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5 Exercises to Never Take Out of Your Programs

Interesting idea in an article by Matt Mills in an alternative universe ( :shushing_face: ) on five exercises that you should always do. His list:

  • Face pulls
  • Single leg variations
  • Pull-ups
  • Triceps Press downs
  • Glute Ham Raise

What’s your 5 must haves?

Note: Matt’s list is from a Strongman/Powerlifting perspective so it might not align with your goals but feel free to make this applicable to your situation


My goals are mostly aligned with feeling “athletic.”

As such, the only exercise I feel is 100% non-negotiable is a sprint with maximal exertion. Everything else - within my goals - can be effectively substituted.

In the weight room, as long as I touch at least one knee-dominant, hip-dominant, vert push/pull, horizontal push/pull, jump and maybe COD exercise a week, I feel like my bases are covered

I think the only weight room exercise I could justify always doing is, ironically, a lateral raise, since big delts are badass and not too many things properly hit the middle deltoid. That said, there are still so many variations of lateral raises - each with their own merit - that, at best, I could say I will always do some kind of lateral raise variation

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I dunno. I tend to think of muscles and not exercises and I train more or less “instinctively” these days.

Probably some stuff I can contribute here:

I always do direct work for my rear and side delts.

I always try to include any kind of tricep extension that requires your elbows to be near to your head level, e.g, incline ez bar extensions, overhead cable extensions. But triceps have always naturally been one of my better parts so I don’t focus too much on them.

I think it’s important that people are able to know how to target their lats vs whatever’s above them(Of COURSE they will all get hit when you do a back exercise, I’m talking about putting emphasis on one part vs the other). If it’s really too hard, find a gym with one of those old school pullover machines and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Don’t try to target your “inner” and “outer” bicep heads PLEASE. It’s just not possible because the fibers of both heads run almost parallel to one another, ok? I see so many programs online trying to overcomplicate this shit and the trainers saying shit like this should be bitch slapped with a dildo with Rippetoe’s head printed on it. The brachialis is a different thing altogether.


I really dug that article. Even commented on it over at Elitefts. For me

Band pull aparts. Been doing them since 08. Healthy shoulders rock, it’s a stupidly simple movement, bands are cheap and you can do them anytime/anywhere. I do them daily at this point

Dips. Bodyweight for sure, weighed is cool too. Being able to move your body through space will never fall out of fashion, and the dip is just the perfect “everything builder” as far as upper body pressing goes. Want more chest? Lean forward. Want more triceps? Stay upright. Don’t lockout and make it pumpy to flush the body with blood, or do strict lockouts for strength.

Reverse hypers. Never going to regret having a strong lower back.


Ever try ring dips ?


They are amazing… as long as no kipping is involved… :joy:

Pullups, dips, band pull aparts, walking lunges and carries.

I think the first three are pretty self explanatory, but i will expand a bit on the others. As far as lower body exercises go, there are tons of variations you can do, and while squats are phenomenal and i love them, walking lunges are a special type of pain. They just work and can be absolutely brutal. As far as carries go, bear hug and farmers are my go to’s but carries in general are amazing. Talk about functional strength if you believe in that. Talk about gains if your into that too.

  • DB curl
  • Seated DB curl
  • Incline DB curl
  • Incline DB drag curl
  • Incline DB drag curl w/ 2 sec hold at peak

J/K…J/K for real now:

Front Squat
Snatch-grip RDL or DL
Split squat variation
Pullup variation
Push press variation (recently a fan of BTN snatch-grip)

Agreed with face-pull, the moment I stopped doing them my shoulders got hurt. Glutes ham raise is also amazing but most gym don’t have the equipment, unless you have a partner to hold your legs, you probably can;t do these

my list:
Face-pull - Best for injury prevention
rear delt raises - best for building rear delts to get that complete delts development
Leg curl (lying and seated) - RDL don’t hit the hammies like these
Hanging leg raise - Nothing stabilize and builds ur abs like these
lateral raises - obvious that none compound exercises sufficiently target the side delts (except for power cleans I think in which it is easy for traps to take over)

Everything else you can substitue I think.

There is a theme on this list so far. Isolation exercises, duplication, and generally things that no one actually needs to do to accomplish their goals. For example, Face Pulls and Rear Delt Raises are targeting the same muscle(s) if done correctly. If I went to the gym and only did the exercises on one of any of these lists, I would quickly get smaller and weaker, so they would seem to not be very accurate. The only thing that really needs to be in any program is enough work to generate results and the ability to honestly self-assess based on your goals.

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Ring dips are the king. Literally, ring push ups, ring pull ups, ring rows, ring inverted shrugs… are all fantastic. You add balance, natural range of motion, and an added degree of difficulty. I would say if I could only pick one training tool (squat rack, rings, dumb bells, etc…) to have it would be rings.

They’re humbling. I have 2 sets in my garage gym. I feel they produce great strength

45 degree back (hip) extensions,
single leg lift (skaters),
dumbbell bench or floor press.