View Full Version : Short List of Favorite Lifts

Steve Shafley
02-27-2007, 09:46 AM
These movements are the ones I consider essential, at least for myself. Thought it might spark some interesting discussion.

The Back Squat: Ever since I started squatting, and saw my legs get bigger within 2 weeks, it's been my favorite. This listing also includes back squat variations like box squats, and back squats with specialized bars, like the SSB.

The Front Squat: Goes hand in hand with the back squat, but emphasizes a few things differently.

The Power Clean/Power Snatch: 4 weeks into the first cycle of power cleans I did (uncoached, they were unbearably ugly), I noticed bigger traps. I also noticed that this movement improved my rucking in a noticable fashion.

Stiff Leg Deadlift/RDL: I started off with the round back versions of this, but moved quickly to a more "keystone" stiff leg deadlift style, like Fred Hatfield recommended. Just a fine movement. Now I do the RDL.

Press/Push Press: Very useful, especially for a lifter in a rugby line out. The ease in which you can do overhead presses, then transition into push presses for overload purposes, makes this a great choice.

Deadlifts: Just a favorite exercise, including variants from the deficit and rack pulls.

Bench Press: I used to love the bench, but was never very good at it. Nowadays I tend to do close grip benches and board presses instead. If I had dumbbells, I'd do dumbbell benches on a regular basis.

Bent Rows: Always a weakness. I do these, but probably should make them a priorty.

Chins: See bent rows.

Mike ODonnell
02-27-2007, 10:29 AM

Cool list....here's another question in relation to the lists.....what's your favorite rep scheme to use with them and why? I imagine some you like heavy....some maybe with higher reps.....which are your favorites...our readers would like to know.

Dave Van Skike
02-27-2007, 10:31 AM
I'm fairly new to the legit strength training, I have less than 2 years of doing it correctly but my faves run along similar lines. I'll add some nuance,

Two great tastes that go great together:

Front Squats and DLs.

I have me some long legs and a short back so front squats and deadlifts are very natural. Back squats are very technical and give me fits. I do back squat 3 days a week but it's hard every time.

FS and DL just seem perfect for me at high percentages of 1RM. I love them in ladders up to 4, in Triples and even sets of fives across. Singles back to back with only rest to add or remove weight.

A related prgression for conditioning is front squats or goblet squats with a single kettelebell back to back with high swings (head level). for sets of 10, 15, 20 25 etc.

Dumbell Snatch (half bodyweight) and Weighted pullups.

Neither of these are "gut it out" heavy like a squat but both require a sharp hard power delivery with a controlled eccentric. Great for those of us with limited training in OL. Great in ladders and triples. They are not really form dependant but reps higher than 3 seem to tweak my shoulders in with weighted pullups.

Snatch Grip Deadlift and Push press/Push Jerk progression.

I like these for medium high reps...say 6 to 8. Snatch grip DL is a good squat substitute for me. Whenever my knees start feeling trashy I switch to SGDL. I can load the bar much heavier than my back squat. The posterior chain emphasis seems to keep my knees out of the equation. I have a weak press so Push press + Push jerk, allows me to explore the my upper limits of my overhead lifting capacity pretty safely.

Gordon Richmond
02-27-2007, 10:51 AM
My favorites (not necessarily essentials):

The Hang Squat Clean (also the Power Hang Clean)
Maybe I'm just lazy and/or maybe it is because I've always hated the deadlift, but I love this lift, just holding that bar at mid-thigh and popping the hips and ripping it upwards. I think I like it so much because it was one of the first complicated lifts that I learned. Whenever I have anything left at the tank at the end of a weight session, I rip out a few of these.

The Back Squat (and to a lesser extent Front Squat)
In all honesty, I think I like the squat because I have always had strong quadriceps. I love the incredible soreness that you get from this two and three days after. I always relished taking the squat as close to the floor as possible unlike all the skinny mofos who could (can) outrun me but couldn't get a measly 135lbs past parallel.

Parallel Bar Dips
I could not get anything out of these for so long. I could never do very many and I was never sore after doing them. In the past few months I made a concerted effort to do them and tried to make the motion as fast as I could without breaking good form. Since then, numbers have shot up and my chest finally feels the burn.

Steve Shafley
02-27-2007, 11:39 AM
Nice. I was going to specify barbell lifts, but I forgot to change the title, but a lift is a lift, right, and chins didn't fit anyway.

I think it's safe to say that everything I listed above is for low reps. Except bent rows. Chins are low reps because I can't do many.

Deadlifts and olympic style pulls: 1s and 3s.

Squats: 1s, 3s, 5s

Sets? As many as it takes to get to a good single. If I'm doing repetition work, maybe 8-12's.

Note, when I say 1s it's usually not a ME max, but approaching close to my daily max. It's also done with the best form possible (we spoke about this in previous posts).

As I get older, I see the benefit in hitting higher repetitions as well, and have been moving my squat reps (back squat, not front squat) towards the 8-12 range occasionally. I never do high reps on deadlifts (unless I'm doing an Afterburn workout) or olympic lift variants.

Also, just because those are my "essentials" doesn't mean that's all I do. I do a lot of kettlebell stuff, and during the summer I've got tire flips, hammer swings, and sled drags.

And there are times where extensive bodyweight work is done...it all depends on how I feel or where I want to go. Right now it's very much an intuitive kind of training.

I can say that I perform this lifts listed above 1-2x weekly, some more often, when training is going full bore.

Ron Nelson
02-27-2007, 12:10 PM
Are you mixing in the AB workouts along with your regular training, or doing AB full time?

I've been doing it full time and worry that I may be losing some strength gains.

Mike ODonnell
02-27-2007, 12:18 PM
I'll Add

Squats (Back...as that is the heaviest load I can lift)
BB Lunges..love heavy single leg stuff. Really feel the strength component in my active lifestyle (biking, hockey, running, drinking...ok 3 out of 4)
Flat Bench - I hate it...I have always sucked at it. But I now thrive on making progess even though my numbers are not impressive. There was actually a time long ago I could incline more than my bench.
BB Bent Rows
DLs (Reg, Elevated, Snatch Grip) - anykind is good
Standing Press

I definitely favor the BB over the DB for me right now...cause I am more interested in strength, more size and quick and easy workouts. Keeps me sane and consistent....anything too technical I get burned out on....mostly because i think wayyyy too much about every endless possibility...I like it "dumbed" down for me. (Hence why I like the SS routines too)

Reps...I agree...I don't do MEs for 1s...I like to build up...mostly in the rep ranges of 5-10. For DLs I keep it 1-5 however if going heavy.

The more I learn, read, and do...the more I have come to this conclusion. I get my metabolic work in activites outside the gym (running, biking, even maybe a bodyweight workout at the park)...so for me..the gym days are simple sessions....no more of all the complicated routines....SS...running around doing burpees....etc...as I get so burned out and can't eat enough for those kind of needs. So now as I get older...2-3x a week of basic heavy (reps under 10) lifting...along with a life outside the gym makes me happy and consistent. Plus nutrition is where the results are...for gains and fat loss....so with more focus dialed in on that...my results are amplified.

Dave Van Skike
02-27-2007, 12:22 PM
Note, when I say 1s it's usually not a ME max, but approaching close to my daily max. It's also done with the best form possible (we spoke about this in previous posts).

I like these as well. I think the 85-90% single is something I should do much more of. Every so oftern, I work up to a high percentage single in a squat or dead variant and then bang out 6-12 sinlges, waiving the weight up and down. oddly, these seem to nudge my 3RM and 5RM in the next week. been temped to try more but I'm in a caloric deficit again these days and want to keep it simple.

What kind of row do you favor? The upright "Yates" style or a fully bent over row? I''ve always been good at both but find I can tweak my back too easy. Pulls from the floor and chins/pull ups seem a more natural movement.

Dave Wilson
02-27-2007, 04:36 PM
This is a great discussion!

I love Squat's,Front, Back, OH etc I like low rep Front and OH 2's, 3's, Back squat's 5's.
Weighted Pullup's, Hang squat clean's

Lot's of great stuff I need to try!

Steve Shafley
02-27-2007, 07:26 PM
What I'm doing right now:

Workout 1:


Workout 2:


Sometimes I go

pull/press, squat/press or vice versa.

I'm I don't slack off, this is 3x weekly, with maybe some other random stuff on the days off, like grip training.

So, full body workouts, big moves, lots of weight, see my last vblog for details, that shows pretty much how things went down except for the kb pressing.

My overheads are almost all kbs overheads due to low ceilings. I will probably start up seated overheads again, but I'm building up my 1 arm capacity. I sometimes do bradford presses, which are a non-locked out variation that goes from the front of the head to the back of the head, but my shoulders don't like those too heavy.

If I do an Afterburn workout I do it because I'm feeling a bit lazy, and I do it to punish myself. Almost invariably, after I do an AB workout, I wish that I would have done my regular workout, because they usually aren't that demanding.

Jamila Bey
02-27-2007, 08:43 PM
I've got a 33.5 inch inseam and I wear petite tops, so I'm born to deadlift. I'm closing in on 350#, so that's cool too.

Probably because I so enjoy being one, I love doing them too. Push jerks, split jerks, clean and jerks. I freakin LOVE JERKS. (Present husband excepted... only husband. I meant only husband!)

Although my husband may say otherwise until I correct him, I've gotten pretty good at cleaning. In the weightroom. I'm inconsistent with more than 135#, BUT I power cleaned 160 and I have a witness, but I haven't been able to repeat the task.

Me and my big mouth. Hubby heard me typing, I read him what I typed and now I've got to clear space so there's wood visible on my desk. See what you made me do.

Dammit Performance Menuers!

Ron Nelson
02-27-2007, 09:51 PM
Thanks for that. The AB workouts continue to kick my ass on a regular basis.

If you're closing in on 350# in the DL, I've got to get lifting. I'm stuck at 265# and got 270# once. I need to lift heavier.

Is a 33.5 in. inseam long, and therefore are you tall?

Dave Van Skike
02-27-2007, 09:55 PM
DL I'm closing in on 350#, so that's cool too.

Umm. Wow. nice work.

Yael Grauer
02-27-2007, 09:58 PM
I'm really into front squats lately.

Allen Yeh
02-28-2007, 06:28 AM
Incline DB Press - No reason other than I'm pretty good at them and I'm stronger on the incline than flat, go figure.

weighted chinups - Never really done these before the last few months, a lot of fun, weighted pullups though are not as much fun for me.

walking barbell lunge - I haven't done these recently but I used to love loading a bar up with 225 and get to walking.

Bulgarian split squats - This is the exercise I love hating, I love doing these when my reps are relatively low, I HATE doing these for 10 reps+ (but I still gut it out, though my quads are screaming WHY!!!)

back squat - Always liked them though for the first few years I discovered I was doing them all wrong. "um yeah I love doing partials....d'oh"

cleans - After Dan John showed me how to do these the correct way rather than my taught myself out of magazines way I started liking these a lot more.

Allen Yeh
02-28-2007, 06:28 AM
I've got a 33.5 inch inseam and I wear petite tops, so I'm born to deadlift. I'm closing in on 350#, so that's cool too.

That is awesome!

Jamila Bey
02-28-2007, 12:17 PM
It's so great to be applauded for something so meaningful!

Thanks. I'm 5'9" and built like a stork... or a ballerina. Long legs, long arms and short little torso. If I was leg proportional I'd be at least 6 feet. If I was upper body proportional I'd probably be about 5'3"!

I love to deadlift. Especially since I go to a shi-shi gym where they have a platform and bumpers with the gym's logo on them. (CLEARLY they had no idea what real platform usage entails!) So I get on it with my lifting boots and my dark glasses, SANDISK-not-ipod in my ears and my elitefts t-shirt that says "I'm training Don't talk to me" and start grunting, sweating and doing beastly O-lifting workouts and scaring all the spandex cardio bunnies away.

They removed the 30" jump box because I was one of 2 people who actually used it for not sitting on. So now they've got an adjustable 18"... Long way to say, I love working the posterior chain and it's all helped my DL.

Robb Wolf
02-28-2007, 04:43 PM
About the only things I'd add to shaf's list...skin the cats on rings and HSPU/walking on hands. Good stuff there.

Greg Everett
02-28-2007, 05:24 PM
You guys are all lame. My top lifts as follows:

1. Supinating dumbbell spider curl
2. Alternating twisting gravity boot crunches
3. Decline bench unilateral tricep extensions (kettlebell)

What the hell is a deadlift anyway?

Mike ODonnell
02-28-2007, 05:26 PM
Greg left off leg ad/abductor machine too....or was it just doing the machine that faces the leg ad/ab when a woman is on it......

Greg Everett
02-28-2007, 05:32 PM
yes, i've found through experience that the ad/ab-ductor work requires careful spotting by a qualified coach. named greg. everett.

Ron Nelson
02-28-2007, 10:32 PM
Greg left off leg ad/abductor machine too....or was it just doing the machine that faces the leg ad/ab when a woman is on it......

Why do I hear a "wacka-wacka" guitar being played?

Allen Yeh
03-01-2007, 03:44 AM
Greg left off leg ad/abductor machine too....or was it just doing the machine that faces the leg ad/ab when a woman is on it......

Sounds like the personal trainer at the gym I go to...I think he has every female client on it as well as using it himself 3-4 times a week.

Robert McBee
03-01-2007, 12:25 PM
1) Clean & Jerk if that can count as a singular. So much seems to be going on and getting worked with this.

2) OHS. like the C&J, huge bang for the buck lift. I feel it from neck to knees the following day or two.

3) Pullups
4) Pushups
5) Skin the cats

*)not a lift but I would add sprints to this list and call it 'good'.

Scott Kustes
03-01-2007, 01:23 PM
If I could only do one lift for the rest of my life, it would be the Clean and Jerk. I love the power bias of that lift and the way it can completely tax the body without muscle soreness that prohibits movement the next day.

Next up, I'd add in Back Squat. While the deadlift is a bigger ego boost due to the added weight, I feel the Back Squat throughout my entire body much more. Front Squat and Overhead Squat are good ones too, but in the interest of pure strength development, Back Squat is what I'll go with from the squatting category.

Deadlift. No explanation needed.

Overhead Press. I much prefer this to the bench press as my shoulder much prefers overhead to benching.

Since Shaf specifically mentioned lifts, I'll stick to those 4. Adding in gymnastics movements, I'd go with:
- Planche progressions (balance and static strength)
- Skin the cat (these have really strengthened my shoulder)
- One-leg squats (balance)

And of course sprints...400m and below.

R. Alan Hester
03-01-2007, 02:25 PM
Goblet Squats™: I use these in my warm-ups, because they have increased my ability to get between my legs with an erect back.


Front squats: I suck at these, so I do them a lot.

Standing press (usually dumbbells): my shoulders appreciate these

Overhead lunges

Weighted pull-ups and dips

Non-lifts, but others noted:

Sled pulls: I do these once per week on Thursdays. I pull the sled for one mile either around a track or on a hilly park trail, stopping every 100 yards for KB swings or sandbag clean and catches (I carry the kb and sandbag on the sled).

300-yard shuttle runs, 400 meter intervals, and stairs

-Ross Hunt
03-02-2007, 02:03 PM
Besides the squat snatch and the split clean and jerk (obviously):

Rack Jerks

Because they feel effortless and you get lift HYOOOOOGE weights.

Barbell Lunge With Recovery to Split Jerk Foot position

This is like a lunge, where the knee goes just short of the floor, except that you don't fully straighten the front leg and return to standing; you just push yourself back into a stable split-jerk-depth position from which you could easily stand up. It maintains the tension on the hamstring, and you can lift heavier loads than a full dynamic lunge.

This seems to be good for tall people, too; I just started working these seriously a month ago or so and the poundages are already on the verge of passing my back squat.

Bulgarian split squats with dumbbells Another vote for these: 15 per leg without rest in between. Again, the poundages are moving up fast here, too...

High-rep snatch pulls/shrugs from hang I take an excessive load (~20-30 kilos over my snatch), do one from the floor as best I can, then go for 9 reps from the hang... since I started working these once a week a couple months ago my snatch has gone up 10 kilos. :eek: :) The bar just feels light going into the second pull, and that helps everything.