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The Top 5 Exercises You Should Be Doing

And doing them often!

As a personal and small group trainer it’s fun to come up with new and different exercises to challenge the muscles, minds and members. But in all honesty, there is a pretty narrow lane of exercises that should be a staple in every gym, fitness studio or workout routine.
Here are my top five in descending order starting with number 5 (which is sure to elicit groans and protests.)

Fitness SuccessNumber 5
The Burpee

The Burpee is actually named after its inventor, a Mr. Royal H. Burpee. Interested in health and fitness at an academic level, Burpee or ‘Goog’ as he was known to his family, created the movement during his PhD days at the Columbia Teacher College in 1939. Far from a torturous intent, Burpee was interested in creating an exercise which would not only provide an overall conditioning for the body but would also act as a quick and easy means of testing an individual’s fitness levels.

Other than, perhaps, being the most ubiquitous and universally disdained exercise, the burpee is an excellent total body exercise.

  • It improves balance, stability and mobility
  • It increases aerobic capacity
  • It is a total body strength and mobility movement
  • It can be done anywhere, anytime without special equipment.

So next time you see these in your routine – remember how wonderful they really are!

BurpeeFitness SuccessNumber 4

Again, Surrenders make the list because they use a lot of large muscle groups and emphasize strength, mobility and balance. Surrenders can be done with or without weight and are easily adaptable to all fitness and mobility levels. You’ll discover that surrenders challenge the core, legs and those proprioceptors. If you are over 50, Surrenders are a must to keep you fit for everyday movements (like playing with your children or grandchildren, gardening or pickleball).

Like the Burpee, the Surrender:

  • Improves balance, stability and mobility
  • Increases aerobic capacity
  • Forces activation of the glutes and core
  • Is a total body strength and mobility movement
  • Can be done anywhere, anytime with or without special equipment

SurrendersFitness SuccessNumber 3
Kettlebell Swings

This is nothing personal, but you sit too much! And because of that you’ve got a lazy butt.
It’s an epidemic in America right now. Under-activated, under-engaged gluteal muscles combined with inflexible and shortened hip flexors is the perfect tsunami for back, knee and leg pain. One of the best exercises to calm this storm and reactivate those glutes is the Kettlebell swing. When done with proper form and using the correct technique, will fire up those buns while protecting the back.


  • Focuses on and activates the gluteal muscles
  • Builds and protects the posterior chain
  • Has infinite variations
  • Requires very little equipment

Fitness SuccessNumber 2
The Deadlift

While we’re talking about firing up the butt muscles, let’s go to the deadlift. In fact, you could swap this with my number 1 exercise and I wouldn’t object. Bending, done properly, to pick up something heavy from the floor is as natural as our Neanderthal fore parents. The deadlift not only activates the glutes, but engages the hamstrings, core and entire posterior chain. It also requires good grip strength which, according to almost every expert in the world (1) (2) (3), is the best measure of fitness and longevity. Not only that, the deadlift incorporates some the largest muscle groups in the body build size and therefore increasing metabolism. Bigger BIG muscles means more energy and fat burn. And we all want that!


  • Engages the glutes, hamstrings and entire postural chain
  • Builds bigger muscle increasing metabolic gain
  • Improves posture and functional strength
  • Strengthens the body to keep the back strong and injury free

DeadliftNumber 1
As I said, you can flip Deadlifts and squats as 1 & 2 as far as I’m concerned, but a well executed squat is a firecracker exercise for building overall functional strength. Because we engage the quads and the glutes in this lift, it uses the biggest muscles in the body. Again, bigger BIG muscles, more metabolic gain! The core strength, balance, mobility and stability required to perform the squat helps keep the entire body strong and functionally fit.
Now I have heard some say that they were told not to squat due to a back or some other injury. And to that I call BS! Done properly and with proper professional guidance, the squat is not only safe, but instrumental in building a strong, pain-free, bullet proof back.


  • Engages and strengthens the biggest muscles of your body
  • Improves strength, balance, mobility and stability for everyday tasks
  • A strong, powerful movement that engages the entire body
  • Again, no fancy machines needed, just a barbell or some dumbbells

squatSo, if you are not incorporating these 5 exercises in your routines, consider doing them frequently. And the next time burpees come up in the workout I hope you are jumping for joy!

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Author John

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