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How to Squat

Common Mistakes in the Squat

Squat Variations

How to Bench

Common Mistakes in the Bench

Bench Press Variations

How to Deadlift

Common Mistakes in the Deadlift

Deadlift Variations

Bracing + Breathing

1RM Test Guide

Self Talk

High-Bar Squat

Demo Here

A squat where the bar is placed higher on your traps compared to a traditional low bar squat, where the bar is placed above your rear-delts. The higher bar positioning allows for a more upright torso angle during the squat, placing more emphasis on the quadriceps.

If your primary (main) squat is already High-Bar and High-Bar Squats are prescribed at another time in the week, you may perform them again, but we would recommend considering an alternative variation. That could be a paused high bar squat (as demoed above), front squat, close stance leg press, or another quad-dominant squat variation).

For full squat tutorial, see our Extended Video Library or written guides on this movement.

Substitutions 

Quad-dominant barbell squat variations (front squat, safety bar squat, etc.); other lower body compound exercises (hack squat machine, leg press, belt squat, goblet squat, etc.)

Front Squat

Demo Link

Unrack the bar across your shoulders, placing it as close to your throat (across your clavicle) as possible while still allowing yourself room to breathe. Barbell should rest behind the delts, and hands and fingers help balance the bar outside of the delts. If you are unable to maintain hand position on the bar, you can use lifting straps to hold on to the bar as shown here, or use a cross arm position with your right hand supporting the bar on your left shoulder, and vice versa.

Bend at the knee and the hip, placing an emphasis on knee flexion as it will travel farther in front of the knee than your back squat variation. Keep the torso as upright as possible and continue to keep the elbows high throughout your repetition.

Substitutions 

Quad-dominant barbell squat variations (high-bar squat, safety bar squat, etc.); Goblet Squats; Other quad-dominant compound movements (hack squats, narrow stance leg press)

Goblet Squat

Demo Link

Holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of your chest, perform squats to depth while keeping an upright torso. Perform with feet flat on the ground, unless specified otherwise (e.g. Heel Elevated Goblet Squat, as demonstrated above).

Substitutions 

Heel Elevated Goblet Squat; Band Abducted Goblet Squat; Goblet Squat w Adduction; Front loaded (DB, KB, barbell) squat; Belt Squats; Leg Press or Hack Squat; Leg Extensions

Belt Squat

Demo Link

Straddle two blocks and hang the weight of a weight-loaded belt between your legs. Perform squats to depth while keeping an upright torso

Substitutions 

Front loaded (DB, KB, barbell) squat

Hip Thrust

Demo Link

Sitting on the floor in front of a bench, roll the bar so it is over your hips. Support your mid back perpendicular to a bench. Squeeze your butt and drive your feet through the floor, extending until your hips are in line with your torso. Aim to keep your shins vertical throughout the repetition to better target your glutes.

Substitutions 

Glute bridge variations (banded, single leg, etc.); Leg Press variations (especially glute focused, such as wide stance or feet further in front of you); Step Up, Lunge, or Split Squat variations

Band Abducted Squats

Demo Link

With a band on your legs above your knees, perform squats while maintaining tension in the band. Press into the band by pushing the knees out in the squat. To be performed unweighted, unless otherwise specified (e.g. Band Abducted Goblet Squat).

Substitutions 

Clamshells + Squat variation performed back-to-back

Pause Squats

Demo Link

Pause at the bottom of the squat, maintaining tension in the legs and lower back and keeping position throughout the pause. Press back up by pushing your feet into the floor and your shoulders back into the bar.

Substitutions 

Paused barbell squat variations (low-bar, high-bar, front squat, safety bar squat, etc.); Pause lower body compound exercises (leg press, hack squat machine, goblet squat, etc.)

1.25 Squats

Demo Link

Perform the eccentric portion of the squat, after getting out of the hole of the squat on the way up, change directions and return to the bottom, then stand all the way back up to complete the rep.

Substitutions 

One and a quarter barbell squat variations (low-bar, high-bar, front squat, safety bar squat, etc.)

Bulgarian Split Squat

Demo Link

In a lunge position with back leg supported on a bench or box and with weight loaded (barbell on back, goblet in front, or one dumbbell in each hand), sink into lunge position, and squeeze your glutes and quadriceps on your front leg to stand back up.

Substitutions 

Walking/Alternating/Reverse Lunge variations; Box step-ups; Flat or Front Foot Elevated Split Squat variations

Single-Leg Leg Press

Demo Link

On the leg press machine, load weight appropriately (roughly half what you would use for a regular Leg Press, or more conservatively if needed). Set up as you normally would (with feet roughly shoulder width apart). Maintain your hip and torso position, and then remove one leg from the press and place it safely out of the track. Push upward on the sled, unlock the safeties, and lower the sled to a comfortable depth. From there, push back up to perform a repetition. Repeat. Aim to keep your hips square in the same position throughout the repetition.

Substitutions 

Lunge variations; Split Squat variations; Cossack squat; Box Step Ups; Any other unilateral lower body exercises.

DB Box Step Ups

Demo Here

With one dumbbell in each hand, step one leg onto a box and use that leg to drive your body to standing on top of the box. Lower down and repeat for the prescribed reps, then switch legs and repeat.

Substitutions 

Lateral Box Step Ups; Bulgarian Split Squat; Split Squat; Front Foot Elevated Split Squat; Lunge; Reverse Lunge; B-Stance Hip Thrust; Single Leg Leg Press

Bench Press

Demo Link

Your competition (or strongest) style bench press. Perform these with your strongest grip width, maintaining head, shoulder, and hip contact with the bench and your feet pressed on the floor unless specified otherwise (e.g. Feet Up Bench Press). For full bench press tutorial, see our How to Bench video, our Extended Video Library or written guides on this movement.

Substitutions 

Barbell Bench Press Variations (competition-style, close grip, wide grip, incline, decline, etc.); Push Up Variations; DB Bench Press Variations; Machine Pressing variations or any other upper body pressing movements.

Close Grip Bench Press

Demo Link

Take a moderately (1-4″ per hand) narrower grip than your competition or regular bench press grip. Lower the bar to your chest with control (aim to tuck your elbows a little bit closer to your torso than a normal bench press) and press back up to lock out. Set up with your shoulders and butt on the bench and feet on the floor as normal, unless specified (e.g. feet up close grip bench press).

Substitutions 

Close Grip Bench Press Feet Up, Swiss/football bar bench, Neutral grip DB press

DB Bench

Demo Link

Flat bench press with dumbbells

Substitutions 

Pushup, flye, and cable crossover variations

DB Incline Bench Press

Demo Link

Use an incline bench, or angle a flat bench with plates or blocks. Bench press with dumbbells, maintaining form through each rep.

Substitutions 

Incline Barbell Bench Press; Pushups; and Cable Crossover variations

Board Press

Demo Link

Use a bench block or board to limit the range of motion of the bench press. Lower the barbell with control, complete a pause when the block or board makes contact with your chest. Can also be done with a partner holding the board on your chest.

Substitutions 

Pin press, Spoto press

T-Shirt Press

Demo Here

Set up as you would for a traditional bench press (unless specified otherwise, e.g. Feet Up or Close Grip). Unrack and lower the bar, aiming to control the descent through the entire range of motion. The goal of this exercise is to stop right as the bar touches your shirt, but before the bar touches your chest. You should remain actively resisting the bar at this point.

Allow the bar to become motionless (a very slight pause to ensure you are not losing control of the bar or bouncing off your chest), and then begin pressing the bar back up to your start position. You should remain in constant tension here, not allowing the bar to rest on the chest at all. Aim to keep the contact with your shirt as light as possible, but don’t stop above the shirt (make sure you touch your shirt, after all!).

Substitutions 

Spoto press, pin press

Spoto Press

Demo Link

Feet Up Spoto Demo

Unless noted otherwise (e.g. feet up, close grip, etc.), set up in your competition style (regular) bench press. Control the descent of the bar path, and rather than lowering all the way until the bar touches your chest, pause the bar before it makes contact, about 1 inch above your chest. Maintain tension during the pause, and drive back up to complete the rep.

For a Feet-Up Spoto Press variation, set up with your competition style (regular) bench press grip. Rather than placing your feet on the floor, bend your knees and place feet flat on the bench to remove your leg drive and place greater emphasis on your upper body pressing muscles.

Substitutions 

Board Press, T-shirt press, DB or Machine Bench Press variations

Kroc Rows

With one hand and one knee on a flat bench, row a dumbbell in the opposite hand from the bottom of your range of motion to the lower rib cage

Substitutions 

DB Row, cable row, chest supported row

Deadlift

Demo Link

Competition style deadlift. This can either be conventional, or sumo position. For full deadlift tutorial, see our How to Deadlift video, our Extended Video Library or written guides on this movement.

Set up with the bar above your midfoot (aim for you mid-shoelaces), and get into the start position by reaching down with your arms straight down while hinging at the hip and bending slightly at the knee. Shins should be close to perpendicular to the floor at the start of the pull. Tighten the upper back, brace the core, then pull the bar from the ground up to the hips. Think about pushing the feet through the floor while keeping the barbell as close to your body as possible.

Substitutions 

Banded Deadlift; Barbell deadlift variations (conventional, sumo, trap bar); Other posterior chain compound exercises (Good Mornings, Romanian Deadlifts, Stiff- leg Deadlifts)

Good Morning

Demo Link

Unrack the bar setup in a low bar position. Walkout, and hinge at the hip by pushing your hips back. Allowing a little bend in the knees is good (not stiff-legged), but aim to maintain that same knee angle as you hip hinge, as opposed to actively squatting or flexing at the knees. Once your torso is near parallel to the ground, reverse the movement and return to an upright position. Can also be performed seated, and/or with specialty bars (eg. safety squat bars)

Substitutions 

Banded Good Morning; Banded Sumo Good Morning; Supermans or Back extensions; Reverse hyperextensions; Stiff-Leg or Romanian Deadlifts

Stiff-Leg Deadlifts

Demo Here

KB Stiff-Leg Deadlift Demo

Set up in a conventional deadlift position. Setup and execution of this movement will be very similar to the conventional deadlift, but should have a higher hip position, and less knee flexion. Do not completely lockout knees, but take note to keep legs more intentionally straight and maintain the same knee angle and a vertical shin during the entire repetition. Unlike a Romanian Deadlift, we tend to think of this lift as bottom-up (starting from the floor), focused on reaching the butt back, maintaining a constant knee angle, and focusing on hinging at the hip. Can be loaded with barbell, DB, KB. Can also be performed from a slight (1-3″) deficit.

Substitutions 

Romanian Deadlifts, Good Mornings, Reverse Hypers

Sumo Deadlift

Demo Link

KB Sumo Deadlift Demo

DB Sumo Deadlift Demo

Refer to our Video Library and written resources for more information on this more technical lift.

Set up with feet wide and hands inside of legs. Hinge at the hip and bend at the knee to get in a pulling position where shins are perpendicular to the floor. Tighten the upper back, brace the core, then pull the bar from the ground up to the hips. Think about pushing the feet through the floor while keeping the barbell as close to your body as possible. Extend the knee and then open the hips in rapid concession.

Substitutions 

Sumo KB/DB deadlifts, other Barbell deadlift variations (conventional, trap bar)

Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

Demo Here

Set up with your feet shoulder width apart, toes pointed forward. Shins should be close to the bar, similar to the deadlift position. Pick the barbell up (as a conventional deadlift) to the hip. Unlike a Stiff-Leg Deadlift (where we start from the floor), we will be performing RDLs from the top down. Focus on hinging at the hip and keeping the back neutral through the entire movement. Maintain a slight bend in the knee, and push the hips back as you descend (you should feel a light stretch in your hamstrings at the bottom). Also unlike the Stiff-Leg Deadlift, our goal is constant tension (no resetting on the ground between reps), and a bit more knee flexion as the bar descends past your knees.

Substitutions 

KB/DB Romanian Deadlifts, Stiff-Leg Deadlifts, Good Mornings, Trap Bar Deadlift, Glute Ham Raise

Deficit Pulls

Demo Link

Stand on an elevated plate/board/block and perform your competition style deadlift with the additional range of motion.

Substitutions 

Pause deadlifts, tempo deadlift

Low block pulls

Demo Link

Set up the barbell on low blocks so the bar is below the knees. Deadlift starting from that position

Substitutions 

Pause deadlifts, tempo deadlift

Cable Pull-Throughs

Demo Link

Lower cable machine to lowest rung. Standing with your back to the cable, straddle the cable and pull the handles through your legs and lockout the hips

Substitutions 

Hip thrusts, Glute Kickback, Back Extensions (shoulders rounded)

Split Stance RDL

Demo Link

Set up in a staggered stance, and soften the front knee slightly. Put your weight on the front foot and hinge at the hip and push your hips back. The back foot should support like a kickstand. Control your slow negative and keep your back flat.

Substitutions 

Single leg RDL, Single Leg Press, Split squat variations, Lunge variations, Single Leg Hamstring Curls, other unilateral lower body work

DB or KB Romanian Deadlifts

Demo Link

Toes Elevated RDL Demo

Perform a Romanian Deadlift using DBs in each hand rather than a barbell. Try to maintain constant tension throughout the set, not resting the DBs until all reps are completed. Can also be performed holding a single kettlebell with one hand, or one kettlebell in each hand.

Perform these with both feet flat on the floor, unless specified otherwise (e.g. Toes Elevated DB/KB RDL, as demonstrated above). A Toes Elevated RDL variation can add a greater hamstring and posterior stretch as you push your hips back during the repetition.

Substitutions 

Barbell RDLs, Split Stance RDL, Hamstring Curls

Single-leg DL

Demo Link

Standing on one leg with knee slightly bent, perform a stiff legged deadlift, extending the free leg behind you for balance.

Substitutions 

Unilateral hip hinge, split stance DL

Lat Pull Downs

Demo Link

On cable pulldown machine, choose a long handle. Keeping your torso upright, chest tall, and elbows pointed down, squeeze the lats/armpits and lower the handle to below your chin. Try to tuck your elbows in towards your ribs as you pull the bar down, better engaging your lats. Perform these with an overhand grip unless specified otherwise, such as neutral grip or supinated (underhand) grip.

Substitutions 

Lat Pull Over (DB or Cable); Vertical Pulling movements (Pull Ups, Chin Ups); Horizontal Pulling movements (DB Rows, Barbell Rows, Inverted Rows, Chest Supported Rows, etc.); Any other back or lat focused exercises.

DB Overhead Press

Seated DB OHP Demo Link

Standing DB OHP Demo Link

Single Arm DB OHP Demo Link

Get in an upright seated position with a dumbbell in each hand. Elbows should be in a 90degree angle at the start position. Push DB and fists up to the ceiling, completing the rep when elbows are locked out overhead. Return to start position and repeat. Can be completed with back support on an adjustable bench press or without. Back support may help form at higher intensities.

For standing DB OHP, set up in a stance shoulder-width apart, clean the DBs up to your shoulders, and press overhead. Do your best to keep your ribs down, hips forward, and glutes squeezed (so that your pelvis is stacked under your torso), rather than arching back. For the single arm DB OHP, set up similar to the regular DB version, but use your free hand to balance and support on a bench, rack, or other sturdy piece of equipment. Do your best to maintain an upright torso and avoid tilting, leaning, or twisting.

Substitutions 

Barbell OHP; Seated Cable OHP; (Modified) Handstand Push-Up; Overhead Pressing Machines

Bentover Rows

Demo Here

In a bent over position with back parallel to the floor (or close) and knees slightly bent, row the bar by pulling it to the lower chest. Control the bar throughout the movement.

Substitutions 

Banded Bentover Row, Pendlay Row, DB Row, Inverted row, Chest Supported Row

Lat Pullover

Demo Link

DB Lat Pullover Demo Link

Lying Banded Demo Link

Standing Banded Demo Link

Attach a straight bar to a cable pulley machine at the highest position. Standing facing the cable machine, grab the bar with an overhand position at shoulder width apart or wider. While maintaining a slight elbow angle, pull the bar down towards your waist. Think about leading the pull with your elbows, tucking your arms back to your torso throughout the repetition. When the bar reaches your waist, pause and control the movement back to the starting position. This exercise can also be performed on a DB or Banded.

To perform a DB Lat Pullover, lay on a flat bench, hold a dumbbell with arms extended over eye level. Lower the weight down to parallel to your head by isolating the lats, and return to the start position.

Substitutions 

Pullover with any cable attachment; DB Pullover; Lat Pull Down variations (wide grip, single arm, etc); Pull-Ups, Chin-Ups, Rows

DB Rows

Demo Link

Using a bench or box, place same side knee and hand on the surface. Extend free arm straight down with the dumbbell and bring dumbbell back to your hip. Can also be performed with a KB, or with both legs on the floor creating a tripod between your legs and supporting hand.

Substitutions 

Single arm cable row, single arm lat pull down

Face Pulls

Demo Link

Banded Face Pull Demo

Band Face Pull with External Rotation Demo

Single Arm Band Face Pull with External Rotation Demo

Facing a cable machine, set the pulley at or above your shoulder-level and use a rope or split handle attachment. Pull the weight directly towards your face while keeping the upper arms parallel to the floor. Control the cable on the way back to the start position. Can also be performed with a band. Note that the higher you pull (band or rope towards your eye-level), the more you will train your overall upper back, including your shoulders and external rotators. The more that you pull in line with your shoulders, the more directly you will target your rear deltoids. Neither are inherently right or wrong, and we recommend training a combination or alternating (for balance), or whichever is more comfortable for you.

For the variations with external rotation, loop a band around a squat rack or sturdy alternative at approximately shoulder height. Keeping your arms at 90-degrees from your torso, pull the band/weight directly back while keeping the upper arms parallel to the floor. Once your elbows are bent at 90-degrees, externally rotate your shoulders while holding your upper arms in position (making an L-shape with your elbows). Once your forearms have reached a vertical position, pause, and reverse the movement, controlling the resistance on the way back to the start position. Prioritize movement quality and control on this exercise, rather than weight/resistance. Can be performed with both arms or single arm, as demonstrated above. Can also be performed using Cables and pulley handles rather than bands.

Substitutions 

Band Pullaparts, Prone I-T-W-Y, Rear Delt Flyes

Chest-Supported Rows

Demo Link

Use an incline bench or row machine setup to support the chest so you can take your lower back out of the movement. Keep feet on the ground or straddle the bench to get into position.

Grab the bar/DB/KB or cable and row by moving the weight back towards the hip. Control the weight to return to the start position. Your torso should remain in the same position throughout the repetition. Can be performed single arm (when using DBs, KBs, or a Hammer Strength row machine) or with both arms simultaneously, unless specified – just perform the prescribed number of repetitions as “reps per arm” (e.g. 3×8 would be 3×8/arm).

Substitutions 

DB Row, Inverted Row, Barbell Row, any other horizontal pulling variations or machines

Rear-Delt Flyes

Demo Link

With a dumbbell in each hand, bend at the hips so that the chest is parallel to the floor. Squeeze the shoulder blades together and raise each dumbbell out and up away from the torso. Control the weight on the way back to the bottom. Option to use DB, KB or Cable machine.

Substitutions 

ITWY, band pull aparts, face pulls

Pendlay Rows

Demo Link

In a bent over position with back parallel to the floor, row the bar from the floor into the lower chest and return the bar back to the floor

Substitutions 

Barbell row, Kroc rows, chest supported rows, seated cable row

Hammer Curls

Demo Link

Perform curls using DBs or a neutral grip bar. Keep your palms facing together throughout the entire movement.

Substitutions 

Cable Rope Hammer Curls; Neutral Grip Curls; Cable Curls; Machine Curls; Any other bicep variation

DB Curls

Demo Here

Using DBs, perform bicep curls. Can be performed alternating each arm (as demonstrated above) or simultaneously, if preferred/not specified. Keep bicep and elbow close to torso and control the weight through the entire movement. Can be performed standing or seated, if not specified.

Substitutions 

Barbell Curls; Single Arm Cable Curl; Concentration Curls; EZ Bar Curls; Hammer Curls; DB Iso-Hold Curls

Overhead Tricep Extension

DB Demo Here

Cable Demo Here

Banded Demo Here

Holding a weight above your head with your arms extended, bend at the elbow to lower the weight with control behind your head. Return the weight to an extended overhead position. This variation can be performed with DB, EZ Bar, Band, Cables (rope/V-handle and facing away from a cable pulley), as well as standing or seated if not specified.

Substitutions 

Cable push downs, Skullcrushers; any other tricep-specific exercise

Barbell Curls

Demo Link

Stand and hold a barbell with an underhand grip, palms facing away from your body. Keep the upper arms stationary, and curl the bar forward and up while contracting the biceps. Lower and repeat for reps.

Substitutions 

Barbell Curl 21’s, EZ bar curls, Alt. DB Curls, Hammer Curl, Cable Curls

Inverted Rows

Demo Here

With a barbell fixed in a low position in a squat rack, hang underneath the bar with your feet on the floor and your hands spaced bench press-width apart. Starting with your arms extended and your body in a straight line (with an engaged core), pull your chest towards the bar maintaining the same straight body positioning and then lower back to an extended start position. To scale this movement, bring your feet closer (easier) or further away/elevated (harder). Can also be performed with a TRX or Rings.

Substitutions 

Pronated Grip Inverted Rows (At-Home version); DB Row; Cable Row; Chest Supported Row; Machine Row; Pull Up; Chin Up; Lat Pull Down

Bench Dips

Demo Here

Starting with a bench perpendicular to your body, grip the surface or edge of the bench with your hands. Keep your feet flat on the floor, bending 90-degrees at the hip and knee. Lower your body until your elbow joint reaches 90-degrees, and then press yourself back up to the top by pushing into the bench. If training at home, this exercise can be performed on the edge of a strong & stable bench, chair, couch, or coffee table, but we recommend first checking for stability as well as if possible, having a partner or family member spot you and the furniture to avoid tipping.

Option to scale up (harder) by extending your feet away from your body, elevating your feet, or adding weight to your lap. Moving your feet closer to the bench and bending your knees (as demonstrated) will scale this easier.

Substitutions 

Tricep Push Down; Tricep Kick Back; Skullcrushers; BW Tricep Extension

Plank

Demo Here

Single Arm Plank Demo

Lateral Moving Plank Demo

Low-to-High Plank Demo

Plank Pull Across Demo

Plank Shoulder Taps Demo

Modified Plank Shoulder Taps Demo

In pushup position with forearms on the ground, maintain neutral spine by tucking the ribs and squeezing the glutes and abdominals. Maintain that position for prescribed amount of time. If the prescribed time is too short or long for your current strength, consider scaling:

Scale easier by performing your plank to your knees and/or raising to your hands (vs. forearms). Scale harder by balancing on forearms only, adding weight to your back, or by placing your hands or feet on an unstable surface like a Bosu ball or suspension system like TRX. Can also be performed as a single arm plank (alternate sides each set).

Plank Pull Across is a more dynamic plank variation, and can be performed with a DB or household item (like the shaker cup in the demo).

Substitutions 

Hanging Leg Raises; Bear Crawls; Side Plank; L-Sit

Suitcase walk

Demo Here

Hold a weight (kettlebell, dumbbell, etc) with one hand and walk. Switch hands with the weight and walk the same distance back. Carries are always counted by time, so do not rush. Control your pace and do your best to keep your hips and shoulders square, stacked, and balanced despite the resistance in one hand.

These can also be performed at home or without access to a DB or KB – load a backpack or suitcase with books, shoes, and other heavy items, and walk for the prescribed time. Even with limited space, the most important thing is maintaining a square torso position – even if you are simply marching or taking a few steps back and forth.

Substitutions 

Any unilateral heavy carry; KB/DB Windmills; Side Planks

Ab or Barbell Rollouts

Demo Here
Set up a loaded barbell or use an ab-roller. Start in a kneeling position with enough room to extend forward. Initiate by pushing the bar/roller forward away from your thighs. Control the speed and distance the roller travels by engaging the core. You should feel a light stretch in the abdominals. Keep ribs down and glutes tucked, being sure not to get into a hyperextended spine position. Attach a band to the bar and fixed behind you to scale this movement easier, and a band to the bar fixed in front of you to scale this movement harder.

Substitutions 

Planks; Hanging Leg Raises; L-Sit; Sit-Ups; Cable Crunches; Any other abdominal flexion exercise

Band Pullaparts

Demo Here

Hold a band in with both hands and extend arms in front of you. Raise hands to shoulder level. Squeeze the shoulder blades together and separate the band in a fly-motion. Option to supinate grip (palms facing up) for a reverse or underhand band pull-apart.

Substitutions 

Underhand Band PullapartsFace Pulls; Rear Delt Flyes; Prone I-T-Y-W; Prone Incline I-T-Y-W; any upper back/shoulder health/external rotation movements

McGill Big 3

1. Curl Up Demo Here
2. Side Plank Demo Here
3. Birddog Demo Here

A series of 3 core exercises performed in a row: the Curl-Up, Side-Plank, and Bird-Dog

Curl Up: Lie on your back with one knee bent and the other extended on the floor. Raise your head a few inches off the ground and hover the extended leg at the same time. Hold the position for 5-10 seconds, then lower back to the ground with control. Repeat for 3-8 repetitions (each rep is a 5-10 second long hold) if rep range is not prescribed, then relax and switch sides.

Side Plank: Get into a side plank position and raise + hold for 7-10 seconds, then lower back to the ground with control. Repeat for 3-8 repetitions (each rep is a 7-10 second long hold) if rep range is not prescribed, then repeat on the other side. For an Advanced variation, hold for the same 7-10 seconds, but alternate sides by rolling from side to side between reps, rather than resting between holds.

Birddog: Start in a quadruped position. Tuck the ribs and the hips, ensuring you do not hyperextend the spine. Extend one arm out in front of you and the opposite leg out behind you while maintaining a neutral spine. Hold each position for 2-8 seconds before lowering back towards the ground with control. Repeat for 3-8 repetitions per side, if rep range is not prescribed. Can be performed all repetitions on one side before moving to the other side, or by alternating opposite arm/opposite leg with each rep.

Substitutions 

Any core series (deadbugs, bird-dogs, planks, l-sit, hanging leg raises)

KB Windmill

Demo Here

Take a wide stance, and angle feet. Press kettlebell or dumbbell overhead in one hand. Keep the elbow overhead locked out at all times, push the hips back and away from the direction of the toes. Hinge at the hips and reach towards the floor with your free hand. Ok to touch shoes or shin if you cannot reach the floor. Keep your eyes on the kettlebell at all times.

Can also be performed at home by substituting a KB/DB for a water bottle or small backpack weighted with books or other objects. Since this exercise is so technically demanding, the absolute load used is less important

Substitutions 

Suitcase Walk, Side Plank variations, Turkish Getup, Half Turkish Getup

Bird Dogs

Demo Here

Start in a quadruped position. Tuck the ribs and the hips, ensuring you do not hyperextend the spine. Extend one arm out in front of you and the opposite leg out behind you while maintaining a neutral spine. Switch opposite arm/opposite leg. Hold each position for 3 seconds.

Substitutions 

Deadbugs, Planks

Back Extensions

Demo Here

On a Glute-Ham-Developer or hyperextension machine, lock in the feet with the hip pad under the pelvis/lower trunk. Fold at the hip so you are perpendicular to the ground (with your head near the floor) and squeeze the erectors/lower back and glutes to pull the torso up above parallel from the floor.

These can also be performed with a Glute Emphasis. To better target your glutes, set up on a GHD or hyperextension machine and actively round the upper back. Squeeze at the glutes and focus on pressing your pelvis into the pad as you raise your torso and pause at the top.

Substitutions 

Good mornings; Supermans; Reverse Hyperextensions; Romanian Deadlifts;

Glute Focus Substitutions

Hip Thrusts; Glute Bridges;

Deadbugs

Demo Here

Laying on your back, raise arms directly over shoulders and knees over hips, with shins parallel to the floor. You can opt to extend legs for a more difficult variation. Tuck ribs down and press lower back into the floor.

Lower one arm back behind your head and the opposite leg down towards the floor. Control the descent and do not make contact with the ground. Instead, hover arm and leg over the ground. Maintain contact with the lower back on the floor and squeeze the abdominals to hold the position. Switch sides and perform same exercise with opposite arm and opposite leg.

Can also be performed with resistance, using a band (as demonstrated above), or holding a DB/KB above your shoulders. Focus on keeping the ribs tucked down and pelvis neutral to your spine.

Substitutions 

Banded Deadbugs; Birddogs; V-situps; Hollow body holds; Bear Crawls

Turkish Get-Up Position Repeats

Turkish Get-Up

Demo Here

Starting Position: Lie on the floor with one kettlebell in one hand. Bend the knee on the same side as your kettlebell and press that foot into the ground. Extend your free arm out, palm pressing into the ground.

Punch the kettlebell upward and forceful press your extended arm into the floor so your torso rises up. Shift the weight onto the forearm and transition to your hand.

Raise the hips into a bridge, then sweep your extended leg under onto your knee.

Perform the half kneeling windmill to shift the weight evenly on knee and foot, then press into your heel to stand.

Reverse all steps to come back to the starting position.

Can also be broken down into Half Get-Ups or Position Repeats to build proficiency and confidence in the movement.

Substitutions

Half Get-Ups; Turkish Get-Up Position Repeats; Windmills (standing or half kneeling); Suitcase Walks

Shoulder Pass Through

Demo Here

Hold a PVC pipe, broom, or band in front of your body with arms extended straight. Lift the implement up and over your head. Externally rotate your shoulders and continue to bring the pipe behind your back. Then reverse the movement to bring the pipe in front of your body again.

Keep ribcage pulled down and avoid overextension of the back. Make the movement easier with a wide grip, or more difficult with a narrow grip.

Substitutions 

Reverse grip shoulder pass through, Around the World, Down Dog Position

Around the World

Demo Here

Grab a PVC pipe, broom, or band in front of your body with arms locked out. Slowly rotate one arm overhead, bringing the PVC pipe over and around your head and body. Follow the revolution with the other arm and repeat. Continue in one direction for prescribed reps, and then reverse directions.

Substitutions 

Shoulder Passs Through, Reverse grip shoulder pass through, Down Dog Position

Single Arm DB Floor Press

Demo Here

Lie flat on the ground with a dumbbell in one hand. Extend your free hand out to your side for stability, or use a rack or piece of equipment to press into.

Slowly pull the dumbbell down to the body as you would in a normal bench press. Return the dumbbell to the top of the movement. Can be performed on either a bench or on the floor, if not specified.

Substitutions 

Single arm fly and cable crossover variations

Half Turkish Get-Up

Demo Here

Starting Position: Lie on the floor with one kettlebell in one hand. Bend the knee on the same side as your kettlebell and press that foot into the ground. Extend your free arm out, palm pressing into the ground.

Punch the kettlebell upward and forcefully press your extended arm into the floor so your torso rises up. Shift the weight onto the forearm and transition to your hand.

Raise the hips into a bridge. Hold that position for one count, then reverse all steps to come back to the starting position.

Substitutions: Turkish Getup, Kneeling Windmill, Windmill

Banded Lateral Walk

Demo Here

Place a glute band just above or just below the knees. Create tension in the band by taking a slightly wider than hip width stance, and bend the knees to get in an athletic stance. Take small steps laterally on one side and complete all reps. Then switch sides.

Substitutions 

Monster walk, Clamshells, Fire hydrants

Glute Ham Raise

Demo Here

Set up on a GHR/GHD machine with the knees slightly behind the pad and feet firmly on the platform. Start with the torso perpendicular to the floor and squeeze the hamstrings and glutes to lower until the torso is parallel to the floor.

Return to start position by pulling up with the hamstrings. Avoid breaking at the hip and hyperextending through the spine.

Substitutions 

Assisted GHR (with band), Hamstring Curl

Strict Pull-Up

Demo Here

Grip a pull-up bar slightly wider than hip width apart, palms facing away from your face (supinated grip). Hang from the bar, and pull yourself up by pulling elbows down to the floor. Continue pulling until your chin passes the bar. Descend back to the start position and repeat.

Substitutions 

Lat-pull down, assisted pull-ups, chin-ups, negative pull-ups

Negative Pull-Up

Demo Here

Isometric Pull-Up Demo Here

Dead Hang Demo Here

Grip a pull-up bar slightly wider than hip width apart, palms facing away from your face (supinated grip). Complete either a strict pull-up, or jump up to hang with biceps flexed, and chin over the bar. Slowly descend for desired amount of time, ensuring the range of motion, and time are evenly spaced out.

Can be scaled easier by performing Isometric Pull-Ups as a static hold at the top of your pull-up position for max time, or as a dead hang, holding your body in a straight line for max time.

Substitutions 

jumping pull-ups, assisted negative pull-ups, negative chin-ups, negative pull-ups

Monster Walk

Demo Here

Place a glute band just above or just below the knees. Create tension in the band by taking a slightly wider than hip width stance, and bend the knees to get in an athletic stance.

Take short steps by bringing the heel towards the midline, then pushing the foot back out diagonally. Alternate steps between left and right. Aim to maintain band tension throughout your step.

Substitutions 

Monster walk, clamshells, fire hydrants

Overhead Press (OHP)

Demo Here

Setup a barbell on a squat rack at shoulder height. Unrack the barbell and walk out from the rack. Press the bar up over the head, pushing your head forward once the barbell passes eye level. For a more comprehensive overview, check out our longer YouTube instructional video linked here.

Substitutions 

Standing OHP, Barbell OHP, Seated/High-Incline OHP; DB OHP (seated or standing); Machine or Hammer Press; Viking Press, Push Press, etc.

Scap Pull-Up

Demo Here

Start in a normal pull-up position. From a full hang, draw the scapulae (shoulder blades) down and together, raising your body slightly. From this contracted position, slowly lower back to the dead hang start position with control. Do not bend the elbows during your repetition. The range of motion is only a few inches, and our goal is active control through the shoulder blades and engagement of the lats.

To scale as an easier movement, perform this on a lat pull down machine, and try to build up your strength and control and gradually push the resistance.

Substitutions 

Scap Pull-Up on Lat Pull Down machine; Cable Lat Pullover; Scap Push-Up

Clamshells

Demo Here

Lie on your side with legs stacked and knees bent at a 45-degree angle. Keep feet in contact with each other and raise upper knee as high as possible, without moving the hips or pelvis. Keep lower leg in contact with the floor.

Substitutions 

Clamshells with Hip Extension, Seated Banded Clamshells, Fire Hydrants, Banded Lateral Walk, Monster Walk

Fire Hydrant

Demo Here

Start on a quadruped position on hands and knees. Keep knee in a bent position and move the knee away from the midline of the body. Pause at the top of the motion and return to the starting position.

Substitutions 

Clamshells, banded lateral walk, monster walk

Banded Shuffle

Demo Here

Place a short band around both feet. Create tension in the band by taking a slightly wider than hip width stance, and bend the knees to get in an athletic stance. Take small steps laterally on one side and complete all reps. Then switch sides.

Substitutions 

Banded lateral walk, Monster walk, Clamshells, Fire Hydrants

Strict Chin-Up

Demo Here

Grip a pull-up bar at shoulder width apart, palms facing towards you (pronated grip). Hang from the bar, and pull yourself up by pulling elbows down to the floor and flexing biceps. Continue pulling until your chin passes the bar. Descend back to the start position and repeat.

Substitutions 

Neutral grip lat pull-down, assisted chin-ups, negative chin-ups, weighted chin-ups

Bear Crawl

Demo Here

Start in a quadruped position and curl toes under to press into feet and hands at the same time to raise the knees. Slowly move opposite hand and knee to move forward and then backwards. This is a core strengthening and activation movement, and your focus should be on maintaining flat shoulders and hips throughout the movement (avoid tipping). Actively engage your abdominal muscles by keeping your ribs pulled down and your pelvis tucked under your hips.

Substitutions 

Bear Crawl Shoulder Taps; Bird Dogs; Deadbugs

Blackburns

Demo Here

Start lying face down (prone) on the floor or bench. Raise both arms overhead with a slight bend in the elbow. Keep thumbs up towards the ceiling. Retract your shoulder blades. Slowly and with control, lower your hands in a circular motion as far as comfortably possible. Once you cannot lower the arms further in this position, rotate your arms (aiming to keep your shoulders retracted through this rotation) and complete the repetition when your hands reach the small of the back. Return to start position. Aim for 4-5 seconds from overhead to behind your back, and another 4-5 seconds to return your hands over your head — while maintaining scapular retraction during the entire range of motion.

If you find this exercise too easy (or you are struggling to find this exercise effective), you can scale to an advanced variation by holding light plates or DBs (1-5lbs can be plenty of resistance), or perform them from a Deficit as demonstrated above. Ensure you are maintaining retraction the entire time. For more information and a technique comparison, check out this IGTV link.

Substitutions 

Deficit Blackburns; Face Pulls; Prone I-T-Y-W; Rear Delt Flyes; Band Pull-Aparts; Any other upper back, shoulder health, and external rotation exercises.

Cossack Squat

Demo Here

Take a wide stance and descend into a squat while shifting your weight on the active leg. Keep the opposite leg straight and out to the side. Keep the heel or entire foot on the ground. Option to hold arms out for balance. Can also be performed with a KB or DB (goblet style in front of the chest), two DBs (hands on the shoulders, front rack position), holding a loaded backpack, medball or sandbag in front, or for more advanced variations, with a Barbell or Safety Squat bar.

Substitutions 

Alternating Side Lunge; Pistol squat; Single Leg Press; any other unilateral lower body movement.

DB Lateral Raise

Demo Here

Prone Incline DB Lateral Demo

Seated Incline DB Lateral Raise Demo

DB Iso-Hold Lateral Raise Demo

Lateral Raise Hold Demo (At Home Version)

Single Arm Banded Lateral Raise Demo

With a dumbbell in each hand, slowly lift weights out to the side until your arms are parallel with the floor. Lower back down with control and repeat. Can be performed standing or seated, if not specified. Can be performed standing, seated, or chest supported (as shown in the prone incline version demo above). Can also be programmed as a hold, in which case you would maintain your top position for the prescribed amount of time. If performing these single arm (whether DB or Banded), perform the prescribed reps per side instead of total.

For Iso-Hold Lateral Raises, start by holding one DB with your arm at 90-degrees to your torso (an isometric contraction) while performing the prescribed repetition with your other arm. Without lowering the DBs, switch which arm is holding the isometric contraction and perform the prescribed reps with the other arm. Then, perform the final amount of prescribed reps with both arms at the same time. See the demo link above for more detail, as an example of 3+3+3 Iso-Hold Lateral Raises.

Substitutions 

Cable lateral raise; Overhead Pressing variations; any other shoulder exercises

Deficit KB Stiff Leg Deadlift

Demo Here

Stand on an elevated plate/board/block and perform a kettlebell deadlift with an increased range of motion. Since this is a stiff leg deadlift, aim to maintain the angle in your knees and reach depth by pushing your hips back, hinging at the hip and lowering the weight while maintaining a strong, rigid torso position.

Substitutions 

Romanian Deadlift (BB or DB), Stiff-legged deadlift, Good Mornings, Reverse Hyperextensions, Glute Ham Raise

EZ Bar Curls

Demo Here

EZ Bar Curl 21’s Demo (demoed with Barbell)

Stand and hold an EZ Curl barbell with an underhand (supinated) grip, palms facing up/away from your body. Keep the upper arms stationary, and curl the bar forward and up while contracting the biceps. Lower and repeat for reps.

For 21’s, perform these as 7 partial reps through the bottom half of the range of motion, 7 reps for the top half of the range of motion, then 7 reps as full range of motion — this is one set. See demo link above (shown as 3+3+3 using a straight bar rather than 7+7+7 with an EZ bar). Can also be performed on a barbell bar, with DBs, or on cables. May also be prescribed with different rep ranges (e.g. 8+8+8 would be 8 bottom half, 8 top half, 8 full ROM).

Substitutions 

Barbell Curl, Cable Curls (V-Bar or EZ Bar attachment), Alternating DB curls, Hammer Curl

Front Foot Elevated Split Squat

Demo Here

In a split squat position with front foot supported on an elevated surface (aim for 2-6″) and with weight loaded (barbell on back, goblet position in front, or one dumbbell in each hand), sink into lunge position on front leg and press into the foot to stand back up.

Can also be performed facing a cable rack, holding onto a single hand attachment fixed to a low pulley. Demo Here.

Substitutions 

Split Squat Variations; Lunge Variations; Box Step-Up Variations; any other unilateral lower body exercises

Hamstring Curl

Demo Here

Banded Single Leg Hamstring Curl Demo

Prone Single Leg Banded Hamstring Curl Demo

Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl Demo

Standing Single Leg Banded Hamstring Curl Demo

2-Up, 1-Down Hamstring Curl Demo

Hamstring Curl 21s Demo

To be performed on a machine (seated or lying); using a band; or using a swiss ball, perform a hamstring curl as strict as possible. These are to be performed with both legs together, unless specified otherwise (e.g. single leg hamstring curl). Hamstring Curl 21s (demoed above as 3+3+3) are performed as prescribed reps for the first half of Range of Motion, then prescribed reps for second half of Range of Motion, then prescribed reps for the full Range of Motion, typically prescribed as 7+7+7.

For 2-Up, 1-Down Hamstring Curls, perform a normal (concentric) hamstring curl with both legs, then using a single leg, perform a slow controlled eccentric (from bent to knee to extended leg) over 3-4 seconds back to the start position. Use both legs to curl the weight back again, and repeat the single leg negative using the same leg, unless specified otherwise (i.e. Alt 2-Up, 1-Down Hamstring Curl, as demonstrated in the GIF above).

Substitutions

Examples linked above (banded, Lying DB weighted, Bridged Towel Hamstring Curls, Nordic Curls); Other hamstring focused exercises (Glute Ham Raise, Romanian or Stiff-Leg Deadlift, etc.)

Inchworms

Demo Here

Start in a standing position and bend down to touch the toes. Walk the hands out away from your body into plank position, then walk the feet to meet the hands. Repeat. If space is limited, perform these moving forwards and backwards rather than down a line.

Prone I-T-Y-W

Demo Here

Perform these lying face down flat on the floor or on a bench. Start with your arms down by your side and palms facing up. Retract your shoulder blades and reach your palms to the ceiling (this is the “I” movement of the exercise).

Perform this movement for the prescribed number of repetitions, then bring your arms out to the side, externally rotating your arms and making a “T” with your body. Retract your shoulder blades and raise your thumbs towards the ceiling.

Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions, then bring your arms out at a 45-degree angle from your body (making a “Y” with your body. Retract your shoulder blades and raise your thumbs towards the ceiling.

Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions, then (while holding your shoulder blades retracted), tuck your elbows back towards your torso until your arms make a “W” shape). Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions, then rest.

Bodyweight alone is often challenging enough, but you can also hold light weight plates or DBs in your hands for an added challenge.

Substitutions

Prone Incline I-T-Y-W; Prone Incline Y-Raise; Blackburns; Face Pulls; Band Pullaparts; Rear Delt Flyes; Any other upper back, shoulder health, and external rotation exercises.

Reverse Lunge

Demo Here

Barbell Reverse Lunge Demo

Deficit Reverse Lunge Demo

Starting standing upright with feet together, reach one foot back and perform a lunge. Return both feet together, and then repeat with the other foot. Alternate for the prescribed repetitions. Can be performed bodyweight or weighted (typically with DBs or KBs).

Can also be performed off a deficit if specified (as demonstrated above). For these, start standing upright with feet together on an elevated surface (roughly 2-6″). Reach one foot back and perform a lunge. Return both feet together, and then repeat with the other foot. Alternate for the prescribed repetitions. Can be performed bodyweight or weighted (typically with DBs or KBs).

Substitutions

Lunge variations; Split Squat variations; Box Step Ups; Split Stance or Single Leg Deadlift; Single Leg Press, Extension, or Curl; any other unilateral lower body movement.

Scap Push-Up

Demo Here

Starting in a push up or modified (knees down) push up position, maintain your locked-arm position and pinch your shoulder blades together as your chest lowers slightly to the ground. From there, extend and try to reach your spine up to the ceiling as your shoulder blades separate. The total range of motion on this movement is slight, so try to maintain control and a solid trunk position (not sagging at the hips).

Seated Shrug

Seated DB Shrug Demo

Seated EZ Bar Shrug Demo

Sitting on a box or bench with a slight torso angle forward, perform shrugs for the prescribed number of repetitions, pinching your shoulder blades back and together and aiming to reach your shoulders up to your ears. Can be performed with a DB or EZ Curl Bar behind your legs.

Substitutions

Standing or Machine Shrug variations; Heavy Farmer Walks or Yoke Carries

Split Squat

Demo Here

Terminal Knee Extension Split Squat Demo

In a split stance position with both feet flat on the floor, and with weight loaded (barbell on back, goblet in front, or one dumbbell in each hand), sink into lunge position, and squeeze your glutes and quadriceps on your front leg to stand back up.

Can also be performed Bodyweight only, or with a Terminal Knee Extension as demonstrated above. For the TKE variation, loop a band around a sturdy upright at knee height, and loop the other end around the back of your front knee. Step back so there is some resistance at the top of your split stance position. Perform your split squat as normal, allowing the band to pull your front knee forward. As you drive back up to the top, squeeze your front quad while resisting the band.

Substitutions 

Walking/Alternating/Reverse Lunge variations; Box step-ups; Flat or Front Foot Elevated Split Squat variations

Sun Salutation

Demo Here

Move through a series of various different postures and stretches. If you’re not a yogi, don’t worry. Watch the demo link for the movements. You should move through standing, to touching your toes, out to plank, up dog, then down dog, into a lunge and back to touching the toes. The goal is to get moving and wake the body up.

Alt Lunges

Demo Here

Starting with feet together, take a step forward and perform a lunge. For alternating lunges, return the front foot to meet the back.

Substitutions

Split squat variations; Lunge variations; Step Ups; Any other unilateral lower body movement (single leg press, single leg glute bridge, etc.)

Skullcrushers

EZ Curl Demo Here

DB Demo Here

Laying on a bench, hold a weight (typically DBs or an EZ bar) above your body directly above your shoulders. Without moving your upper arm, hinge at the elbow and lower the weight in a controlled manner towards your skull, stopping a few inches above your face. Then reverse the movement and return the weight to the start position.

Substitutions 

Tricep push-downs; OH Tricep Extension; Dips; Any other tricep exercises

Leg Press

Demo Link

Using a leg press machine, load weight appropriately (taking warm up jumps to your working weight as needed). Push upward, unlock the safeties, and lower the sled working through as full of a range of motion as possible. Once you’ve reached this depth, push back up to perform a repetition.

Substitutions 

Any barbell squat variations (low bar, high bar, safety bar); Lower body compound movements or machines (hack squat machine, smith machine squat, hip thrust, goblet squats, etc.)

Prone Incline Curls

Demo Link

Lying face down on an incline bench, hang your arms straight up and down (perpendicular to the floor). Holding DBs in each hand and keeping your upper arms still, perform curls. Aim to minimize arm movement above the elbow and focus on contracting your biceps to perform your curls, rather than swinging and using momentum. Squeeze and hold at the top, then control back to the bottom and repeat. Also known as Spider Curls. Can be performed with an EZ Bar or straight bar. Perform with both arms at the same time, unless specified as Alternating (demonstrated here).

Substitutions 

Preacher or Concentration Curls; Machine or Cable Curls; EZ Bar Curls; Any other bicep variations

Tricep Pushdowns

Demo Link

Banded Tricep Pushdown Demo

Stand upright in front of a cable machine, lat pull down, or band attached overhead. Starting with your arms slightly in front of you and your elbows pointed down, perform tricep pushdowns. Without moving your upper arm, hinge at the elbow and press down in a controlled manner, then reverse the movement and return the weight to the start position. Can be performed with a straight bar, rope, v-bar, or band.

Substitutions 

Skullcrushers; OH Tricep Extension; Dips; Any other tricep exercises

Side Lunge

Demo Here

Starting from an upright position with both feet together, take a step out wide with one leg into a wide stance and descend into a squat while shifting your weight to the active leg. Keep the opposite leg straight and out to the side. Keep the heel or entire foot on the ground.

Can be performed bodyweight, holding a KB (goblet style), holding DBs in each hand, or loaded with a BB (either on your back or in a front-rack position). Can be performed alternating (as demonstrated in the demo above), or all prescribed reps per side in a row.

Substitutions 

Cossack Squat; Pistol squat; Single Leg Press; any other unilateral lower body movement.

Side Plank

Demo Here
Modified Demo

Side Plank Raise Demo
Modified Side Plank Raise Demo

One Arm Plank to Side Plank Demo

Laying on the ground on your side, raise your hips off the ground while planting your feet and your forearm. Aim to maintain a neutral spine and create a straight line from your feet through your head. Maintain that position for prescribed amount of time. Scale by raising up to your hand (with a straight arm and locked elbow), or elevating your feet on a bench or unstable surface (bosu ball, TRX, etc.). To scale easier, bend your knees at a 90-degree angle and plank from forearm to knee instead of forearm to feet.

Perform Side Plank Raises by starting on the ground, raising up to your strict side plank position, holding for 2-3 seconds while engaging your trunk, then returning with control to the ground. Rather than prescribing and holding for time, these will typically be prescribed for repetitions.

One Arm Plank to Side Plank is a more dynamic variation, and can be performed using a DB or household item (like the shaker cup in the demo).

Substitutions 

Plank, Windmills, Turkish Getups, Suitcase Carries

Cable Lateral Raise

Demo Here

Banded Demo Here

On a cable machine, hold the cable in one hand using a rope or grip attachment. Slowly lift weights out to the side until your arms are parallel with the floor. Lower back down and repeat.

Substitutions 

DB lateral raise; Overhead Pressing variations; any other shoulder exercises

Tricep Kickback

Demo Link Here

Banded Demo Here

Starting with a bent over position with the torso almost parallel to the floor. Hold the dumbbell with one arm bent at 90 degrees. Engage your tricep and push the weight back to straighten the arm. Pause and flex your tricep while holding the weight at the top, then return to the start position and repeat. Can also be performed with a cable & rope attachment (or a band) rather than a DB. Aim to keep your elbow high and your humerus (upper arm) behind your torso, rather than in line with it.

Substitutions 

Tricep Push Down, Bench Dips, Skullcrushers

Cable Curl

Demo Link

Perform curls using an attachment and a cable machine. Option to use a rope, single arm handle, EZ/v-bar, or straight bar attachment unless specified.

Substitutions 

Neutral Grip Curls; Barbell Curl; Machine Curls; Any other bicep variation

Incline Seated DB Curl

Demo Link

Sit back on an incline bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Extend the arms out past the seat and complete dumbbell curls. Perform with both arms at the same time, unless specified as alternating (like in demo above).

Substitutions 

Single Arm Cable Curls (facing away), Standing DB Curls, Any other curl/bicep variation

Hollow Body Hold

Demo Here

Modified Demo Here

Modified (Easiest) Demo Here

Hollow Body Rock

Modified Hollow Body Rock

Laying on your back, raise arms overhead and extend legs and feet. Press the low back into the floor and hover the feet and hands ~6 inches over the floor. Maintain tension in the core and brace the abs. Make sure you tuck the ribs down and continue pressing the low back into the floor. Hold the position for 2-3 seconds each repetition before returning to the floor.

Option to scale down by using the modified demo linked above (moderate) by keeping your hands down by your side rather than overhead. Further options to scale this movement (easiest) would be keeping your arms on the floor during the repetition, or keeping your hands on the floor while only lifting one leg at a time.

For the Hollow Body Rock variations, the goal is to maintain your hollow body position throughout the motion while rocking back and forth.

Substitutions 

Birddogs; V-situps; dead bugs

Squat

Demo Link

Competition style squat. This can either be high-bar, low-bar, or somewhere in between (hybrid). For full squat tutorial, see our How to Squat video, our Extended Video Library or written guides on this movement.

Set up with the bar on your traps. Lift the bar up straight out of the squat rack, and step back in a few steady, stable steps. Take a breath into the pit of your belly, think of expanding your trunk (creating 360-degrees of pressure around your abs and lower back), and begin your descent by breaking at the knees and hips at the same time. Descend (aiming to keep the bar in as straight and vertical of a bar path as possible) until you reach depth, which is the point at which your hip crease has descended below the horizontal plane made by the top of your knee. From there, squat back up until you are fully upright. Breathe, brace your core, and repeat.

For air squats (bodyweight), check out our detailed breakdown in the Instagram TV video linked here.

Substitutions 

Barbell squat variations (low bar squat, high bar squat, front squat, safety bar or other specialty barbell variations); Other compound lower body exercises (Belt Squats, Leg Press, Hack Squat Machines, etc.)

Farmer’s Carry

Demo Here

Hold a weight (kettlebell, dumbbell, etc) in both hands and walk. Carries are always counted by time, so do not rush. Control your pace and do your best to keep your hips and shoulders square and balanced despite the resistance.

Substitutions 

Any heavy carry; KB Windmills; Side Planks

Ankle/Wrist Roll

Demo Here

Complete wrist rotations with fingers interlocked, while rotating one ankle at a time, creating circles with the ankle.

Runners Lunge

Demo Here

Start in a plank position and bring one foot at a time as close to the same side hand as possible. To scale, plank on a higher surface like a bench. This is an active / dynamic stretch that we use to help open the hips and raise our heart rate as we prepare for heavier training to follow.

Preacher Curl

Demo Here

Use a preacher curl station, GHD, machine, incline bench, or other surface to keep your upper arms in a fixed position, and perform a curl. Keeping the upper arms stationary, and curl the bar forward and up while contracting the biceps. Lower and repeat for reps.

Substitutions 

Barbell Curl, Cable Curl; Alternating DB Curl, Hammer Curl; Single Arm Preacher Curl; Concentration Curl

Single Arm Preacher Curl

Demo Here

Use a preacher curl setup, an incline bench, or other like surface to perform a curl with one arm at a time. Keep the upper arm stationary, and curl the dumbbell forward and up while contracting the biceps. Lower and repeat for prescribed reps.

Substitutions 

Preacher Curl; Concentration Curl; Single Arm Cable Curl; Alternating DB Curl; Hammer Curl; Barbell Curl; Single Arm Banded Curl

Leg Extension

Demo Here

Typically performed on a machine; Perform a leg extension using your quads to extend at the knee. These are to be performed with both legs together, unless specified otherwise (e.g. single leg extension). Can also be performed seated on a bench with a band around your ankles, with the other end secured against a strong anchor.

Substitutions

Other quadriceps focused exercises (goblet squat, leg press, etc.)

Curl Up

Demo Here

Lie on your back with one knee bent and the other extended on the floor. Raise your head a few inches off the ground and hover the extended leg at the same time. Hold the position for 10 seconds, then relax and switch sides. Focus on pressing your lower back into the floor. Maintain contact with the floor and your lower back, keeping your ribs pulled down and your hips/pelvis tucked under you.

Substitutions 

Any core series (deadbugs, bird-dogs, planks, l-sit, hanging leg raises)

Pull-Up Progression

Since we all have different experiences and starting levels of pull-up strength, you will first need to conduct a baseline test to ensure our progression is appropriately scaled to your starting point. To find your starting Level, check out our information page at this link here.

Once you’ve identified your starting level, perform a baseline test on your first available session (even if you join us mid-cycle). Record your test score, as we’ll use this score for our progression.

Baseline Tests & Training Movements

For each of levels 1-4, please find your movement below. Perform the baseline test only at the start of the challenge (or when you first start programming, if you are just joining us). Each day and week of training will be prescribed relative to this baseline test.

How to Read “Pull-Up Progression” in Your Program

When you see Pull-Up Progression in the program, it will look something like this: “4 sets @ 50% of baseline”, which means…

Level 1 and Level 2: take 50% of your baseline test (negative pull-ups) and complete 4 sets of that time. So if you scored 4 seconds on your negative pull-up, then training calls for 4 sets of 2-second negatives. If you are unable to perform negative pull-ups, perform Dead Hangs for the prescribed percentage of your baseline test max Dead Hang time.

For Level 3 and Level 4: take 50% of your baseline test (max pull-ups or weighted pull-ups) and complete 4 sets of that amount of reps. For example, if you completed 6 reps, then training calls for 4 sets of 3 reps. For weighted pull-ups, use the same added weight that you used to perform your baseline test for each session.

Round up or down as needed based on the prescribed percentage work, but aim to hit at least the total cumulative rep goal for the session. For example, if your baseline test is a 5-second max negative, you can perform sets of 2-second or 3-second negatives, but try to get at least 10-seconds total across all sets. If your baseline test is 5 reps, you can perform sets of 2 or 3 reps, but try to get at least 10 total reps.

Substitutions 

Lat Pull Downs; Inverted Rows; Any other back & lat movements

Half Kneeling Single Arm Lat Pull Down

Half Kneeling Cable Demo

On cable pulley, choose a single handle attachment at a high position on the pulley. Taking a half kneeling position (right knee down, left knee upright), grab the handle with the same side hand that is kneeling on the ground. Perform a single arm lat pull down, aiming to pull your right elbow in towards your right hip while keeping your torso upright and holding the rest of your body as steady as possible. Perform the prescribed number of repetitions, then switch sides and repeat.

Substitutions 

Any unilateral pulling or rowing movements (DB Rows, Cable Rows, Hammer Strength Rows); Lat Pull Over (DB or Cable); Vertical Pulling movements (Pull Ups, Chin Ups, Lat Pull Down); Horizontal Pulling movements (Barbell Rows, Inverted Rows, Chest Supported Rows, etc.); Any other back or lat focused exercises.

Weighted Pull-Up

Demo Here

Using a dip belt, add additional weight and perform strict pull-ups. This is an advanced variation — if you cannot perform strict pull-ups for reps, please see the recommended substitutions below.

Grip a pull-up bar slightly wider than hip width apart, palms facing away from your face (supinated grip). Hang from the bar, and pull yourself up by pulling elbows down to the floor. Continue pulling until your chin passes the bar. Descend back to the start position and repeat.

Substitutions 

Strict Pull-Ups; Lat Pull Down, Assisted Pull-Ups, Chin-Ups, Negative Pull-Ups

Front Raise

Front Plate Raise Demo

Banded Front Raise Demo

DB Front Raise Demo

Cable Rope Front Raise Demo

Using the specified implement (plate, band, DBs), hold your resistance with hands parallel. Maintain an extended arm position and raise the weight from in front of your hips/thighs to up over your head. Keep constant tension here, and try to avoid resting the weight on your thighs at the bottom. If a plate, band, or pair of DBs are unavailable, you can substitute for a loaded book bag for resistance.

These can also be prescribed as a Front Raise Hold. Set up the same as a traditional Front Raise, but hold the weight or resistance isometrically at shoulder height (arms extended) for the prescribed time.

Substitutions 

Any other Front Raise variation (plate, band, DB, Cable, etc)

Single Arm Cable Curl

Demo Here

Set up a single handle attachment on the low anchor of a cable pulley machine. Grab with one hand, and perform single arm curls using a handle attachment and a cable machine. Begin performing curls with your banded arm for the prescribed reps. Aim to maintain a neutral posture (keeping your elbow by your sides, and hips & shoulders square facing towards the anchor), with the only movement coming from flexing your bicep. Complete for the prescribed reps, then repeat on the other side before taking any rest. Option to use a rope, or other attachment unless specified.

Substitutions 

Concentration Curl; Single Arm Preacher Curl; Cable Curl; Alternating DB Curl; Hammer Curl; DB Iso-Hold Curl; Single Arm Banded Curl

Seated Cable Row

Neutral Grip Demo

Wide Grip Demo

Underhand Grip Demo

Single Arm Cable Row Demo

Sit on the floor or a seated cable machine and hold the attachment. Pull the handle back towards the lower abdomen. Return the the starting position and repeat. Focus on pulling your elbows back behind your torso and squeezing your shoulder blades together during the contraction, and allowing the cable to return to a deep and reaching start position, protracting your shoulders and stretching your lats. If you do not have access to cables, you can perform these variations with bands.

Substitutions 

Barbell Row; Pendlay Row; Dumbbell Row; Inverted Row; Any other horizontal pull/row

Single Arm Substitutions: Chest Supported Row, Single Arm Lat Pull Down, DB Row

Cable Stiff-Leg Deadlifts

Demo Link

Set up in a conventional deadlift position and hold an attachment to a low cable. Setup and execution of this movement will be very similar to the conventional deadlift, but should have a higher hip position, and less knee flexion. Do not completely lockout knees, but take note to keep legs more straight.

Substitutions 

DB Stiff-Leg Deadlift, BB Stiff-Leg Deadlift, Hamstring Curls

Single Arm Tricep Push Down

Demo Link Here

Set up with a cable in one hand, bent at the elbow. Engage your tricep and push the weight down to straighten the arm. Maintain your upper arm position, and avoid using momentum to press down the weight. Return to the start position and repeat. Can be performed with a single handle attachment, a rope attachment, or other attachment of your choice. Can also be performed with a band if cables are unavailable, by attaching your band to a higher anchor point and/or tilting your torso forward.

Substitutions 

Tricep Pushdowns; DB Tricep Kickback; Bench Dips; Skullcrushers

Supermans

Demo Here

Laying on your stomach, extend your arms overhead and extend legs and feet. Raise the shoulders, head, feet by extending the back and squeezing the glutes. Hold and squeeze at the top, then lower to the start position.

Substitutions 

Back Extensions; Glute Ham Raise; Reverse Hyperextensions

Stir-the-Pot

Demo Here

Using a Bosu ball, set up in a low plank, with forearms on the ball. Slowly circle the bosu ball with your forearms (stirring the pot). Each rotation is one rep.

Substitutions 

Planks, Bosu Ball Plank

Pull-Up Progression Retest

Warm up using an easier scaled version of your working sets. If your prescribed variation is a deadhang or negative pull-ups, perform a couple of sets of lighter resistance, shorter duration, or assisted/lat pull down reps. If your prescribed variation is unassisted pull-ups or weighted pull-ups, perform some sets with reduced reps or weight. Remember, the goal here is to increase blood flow and prepare yourself (both mentally and physically), not exhaust yourself before even beginning your retest.

 

When you feel warm and ready, let’s perform our retest. If your initial baseline test was a deadhang or negative pull-up measured for time, we would encourage you to repeat that same test, and try to beat your total time score. If you could almost do an unassisted pull-up during your baseline test, you can also shoot for your first pull-up! If your initial baseline test was for max reps (either bodyweight or weighted), aim to beat your total rep goal from your baseline test. If you entered our challenge for prizes, don’t forget to film your retest set! Post a link to your new Instagram video next to your name at this link here to finalize your challenge submission. If you didn’t submit an initial test video, you won’t be eligible for prizes this round, but we’d love to see your progress — tag @strongstrongfriends on Instagram!

 

Remember, our goal here is progress. It can take months and/or years of dedicated training for many lifters to get their first pull-up. If you are able to improve your score relative to your baseline test, then we are definitely moving in the right direction, and we are proud of you. Improving the amount of time you can actively deadhang from the bar, or increasing the number of seconds you can lower your body during a negative pull-up is exactly our goal — development of strength in the direction of getting your first pull-up! If you aren’t able to get your first pull-up, that is 100% okay and we encourage you to keep working here and aiming for incremental progress in your variations and accessories to continue supporting your goals.

Negative Chin-Up

Demo Here

Grip a pull-up bar at or slightly wider than shoulder width apart, palms facing towards you (supinated grip). To reach your start position, complete either a strict chin-up, or jump up to hang with biceps flexed, and chin over the bar. Slowly descend for desired amount of time, doing your best to evenly distribute the tempo throughout the entire range of motion. A narrower grip will place more emphasis on your biceps, while a wider grip will place more emphasis on your lats and back.

Substitutions 

Assisted Negative Chin-Ups (using a band or assisted pull-up machine), Negative Pull-Ups

Seated Cable OHP

Demo Link

Get in an upright seated position facing a cable pulley, with handles attached at the low position.  If grip is not specified (e.g. neutral grip), use an attachment of your choosing (straight bar, individual handles, parallel v-bar, etc.).

Raise the weight in front of you, starting with your elbows bent and your forearms vertical. Press the weight up towards the ceiling, being mindful of the cable in front of your face. Try to keep your arms in front of your body while you press, to better target your front (anterior) deltoids.

Substitutions 

Seated DB OHP; Standing DB OHP; Barbell OHP; Viking or Landmine Press; Machine Shoulder/OHP; Front Plate Raise

Single Leg Glute Bridge

Demo Link

Elevated Single Leg Glute Bridge Demo

Lie on floor with feet flat on the ground. Extend one leg fully, and with the other, press into the foot to raise the hips. Squeeze your butt and drive your foot through the floor, extending until your hips are in line with your torso. Aim to keep your shins vertical throughout the repetition to better target your glutes. Press yourself the the end of the range of motion, pause for one second and return to the start position.

For another challenging variation, perform these as Elevated Single Leg Glute Bridge by placing your rooted foot on an stable elevated surface (like a box, bench, or stair) before performing your reps. This will increase the effective range of motion of your repetitions.

Substitutions 

Glute bridge variations (banded, single leg, etc.); Leg Press variations (especially glute focused, such as wide stance or feet further in front of you); Step Up, Lunge, or Split Squat variations

3-Position Cable Curl

Demo Here

Set up a single handle pulley in the low position of a cable rack. Start facing away from the rack, and take ~3 steps away so that the pulley is behind your body, and your upper arm is behind your torso (position 1). Perform curls for the prescribed rep range. Then, turn around so that you face the cable rack and your upper arm is then in front of your torso (position 2), and perform the prescribed rep range. Finally, step closer to the cable rack until you are almost standing above the pulley, and keep your upper arm directly by your torso perpendicular to the floor (position 3). Perform the prescribed reps. Now you’ve completed one set.

Each position of this exercise group trains the biceps, however we are now biasing fibers along different areas of the muscle, by achieving peak resistance at different shortened/lengthened states (i.e. resistance profile is hardest in the lengthened position for Position 1, and hardest in the shortened position in Position 2). If substituting for another curl variation, aim to complete in sets of 15+ reps, and pushing to technical failure.

Substitutions 

3-Position Banded Curl; 3-Position DB Curl; Any Bicep Burnout of 15+ reps to failure; Barbell Curl, Concentration Curl, Cable Curls (V-Bar or EZ Bar attachment), Preacher Curls, Alternating DB Curls, Hammer Curl

Concentration Curl

Demo Here

In a seated position, hang your upper arm vertically (perpendicular to the ground) and rest it against your inner thi