Since the beginning of time, our body has not change much. “Human evolution led to five basic movements, which encompass nearly all of our everyday motions.” Meaning your workout needs just five exercises, one from each of these categories: push (pressing away from you), pull (tugging toward you), hip-hinge (bending from the middle), squat (flexing at the knee), and plank (stabilizing your core).
How It Works
Pick one move from each of these categories. Then do 2 sets of 12 reps. Change up the moves but repeat the plan 3 or 4 times a week. For cardio extra credit, see the add-ons below.
The Ultimate: Bench Press
Lie face-up on a bench, holding a heavy barbell at your sternum, hands shoulder-width apart, elbows bent into sides. Extend arms, pushing bar directly above chest. Pause, then lower barbell to start.
The Alternates: Push-up, dumbbell shoulder press, single-arm kettlebell press, push press
The Ultimate: Pull-up
Hang from a bar with palms facing away from you, arms straight, knees bent so feet don’t touch floor. Bend elbows, pulling chest toward bar. Slowly lower yourself to start.
The Alternates: Dumbbell row, TRX row, chin-up, cable row, lat pull-down
The Ultimate: Deadlift
Set a heavy barbell on the floor in front of you. Push hips back as you bend forward, grabbing the bar with hands more than shoulder-width apart, palms facing body. Keep back straight as you stand up, lifting the bar and thrusting hips forward. Slowly lower bar to start.
The Alternates: Kettlebell swing, Romanian deadlift, trap-bar deadlift
The Ultimate: Split Squat
Stand on your right leg, left foot resting on a bench or box behind you, and hold a heavy dumbbell in each hand. Bend right knee, lowering body until left knee hovers just above the ground. Straighten right leg, returning to start. Complete all the reps on one side before switching legs.
The Alternates: Barbell squat, lunge, goblet squat, reverse lunge
The Ultimate: Farmer’s Walk Stand up straight holding a heavy dumbbell in each hand, palms facing body. Maintain your posture as you walk 20 meters. Turn, repeat, returning to start.
The Alternates: Plank, bird dog, side plank, suitcase carry
To check off cardio, too (and send your metabolism into even higher gear), add one of these five-minute bursts to your five-move session.
Do More Reps
Load a barbell with a weight that’s about 70 percent of what you can lift one time, then choose one of the five movements and perform as many reps as you can—without breaking form.
On a rowing machine, row as many meters as possible in 5 minutes. With each workout, attempt to increase that distance by one percent.
Sprint up a Hill
Set a treadmill to a slight incline, about 3 percent. Run as fast as you can for 30 seconds, aiming for 10 miles per hour. Jog for 30 seconds at 5 mph. Repeat for 5 minutes.