My fellow personal trainer told me the following story.
She was working with a new client and asked her to perform squats. The client snapped: Is this all that you personal trainers, can do? Squats have been around all the time as long as I remember, isn't it time to come up with something new??
She was right. Squats have been around for years, thousands or so, and there is a good reason for it.
Squatting a very natural way of moving and it gives you awesome results when you keep them in your regular workout practice.
The client was obviously tired of the same old things. Perhaps she was looking for one perfect, fat-shredding, body-ripping exercise that gives her a beach body in no time – after all, she had paid a lot of money to hire a personal trainer!
My colleague had to disappoint her. Because there is no new, just invented, revolutionary exercise that is as good as a squat.
No matter what the Ab Rocket or Euro Plate Vibration machine producers claim, even these “magical” machines won't give you the beach body.
It's not to say that all that personal trainers do day in and day out is put people squatting, but there are some basic movement patterns and exercises that we do repeat a lot, like pushing and pulling things, lifting, jumping, running and carrying.
The most universal, efficient and useful movement patterns have been the same throughout thousands of years. If you think how people probably moved thousands of years ago, you'll realize that
- They moved a lot. On average, our ancestors moved anywhere between 28-30 miles a day. Fast forward today, a big part of us doesn't walk even fraction of it.
Other than walking and running, here's what our ancestor's days consisted of:
- Jumping. Picture overcoming an obstacle on the course.
- Climbing. If you wanted to get the coconut, you had to climb the tree to get it.
- Lifting. You had to pick up the kids or the catch from the ground and carry it home.
- Pulling. The catch didn't walk home itself, right?
- Pushing. You had to get that rock or three out from your way.
- Squatting down to rest and feast after hunting. Sure, they also sat down, but not on the chair with their bodies in unnatural position like we have now.
These are the movements that our bodies are adapted to do.
Nowadays we don't have to kill our own catch and drag it home, nor to escape the animal or pick our own coconuts. But we may need to move our furniture or pick up our kids, sprint to catch the bus or to react quickly to avoid slipping on ice.
These are all functional motion patterns that have and will always remain the same for human physiology. They are the most common ones and performing them helps us do the best in our everyday life. They also give you some great results when you add them into your workout routine.
Our grand ancestors never get their six-packs by rocking on Ab Rocket or tried to shake their cellulite off on iGallop.
Therefore, to get the best results, you should focus, first and foremost, on big compound movements that recruit lots of muscle groups at once. The movements are very similar to the way we used to move thousands of years ago.
Here are the five motions that no matter what, will always be the most natural and beneficial for human body.
The best thing about them? You don't need any equipment to do them.
Bodyweight squats are an awesome whole body exercise. There are no lower body muscles that are not involved in squat. But in addition, you also need to keep your core engaged to maintain your posture, or put it simply, be able to keep your body up.
Grab a kettlebell or a sandbag to play lifting up a catch from the ground, then put it back down again. You just performed a squat.
2. Push Ups
Push Ups are a perfect upper body and core exercise, but they involve even your legs. If you are not ready to do regular push ups, do them standing – you can play a caveman who is pushing a tree down or a rock off his way.
3. Pull Ups
Pulling yourself up on a pull up bar is very similar to pulling yourself up the tree. If you are not quite as strong yet to pull yourself up yet, try assisted pull ups with a resistance band. Keep practicing and one day you'll be able to do the caveman version.
Our lives may have depended on our ability to move fast. And actually, they still may! Hope you never need to escape from anyone, but do your sprints anyway. They are perfect full body exercise, working your lower and upper body strength, speed and agility. And just a side note, sprints are also great glute builders.
Wait, I don't think our ancestors did burpees?
Okay, this is just me sneaking my favorite exercise into this list. BUT burpees are a great combination of a squat, push up and jump – all very common movements for human body. Combine them all together to make it even more efficient than the three above mentioned separately.
6. Long Distance Walking or Running
I believe that we need to walk or run long-ish distances every now or then. We used to walk and run a lot, seeking for food or water. Make sure you get some longer walking, hiking or jogging sessions in time to time. It helps to build your stamina and endurance that you need not only for working out, but also in your everyday life.
See, there is a reason why we still do these squats. Some things about human physiology and movement patterns will probably never change and that's the reason why we keep incorporating these basic movements into our workout routines.
What are the most common movements that you do a lot in your workout?
Me: All the five that I just mentioned, but running and squats are the ones that I probably do most.
Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links, but they are for products that I totally recommend.