter-gatherers.
You owe it to your ancestors to not suck at running.
Running is one of the best ways to develop cardiovascular conditioning at any duration –
from sprinting to build up explosiveness and kick ass on the field of sport,
all the way up to hoofing it over long distances.
Running is literally the only way to quickly go from point A to point B
(assuming you lack mechanical assistance).
If you aren’t fast, you aren’t fit.
2. Deadlift & farmer carry
Now we get into the lifting.
The deadlift builds strength from head to toe, especially all down your backside.
Farmer carry just means picking up a substantial amount of weight and moving with it.
I’m grouping in the farmer carry with the deadlift because a farmer carry starts with a deadlift.
Put another way, you could look at a deadlift as merely a zero-distance farmer carry.
If you could only do ONE exercise for total-body strength and fitness, make it the farmer carry.
It requires far more core stability and grip endurance than the deadlift alone,
while building more muscle throughout the upper body.
Of course, the deadlift is still worth doing by itself.
It is a better developer of the lower back, increases the upper limit of what you can carry,
and is perfect practice for safe lifting technique (so that when the time comes where
you have to help a buddy move furniture around you won’t throw out your back).
3. Front squat
This is the single most useful version of the squat.
By being upright and requiring shoulder strength to hold weight in place,
we’re building strength in more areas than other iterations of the squat…
along with training the quads and core to absorb and produce force
in the positions most likely to come up in sport and in life.
The front squat is the perfect lower-body complement to the farmer carry.
4. Strict press
Among upper-body exercises, nothing works more muscle through a longer range of motion
with a larger kinetic chain than the strict press.
It teaches you to brace and stabilize your entire body while pressing something overhead.
Any pushing movement gets easier as your strict press gets better.
Training this also improves your shoulder flexibility at the top and the bottom.
Like I’m really gonna omit the one exercise I’m actually good at, right?
This is the single-most-useful upper-body bodyweight movement you can do.
Climbing skills and pulling strength both benefit more from pull-ups
than from practically any other exercise.
Also, the line of action in a pull-up mirrors that of a strict press.
For balanced upper-body development, get good at both.
“But what about __________?”
Look, I’m not going to say that other movements aren’t valuable. That’d just be silly.
Plus your goals may dictate that you focus on other things, and that’s fine.
Back squats, push presses, horizontal pushing & pulling, gymnastic skills, direct core and glute work,
Olympic lifts, and mixed-modal conditioning all help round out a good training program.
Omitting these is not optimal by any means.
This is just a handful of basic, universal movements that any human would do well to improve on.
These 5 should be, collectively, the cornerstone of how you track your overall fitness in a practical sense.
Improving capacity on these movements will carry over to basically everything else, but not the other way around.