12 Exercises That EVERYONE Should Have In Their Program!

There are optional exercises and then there are exercises that everyone should have in their program. In this video, I’m going to go over the 12 Exercises that EVERYONE Should Have in Their Program to build the most muscle and a strong body that is resilient to injury. You may find that you are doing many of these exercises, but are you doing them all? Unless there is a physical limitation preventing you from performing them, I believe they are must-do movements that need to be in your workout plan.

Even in the instance of a nagging pain getting in the way of you performing the exercise, I’m going to show you a variation that should help you to overcome this issue and put you back on track to doing every one of these dozen best exercises.

When putting together an exercise list like this it is important to not only select the movements that are most effective for building bigger stronger bodies, but to make sure that these exercises are complimenting each other as well. There is no need to select five different versions of a bench press since doing so will only lead to major muscle imbalances and an unbalanced muscular development. Here we hit all three planes of motion as well as the all important corrective exercises to make sure no stone is left unturned along the way to making the best exercise selections.

We start with the king of all lower body exercises, the squat.

There is nothing more fundamental when it comes to movement patterns of the legs, hips and glutes than the squat. That said, sometimes people can experience an aggravation of low back and knee pain with the exercise. Beyond learning the proper mechanics on the squat you do have an option to switch to an alternative version to alleviate your discomfort. The bulgarian split squat will help offset back pain while box squats will dramatically decrease knee stress.

The deadlift is the twin king of the lower body, this time focused on the posterior chain muscles more effectively. Once again, it’s the movement pattern that is critical far more than the exact version of the exercise you perform. The hinge movement is one of the most fundamental to all human performance. Learning it is going to protect your lower back. If pulling from the floor is still too challenging however, simply switch to a mat elevated or trap bar variation to keep the gains coming without the pains.

The bench press is the main upper body pressing exercise you should be doing, at least in the horizontal plane. It involves the chest, shoulders and triceps to a great degree and gives you the opportunity to load up as able to build up not only your muscle size but your strength as well. Here again however, the exercise can be troublesome for some with shoulder issues. If this is the case for you, switch to a slowed down dumbbell press and most of your issues will decrease significantly as stability is restored to the press.

Pullups are not only one of my favorite bodyweight back exercises, they are one of my favorite back exercises – period. Of course, here again the loading options are many. If you find that you can do too many reps with your own bodyweight you can easily load some weight around your waist and make this a weighted pullup for more gains. Likewise, using a band can help offload some of your bodyweight making an assisted pullup possible for all.

Facepulls and banded external rotation are two critical exercises that sometimes elude the common exercise routine. Don’t make this mistake. They are just as important to the overall health of your joints while strengthening the weak points that undermine your performance on the bigger lifts.

Pushups belong on this list. Period. Just make sure that you’re doing the right kind of pushup. What I mean is, make sure that you are doing a variation that is challenging to you. Continuing to rep out 30,40 or even 50 reps in a set is not doing enough to increase your strength on the exercise since you can already do lots of reps. Pick a harder version to challenge your body and force new growth.

Of course, other exercises make this list as well. Lunges, Rows, and direct arm exercises like barbell curls and triceps extensions are all key exercises that should be included in every program. Watch the video for a detailed breakdown of why.

If you’re looking for a complete workout plan that has all of these must-do exercises in them, be sure to head to athleanx.com via the link below and use the program selector to find the program that best matches your current goals.

If you’re looking for more videos on the best exercises for building muscle and the best band exercises, be sure to subscribe to our channel here on youtube via the link below and remember to turn on your notifications so you never miss a new video when it’s published.

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Comment (281)

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  2. Weighing 60kg myself and performing facepulls at 35kg, I wanna go higher in weight as 35 is not difficult anymore, but as I increase the weight it gets thougher for me to stand and not get pulled "into" the machine, so any tips on how I can solve this problem?

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  4. The dead row teaches the leg-press part of the deadlift the speed in pressing for a better deadlift. Leg press + hip thrust = speedy deadlift. I used my hamstrings to pull myself into the bar. Gets your more muscle activation

  5. I already incorporate all of this or some variation in my routines so I'm glad I watched and get the reassurance that the workouts I'm performing are giving great stimulus.

  6. 1) back squat
    2) bulgarian split squat
    3) flat bench press
    4) dips and weighted dips
    5) archer and typewriter push ups
    6) pull ups
    7) barbell and dumbell row
    8) shrugs
    9) front and backlever progressions
    10) face pulls
    11) bicep and hammer curls leaning on the wall to exclude momentum
    12) OHP

  7. OK, so I'm 12 for 12! The Dirty Dozen! It's not rocket science. I'm a sports medicine physician, and these are pretty much all the exercises you need for a well-rounded weight training program. No need to make it more complicated.

  8. hey Jeff, can the reverse pec dec be used as a facepull alternative? I feel like I cant get full ROM with a single rope and I also dont wanna be that guy that uses two ropes

  9. Here's my take on this list:
    1. Squat – awesome, love doing them
    2. Fuck the deadlift, I care about my spine. NEVER AGAIN!
    3. Bench press if great, I prefer incline
    4. Pull ups are great for those who can do them, I'll stick with the lat machine 😀
    5. Facepulls – just no.
    6. External rotation – can't be bothered, maybe I should but I really can't
    7. Lunges – squats and leg press is enough, calf raises are 1000 times more important than lunges
    8. Push ups are ok as warm up but not heavy enough for stronger people
    9. OVP is great, I just prefer Smith machine seated OVP
    10. Lying dbell tricep extensions – fine but I prefer barbell skull crushers and cable machine pushdowns
    11. BB curl – ez barbell is my gf lol, also love preacher curls
    12. BB row – no, I prefer seated iso-lateral rows, my gym only has one of those machines but it's awesome.

  10. Good video Jeff but you left out a very underrated, fundamental full-body life: The Farmer's Carry. They should be done after the other compound lifts and prior to isos. They blast your forearms, obliques, traps, upper back, abs, calves, etc.

    IMO, it's also good to substitute in suitcase carries about 1/4 the time.

    No workout program is complete without carries. I don't know why they are overlooked so much.

  11. 1- Is there much of a functional difference between the Bulgarian split squat and a forward lunge?
    2- For one who is too heavy or has a back problem that prevents doing a pull-up, is a machine or resistance band pulldown a good substitute?

  12. 1. Face pulls
    2. Heavy face pulls
    3. Light face pulls
    4. Pause face pulls
    5. Band face pulls
    6. Left-arm face pulls
    7. Right-arm face pulls
    8. Eccentric face pulls
    9. Pyramid face pulls
    10. Speed face pulls
    11. Machine face pulls
    12. Curls in the squat rack

  13. Before watching, here's my guess:

    1. BB Squat
    2. BB Deadlift
    3. BB/DB Bench Press
    4. BB/DB Overhead Press
    5. BB/DB Rows
    6. Pull Ups / Chin Ups
    7. Reverse BB Lunge
    8. Cossack Squat
    9. Slick-Floor Bridge-Curls
    10. Hanging Leg Raise
    11. Lateral Raises
    12. Face Pulls

    That's my guess for Jeff. Here are my top 12:
    1. BB Squat
    2. BB Deadlift
    3. BB/DB Bench Press
    4. BB/DB Overhead Press
    5. BB/DB Rows
    6. Pull Ups / Chin Ups
    7. Reverse BB Lunge / Split Squat
    8. Cossack Squat
    9. Slick-Floor Bridge-Curls
    10. Dips
    11. BB/DB Curls
    12. Face Pulls

  14. Sticking to basics are what develop a majority of your strength and muscle mass. Variations are especially useful if you are an athlete and or bodybuilder who wants to target specific muscles more. Great video, Jeff. Doubt you see this, I've been following you for years. Hope you're well!

  15. I've been lifting for 15 years and competing in bodybuilding shows, still always learn something from your videos and appreciate you making them all!

  16. Fuck that! You need:
    A flat press that works the pecs properly, so either DB press or machine chest press (fuck barbell press)
    Incline DB press
    DB standing Overhead press
    BB back squats
    Leg press
    Cable Row
    Deadlift (I have to hex bar to avoid injury)
    DB hammer curls on a 45deg bench

    In my view, these are the basics. If anyone has any criticisms pointers or suggestions, I would love to hear them for self improvement.

  17. You should do a video on how to get the cleanest nostrils in the world.

    Good lord, I thought you had a couple of bigass boogers but upon further inspection, your nose is so clean it doesn't even cast a shadow.


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