Sometimes the old-uns are the best-uns. You really can’t beat something like the bench press, or the push up or the overhead shoulder press – and there’s a reason that these kinds of moves have been staples in our fitness regimes for decades.
Sure, new exercises come and go. Right now, everyone is talking about Crossfit moves like the ‘kipping pull up’. But while they might be trendy for a while (even if they are misguided), people still rely on squats and deadlifts for the bread and butter of their workouts.
So what are the very best of these ‘old-school’ workouts? Which classic moves have truly stood the test of time and would we be completely lost without? Let’s take a tour of the six best and see what it is that makes them so classic – as well as how you can ensure you’re getting the most out of them.
The bench press is one of the best upper body moves ever invented. It trains the pecs primarily but is also great for the shoulders, the triceps, the core and the traps. To make the most of it, start narrowing your grip to be no wider than your shoulders. This will help you to build a bigger chest and will prevent your elbows from flaring out during reps.
Overhead Shoulder Press
The good old fashioned military press is another classic. It trains the shoulders, the pecs and the triceps and it’s a great demonstration of true strength. If you can press something over your head then you’ve really mastered that weight.
Switch to dumbbells though if you want to improve the focus on the smaller deltoid heads, while also protecting the neck.
Pull ups are another great ‘test of strength’ move that every guy should be able to do. What’s more, they work the lats, the abs and the biceps which makes them the perfect partner for the last two moves. A pull up is something you can do anywhere as well. To perform these better, make sure you tighten your glutes and abs to prevent those energy leaks and to stop wobbling in the air.
Squats are often hailed as the king of the gym. They’ll train your glutes, hamstrings, quads, core and more and they’re so simple. Again, to make more of this move, make sure that you’re contracting the glutes. This will help you to lock your back and shins in the correct positions.
Deadlifts are like a more challenging version of the squat that introduce the lats and the erector spinae into the equation. The ability to ‘pick heavy things off the ground’ is something that everyone should develop but it’s important to use the right technique. Lower the bar with nothing but your hip until it reaches the knee and only then squat the legs.
Finally, the barbell curl. This isn’t a compound movement but it’s a classic for training those biceps. Sometimes you just need to isolate a muscle group to really see it grow. To get more from your barbell curl, move the weight more slowly and stop swinging your body into it.
Of course there are many more ‘honourable mentions’ we could have looked at, ranging from press ups to dips. You really can’t beat the classics!