13 Exercises That Everyone Should Have In Their Program

Aug 2015

8 mins read

Getting ready to put together a workout program? If so, you need to take care to ensure that you know which exercises are best to include in such a program.

While getting any exercise is always going to be a good thing, if you are hoping to see optimal results from the time you invest in your program, you want to be certain that you are doing nothing but the best of options.

This will help prevent you from wasting precious time in the gym, growing frustrated when results just aren’t appearing as you had hoped.

So which moves should you be including?

Let’s go over the 13 best exercises that everyone should have in their program, regardless of their goals. One interesting thing about these exercises is that they will work for everyone, regardless of whether your goal is to burn fat, build muscle, or improve your physical conditioning level.

1. Squats

Air squat woman workout exercise at gym

The first must-have move is the basic squat. Squats are highly effective because not only will they hit every muscle group in the lower body as well as the core and muscles running up and down the back, but they’ll get your heart rate up in a hurry.

This strength booster is also great for burning body fat is one of the best ways to entirely reshape your lower body.

When squatting, the key secret is to make sure that you squat all the way down to the ground. This will yield optimal results.

2. Deadlifts


The next must-have move to get into your program plan is the deadlift. Deadlifts are a good alternative to squats on those days you just need a change of pace. As you do them, focus on keeping the back straight to avoid placing excess strain on those joints.

Squats tend to hit the quads slightly more while the deadlifts hit the hamstrings. Remember this as you plan your program.

3. Lunges

woman doing lunge exercise in park

Another great lower body move is the lunge. With plenty of variations – walking lunges, stationary lunges, reverse lunges, or split squat lunges, you’ll never grow bored.

This move is also perfect for hitting the quads, hamstrings, glutes, as well as the core. Add in after any squatting or deadlifting you do.

4. Glute Bridges

 Glute Bridges

The final lower body move that’s a must-do is the glute bridge. Most people end up being quite weak in their glute muscles thanks to the hamstrings taking the brunt of the work when doing other lower body movements.

As such, this can create a muscular imbalance, which eventually leads to injury. Glute bridges help overcome this as they are an isolation move that will specifically zero in on this muscle group, bringing its strength level up higher.

Do this move with a barbell across your waist for extra challenge.

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5. Push-Ups

Fitness woman doing push-ups during outdoor cross training

Push-ups are the next move you’ll want to get into place in your program. This upper body exercise works almost all the primary upper body muscles including the chest, the shoulders, as well as the triceps and even the biceps to some degree.

You’ll also be contracting your core as you lower yourself down, giving you a great abdominal workout as well.

With so many variations of this one as well, you’ll never tire of including it in your program plan.

6. Shoulder Press

Man lifting dumbbells

To work the shoulders, turn to the shoulder press. This can be performed with either a set of dumbbells or a barbell – your choice and is great for building up strength and power.

When doing this exercise, the primary thing to remember is to never lock the shoulders in position at the top of the exercise, which would place great strain on the elbow joint, as well as to make sure that you keep your core tight the entire time.

Squeezing the abs as you perform the exercise will help ensure that you are keeping your spinal column in proper alignment, reducing your risk of back pain.

7. Bent Over Rows

Moving along to the back of your body we come to bend over rows. It’s important to balance out all the chest work you do with back work so that you maintain an even strength distribution throughout the upper body.

Bent over rows help you do just that. This move is great done with a barbell or a set of dumbbells as well and you can do single arm rows if you prefer.

When doing this move, the primary focus should be on keeping the back stationary as you perform the exercise, thinking of squeezing up through the shoulder blade as you lift the weight.

8. Pull-Ups

strong athlete doing pull-up on horizontal bar

Want a slimmer waist? Pull-ups may be your solution. While this exercise isn’t especially going to target your ab muscles, what it does is increase the thickness of your back, which then creates a nice illusion of having a slimmer waistline.

It’s perfect for both men and women alike and should be included in any workout program. If you can’t quite do a regular style pull-up, just have someone assist you with it or use an assisted pull-up machine.

9. Plank Hold

fit sportive man and woman doing plank

The plank hold is the next great move that everyone should be including in their workout program at some point or another. This core building move is unlike other exercises as it’s an isometric contraction, meaning you’ll hold the position for a length of time rather than moving through the rep.

This exercise will hit all the muscles in the abdominal core as well as the muscles running up and down the spinal column, so is perfect for building that high level of strength you’re looking for.

When doing this one, you can also do advanced variations such as placing the hands or the feet up on an exercise ball as you hold the plank exercise.

10. Prone Ball Roll-In

The next abdominal move that you’ll want to factor in is the prone ball roll-in. This exercise will be great for building up core strength as well, specifically targeting the lower abdominal region.

When choosing your abdominal exercises for your workout program, it’s always a good idea to focus, as much as possible, one doing those that are moving away from the basic crunch position. Crunches are not very dynamic in nature and don’t have you moving through that large of a movement pattern, therefore don’t recruit as many muscle fibers.

The prone ball roll-in is a far superior choice and will give you more ‘bang for your buck’ so to speak in terms of the strengthening results you see.

11. Standing Calf Raises

One move that you can’t leave out of your workout program is the standing calf raises. It’s easy to overlook the calf muscles entirely as they just aren’t something people focus on from an aesthetic point of view. But, they are important nevertheless.

Remember it’s your calf muscles that are working hard with every step you take, so ensuring they’re strong can help improve your performance in any exercise where you are in a standing position.

Standing calf raises allow you to heavily load up the calves, working them to their full potential. You should aim to do both low reps with a heavy weight as well as higher reps with a lighter weight when doing this exercise.

12. Internal And External Rotator Cuff Rotations

Another important set of exercises to include in your program are internal and external rotations. These are going to hit your rotator cuff muscles, which are small muscle groups that help to stabilize the shoulder.

Many shoulder injuries can be easily prevented by making sure these muscles are strong, so they aren’t ones to overlook.

Doing these rotations twice per week as part of your warm-up for shoulder training will give you the strength you need.

Be sure to use a lighter weight when doing these moves so you don’t stress or strain the muscles. Most people will be fine using a weight of around 5 pounds per hand.

13. Burpees

Finally, the last move to include in your workout program is the burpee. This one is an excellent cardiovascular building exercise as it’ll get your heart rate up and keep it there, so is a great calorie burner.

Best of all, you can do it anywhere without any equipment, so it’s perfect for those who are doing home cardio workout routines.

Burpees will hit every muscle group in the body as well as both the lower and upper body is involved, while the core muscles will come into play to keep the body balanced.

When doing burpees, be sure that you are wearing proper footwear and doing them on a cushioned surface as they will place you at a higher risk for knee pain due to the impact level you’ll experience throughout the exercise.

So there you have a list of the primary moves that you should be including in your workout program. If you can build a workout around these foundational exercises, you can rest assured that the workout you are doing is one that will yield you optimal results.

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