Cutting out the Crap

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Beginner athletes love to overcomplicate when it comes to selecting their exercises in the gym. Take an average bro (let’s call him Scotty) who works out in a big box commercial gym. Jay’s training goals can be summarised in the following anecdotal points:

  • Jay wants to have those huge arms and that’s why he attacks his biceps from all kinds of angles.
  • Jay worries about not hitting his transverse abdominals enough so he can finally have that sharp V-cut every guy aspires.
  • Jay performs an endless number of crunches in the hope that his rectus abdominus will finally emerge from the depths of his fat belly.
  • Jay wants to build this big bulging chest that will make him look attractive to women by filling out his shirt.
  • Jay looks at the big guys in the gym and emulates their training approach not realising his genetics will never allow him to become as huge as them.
  • Jay is mainly concerned with single-joint isolation exercises that will hit all of his muscle groups separately but never in conjunction.


I could go on with this list but you get the point. Jay is so concerned with all those minute details and misses the more important bigger picture of why he actually works out – getting stronger by building muscles to support his strength.

Jay must cut out the crap out of his training and start focusing on the important stuff – i.e. building some Real Freakin‘ Strength. The nice muscular physique he is after will follow eventually but in the meantime GET STRONG! In the midst of all the information on different workout routines, we often forget about the essential exercises when it comes to getting strong.


Indicator Movements

Not your average gym bro, Jay

I am not a member of a big box gym and don’t have the pleasure of having to get in contact with people like Jay. I am lucky enough to be able to train in my own basement home gym either on my own or with people more experienced than myself. In that small basement room – the fun ends as we heave around some heavy iron.

My training philosophy focuses on performing the big hard compound movements first and worrying about isolating single muscle groups later (if necessary). Compound movements are really taxing on the body as they engage many muscle groups at the same time. My indicator movements that have given me best strength and muscle gains are:

1. Deadlift

Nothing beats the deadlift. It works the entire posterior chain. It will give the core incredible stability by working both your abs and lumbar extensors. The sheer joy of a new PR after lifting heavy shit off the ground is unbeatable. These days, I prefer to use the trapbar for deadlifts. My body dimensions are more suitable for trapbar deadlifts rather than barbell.

2. Chin Ups

No need to perform biceps curls. The chin up will take care of it. Your lats will spread nicely as well. I am still working on getting those damned 20 reps in a single set but I will get there eventually. After that is done, I will attach some heavy weights to my balls and focus on getting better at weighted chin ups.

3. Barbell Push Press

This is a variation of an overhead press except that you bend your knees slightly and use some momentum to press the barbell overhead. See the different variations of the overhead press HERE. Works the entire body and can be particularly felt in the deltoids and triceps muscles. Doing a 100 kg push press is a display of some real strength.

4. Incline Dumbbell Press

I don’t like the flat bench barbell press. It wreaks too much havoc on the shoulder girdle. That’s why I set my bench at a maximum angle of 30° and press dumbbells. As opposed to the flat bench barbell pres, the wrists can rotate freely and move along a more shoulder-friendly trajectory when pressing dumbbells. Additional advantage – this exercise will build the pectoralis nicely in the area just below the clavicles.


These are my four indicator go-to exercises that I measure my progress with. In addition, I also like to perform front squats and bodyweight dips but these aren’t my top priority at the moment.

What are your indicator exercises that give your muscles the best bang for the buck?

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  • Michael Allen Smith

    SuperSlow Leg Press. I also like chin-ups a lot.

    • Stephan R

      Leg Press with a superslow cadence is great.

      Yesterday, I performed a single repetition of a bodyweight squat that lasted for a total of 4 min (2 min: concentric, 2 min: eccentric). After that I just collapsed to the floor and was not able to walk properly for the next few minutes –> absolutely insane intensity!