LiveWild Radio's Favorite Exercises
Updated: Sep 9, 2021
Rather than have in-depth exercise how-tos in all of our training articles, Catharine had the idea that we put them all in one place. This is our exercise glossary. Here are our favorite exercises, plus the ones we hate but are effective.
We focus on movements rather than muscles. Unless you are a bodybuilder, where aesthetics are the most important thing, improving your strength and quality of movements will improve your muscles.
We have broken them up into movement categories.
We try to include many links as we think you will need to start to learn a movement. Especially when working out at home, it can be hard to get good coaching.
Primary human movement
These are the movements that have stood the test of time for improving athletic performance and hitting just about all the body muscles. A program built on these movement patterns will help you perform better and look good in your underpants.
These may be areas that you need special attention. For instance, if you are a rock climber, then direct grip training will help your sport, whereas the average person will get enough grip training from kettlebells and bodyweight movements.
The Most Effective Movements
Our list focuses on Kettlebells and bodyweight movements, as this is how we train. You can make all of these movement patterns with barbells or dumbbells. I have broken it down into the movements that give the most bang for your buck.
It is pivoting at the hips to pick something off the ground or jump forward. You then extend your hips to stand back up. This can be a slow grind or an explosive ballistic movement, but the pattern is the same. Hip hinge movements train just about all muscles in the back of the body, emphasizing the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.
This hip hinge variation is one I use to teach the swing, as a weighted hamstring stretch and as a finisher. As I only have kettlebells at home, I don't have enough weight to be the main exercise. If you have a barbell, I think it is one of the most useful deadlift variations. Great for building strength and size in the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. Plus, the grip and upper back are engaged in just holding the bar.
If you only did one exercise to boost athletic performance, the swing would be at the top of my list. It can build power, muscle, and conditioning, depending on the weight and reps used.
You can do the kettlebell swing with one or two hands. The two-hand version focuses on explosive power or conditioning depending on the weight and number of reps. The one-hand swing works the same movement pattern but also has the anti-rotation component for more core engagement. One-hand swings also tax the grip more.
If the swing is the basic, the snatch is the advanced version of a ballistic hip hinge. The mechanics start the same, but the hip drive is redirected to drive the kettlebell into an overhead locked-out position. You can do the snatch with single or double kettlebells.
The clean is a redirected swing with you catching the weight in the rack position at chest height. This can be its own exercise or the way you get the weight up for overhead pressing. The double kettlebell clean is one of my favorite movements as it allows for much heavier loads. Plus, it opens the door for complexes such as the clean and front squat, thrusters, clean and press, or clean and jerk.
Banded good mornings
A good morning is a hip hinge with the resistance behind your neck, such as a barbell or thick rubber band instead of the weight in hand. With a band, the load is highest at the top rather than at the bottom. To increase the load you can also hold weights in your hands.
The motion is the same as the swing but doesn't require the same coordination because it is done slower.
Instead of hinging at the hip with minimal knee bend, the squat has your hips moving up and down. Think of getting off the toilet. This movement emphasizes the quads and glutes.
Holding a kettlebell or dumbbell in front of your chest, the goblet squat is both a great way to train your legs and core as well as teach people how to squat properly.
Kettlebell front squat
Holding two kettlebells in the rack position is one of the hardest ways to squat. It is great for the quads due to the depth that comes naturally and torches the core and upper back by keeping the kettlebells from falling forward. If you combine each squat with a clean, you will hit the posterior chain, quads, and core.
Bulgarian split squat
This is a great leg builder without having to load the spine heavily. Also referred to as a rear foot elevated split squat. It can be loaded with kettlebells in the hands. The video shows a bench being used, but you can use a box or even a stair-sted to elevate the rear foot.
Any exaggerated step will fit in the lunge family. This is unilateral leg movement. Whether walking or running, human locomotion is done one leg at a time. Lunges help strengthen that pattern. Muscles emphasized are quads, glutes, hamstrings and core.
Rear stepping lunge
This type of lunge has you step back with the rear knee descend to the floor.
This is simply stepping up on a sturdy box or step with weight. The carryover to hiking is immense as this is exactly what you do, especially in the mountains. Focus on control on the positive and negative portions of the exercise. People tend to heave themselves up and drop with gravity back to the ground.
Push weight away from you or pushing yourself away, such as a push-up. Muscles emphasized are shoulders, triceps, and chest.
Double Kettlebell Press
Push press and Jerk
The next in the family of overhead presses use the legs to kick the weight up. With a slight knee bend, you use both upper body strength and leg drive to complete the rep. This is a more athletic movement as it ties the upper and lower body together.
The Jerk uses a double-dip. First, you will use the knee bend to help start the movement, and as the kettlebells move up, you will bend the knees again to catch the bells. The movement is finished by straightening the legs. Jerks allow you to put more weight overhead or do more reps as the legs are doing more work.
Both push press and jerks can be done with single and double kettlebells.
The old gym class standard is one of the most useful calisthenic movements as it ties pressing into full-body bracing. Getting up off the floor is a skill everyone should practice regularly. Plus, it will give you great upper body development without any equipment.
As the name implies, it is doing pushups on gymnastic rings. Simple but hard.
Whether with parallel bars, gymnastic rings, or even a pair of chairs, dips are a tough pushing exercise that will build the chest, arms, and shoulders. They can be hard on people with shoulder issues, so listen to your body and stop if they hurt.
Pulling movements involve you pulling weights towards your body or pulling your body towards something such as pull-ups. Muscles emphasized are the upper back, biceps, forearms, and rear delts.
This is one of the most functional things you can do. Pick up a weight and moving it over distance is something you do every day. This is a great way to build work capacity, train the core, grip, and integrate the body as a unit. Depending on the type of carry you will be working just about every muscle in the body. Great for core, grip, traps, legs, and hips. Heavy farmers carries are even a great bicep builder.
I lump the Turkish get up in with carries. It hits everything and helps with body control and mobility. It also hits the core very thoroughly. Getting up off the ground is a test of function and anti-aging so if you can get up with load you will have a much better quality of life as you get older.
Complexes are doing a series of movements, one after the other without not putting the weight down until all reps are done. This is a secret to building muscle, burning fat, and getting in great shape.
There are endless combinations but I've listed a few of my favorites.
Done as an Every Minute On the Minute (EMOM), where you do a set each minute. If a set takes you 30 seconds then you get 30 seconds rest before your next set.
Start with 10 minutes but you can work up to 30. This complex combines a hip hinge, push and squat in one set.
Each minute you will do the following before putting the weight down.
2 Double kettlebell cleans
1 Double kettlebell press
3 Double kettlebell front squats
This one torches the legs.
Try to get as many rounds as you can in 20 minutes. Rest as much as you need to make the reps good quality. Write down what you accomplished in the workout so you can track your progress. I would suggest doing this twice a week for 6 weeks. Your density will increase as you get in better shape.
5 Double kettlebell front squat
5 Double kettlebell clean
5 Double kettlebell press
5 Double Kettlebell front squat
Geoff Neupert is the king of kettlebell complexes. The Wolf is his creation and so is this one. Simple but effective. I set a timer and try to get as many rounds with good form as I can in 20 minutes. Go to his website www.chasingstrength.com to find more about his programs. It is worth the money if you are serious about getting stronger, leaner, and fitter but don't want to have to figure it all out yourself.
5 Double kettlebell cleans
5 Double kettlebell presses
5 Double kettlebell snatches
Adding a bit of separate core work isn't a bad idea. A stronger core will help athletic performance and help avoid back pain.
We mainly use Turkish Get-ups, loaded carries, and ab rollouts. Plus the plank position is held for long periods doing pushups. But we will mix in other plank variations and hanging leg raises for variety.
Hanging leg raises
The ab wheel is a cheap training tool that challenges the core, lats, and pecs in a way that is hard to replicate. The device is cheap so get one and hate me.
Planks are a static anti-extension core exercise. It trains the whole core to brace and support the spine.
Kettlebell training and pull-ups provide a lot of grip training but if you are a rock climber then you need specialized training to improve the specific way you grip the holds.
This is hanging by your fingertips from small holds. A hangboard allows you to train climbing-specific fitness. Check out the hangboards at REI if you are interested in building your finger strength. If you buy it helps us out as we get a commission.
if you are looking to get a hangboard my favorite hangboard is the Metolius Simulator 3D. It has a ton of grip options and the angles are a little more ergonomic.
Intermediate and Advanced Program
Another excellent way to train your grip is the towel hang. You can just hang or do pullups while you are there to kill two birds with one stone.
There are thousands of exercise variations, but these are the ones that I have found give you the most bang for your buck. Bear in mind we are training for performance as mountain bikers, rock climbers, and hikers. While regular training of these movements in a progressive manner will make you look better in your underwear, that isn't our primary goal. If you have questions about training, feel free to send us a message or leave a comment.