Friday, March 21, 2008

Dad Strength Part II: "If You Had to Choose One Exercise..."

A popular question on internet bodybuilding and strength-related forums is "If you could only do one exercise in the gym, what would you do?". Rarely do we have to make such an extreme choice, but proper exercise selection is crucial to health and athletic achievement and when we are crunched for time, we often have to limit our selection to the very best exercises.

Of course, choosing the best exercises for any individual with no consideration of goals, strengths, and weaknesses makes no sense whatsoever, and if you are a powerlifter or olympic weightlifter your needs will be different. But, I have chosen the following exercises for a broad range of needs and they form a strong corpus for everything from "Dad Strength" to opening a can of whoop-ass. So, here it is, my top 5 exercises for "Dad Strength":


Is there a better exercise for the grip, arms, shoulders, and upper back? Strict or not, kipping (ala' CrossFit) or not, pull-ups are an exercise everyone should include in their training if possible - if not possible, then working towards them should be a goal.


A fantastic exercise for the entire body. Develops strength and coordination. Major advantages of using kettlebells over a barbell is that you can do high reps with increased range of motion and no bar crashing down on your legs or the floor.


How many times in our life do we have to pick up objects and move? The farmer's walk is a staple event in World's Strongest Man competitions for a reason - it tests your everything. Weight, pace, stride length, and distance are all up to you and less is not more, it's just less.


If you are after a wasp-waist, then this exercise is not for you. If, on the other hand, you want to look like you could actually do a day of manual labor and have a chance of doing so should life demand it, then the (single) shoulder-carry is your ticket. Find a suitable sandbag, rock, or willing (or unwilling) victim, clean to the shoulder and get moving.


What needs to be said about the king of all exercises? A strong case for deadlifts could be made, of course, but the "deep knee bend" in all its forms and incarnations has always had many proponents. As I get older and see so many more of my friends, relatives, and colleagues struggle to get up from the floor or out of a chair, I see the utility of this exercise far beyond merely a muscle-building tool. As Gray Cook states "Squatting precedes walking in the developmental sequence..." and that alone speaks volumes for the squat's position at or near the top of any list of fundamental exercises.


Unknown said...

EXCELLENT post, Boris-san!

Boris said...

Thanks Doc!

Franz Snideman said...


great post. I really can't argue with any of your exercise selections. Primal man (and today's man) would have had to pull him self trees, over rocks, etc. He for sure would have had to throw and "heave" things in the air. He also would have had to walk with killed prey either in his hands or on his shoulders. He also would have had to SQUAT.

Overall...great choices!!!!

Boris said...

Thanks Franz. Like I said, a strong case could be made for DLs, but with C&Js, SQ, and the carries, I figured most things that DL would hit would be covered.

Franklin said...

Chiming in here: great post and photos!

And thanks for answering my question about why DLs were not on your list before I had a chance to ask it.

Boris said...

Thanks Frank!