There are a lot of free weight exercises out there. Between barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells you have a whole slew of different ways to work the common ranges of motion along with a few uncommon varieties. So how do you choose the best from such a huge list?
In thinking about the problem of choosing just five exercises to list as the best of the best the deciding factor was need. If you could only do five exercises to workout your body which free weight exercises would you use? With that in mind, it was a bit easier to shave down the huge list to something a bit more manageable.
The Big 5
Now these exercises are all staples of many people’s training routines because they are great compound exercises. They also happen to combine into a routine that allows you to train most of your body effectively.
- Barbell Squat – You can’t beat squats for leg development along with creating overall body mass. This exercise also works quite a few smaller stabilizers. Ideally you have a lot of variations using depth of squat, foot positions, and rep to help vary training.
- Barbell Deadlift – Much like the squat, this is a core exercise. Along with the core, the hips, and the hamstrings, deadlifts work the quads, calves, forearms, biceps, shoulders, and back. That is a heck of a lot of muscles for just one exercise. But if you are only doing five free weight exercises then you need these multifunctional staples.
- Snatch and Press – This would be the one black sheep of the group that a lot of people don’t do; but they should. The snatch is a classic exercise to really work the shoulders, including shoulder rotation. When you add the press to the movement it creates the perfect shoulder girdle killer exercise that also incorporates the core and triceps.
- Dumbbell Rows – You need to work the middle and upper back along with the lats and the single dumbbell row is one of the best options out there. Unlike the barbell counterpart, this is actually the superior exercise because you can use a greater range of motion and also incorporate more angles to ensure you hit more of the back. It is also a great way to work the biceps and forearms.
- Dips – Now a lot of people would probably take a bench press movement here, but bear with me. Some free weight exercises like the flat bench press can lead to shoulder issues. So in this case dips were selected because they are great at working the chest, shoulders, and triceps. With a nice set of parallel bars you can vary your hand width and body position to effectively work more of your body with a single exercise than you can with a flat bench press.
More than likely there will be some people who don’t agree with this list and would swap some exercises out. It is perfectly understandable because there are a lot of great exercises out there. However if you could only use five free weight exercises to train your whole body for a year, this group would be very effective and versatile compared to any other group that could be assembled.