5 Exercises You Need In Your Routine

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I don’t care what category you compete in; whether it’s bodybuilding, fitness, or bikini, there are some exercises you just CANNOT (read: should not) get out of. I’ve competed in bodybuilding, women’s physique, and fitness modeling (that’s a category, right?), and through my ten years of experience training myself and coaching others, I’ve learned that there are certain staple exercises that will help you build a solid physique.

1) Deadlift – Sumo, Romanian, Dumbbell, Barbell, Stiff-legged, One-legged

© Mark Bradfield
There are a million and one deadlift variations, and for good reason. There’s no body part that this exercise DOESN’T target. From hamstrings, to glutes, to quads, to lower back, to upper back – it’s the QUEEN of all exercises.


It’s hard to break down one of the most technically advanced lifts in five steps or less, but here goes.

a) Approach the bar with your feet hip-width apart, toes slightly angled, half of your foot underneath the barbell.
b) Grab the bar at about shoulder-width apart (or just outside your legs), with an over-under grip (one hand overhand, one hand underhand).
c) Bend your knees until your tibias/shins are parallel with the bar, and lower yourself, throwing your hips/butt down and back.
d) Keeping your chest up, and your traps tight, squeeze your lats and try to straighten your back.
e) Take a deep breath, brace your abs while pushing them outwards, hold it, and stand up while keeping the bar along the path of your shins. Don’t shrug or lean back at the top. Throw your hips forward INTO the bar.

How NOT-to: Don’t round your back when you stand up. Don’t lean forward to the point where your knees are over your toes; throw your hips back instead.

2)  Squat

© Mark Bradfield
Do I even need to tell you how/why to do this? Whether it’s butt jiggle, inner thigh fat, outer thigh bulge… there are no problems that the squat CAN’T solve. There are as many variations of the squat as there are of the deadlift, which means it can target anything/everything you want.


a) Stand with your feet directly under the bar, feet a little outside shoulder-width apart, toes angled slightly outwards. Grab the        bar right outside your shoulders. Get under the bar and set it on top of your traps, while keeping your chest up and back tight.

b) Unrack the bar. Keep everything tight.

c) Squat down. Push your knees out, and your hips/butt back and down. Breathe out as you descend, and squat until your abdomen and your legs touch.

d) Push all the pressure into your abs at the bottom. Reverse the movement by firing your glutes, and driving your hips straight up. Keep your knees flared out, chest up, eyes up, and your upper-back tight.

3) Push Press

© Mark Bradfield
Probably the best exercise you’re not doing.  Picture a barbell shoulder press, but with a dip and drive motion of the legs.


a) Loading the barbell on a rack height that’s just under your clavicles, grip the barbell slightly outside shoulder-width.

b) Take a wide stance, with your feet externally rotated just a touch (toes out), and start to dip; slightly bend the knees while pushing them out like you would in a squat.

c) Descend quickly then push back up on your legs. After you’ve bent your knees, drive violently and forcefully up through the heels.

d) Press the bar overhead using that leg drive as momentum, and finish the movement by extending your arms into a position similar to the military press (forearm goes straight up, and wrist aligns with the forearm).

4) Pull Up

© Mark Bradfield
The V-taper. The X-frame. The WOW-factor. Whatever you call it, there’s nothing sexier on a girl than a muscular back, that tapers into a slim waist. Now you can do all the lat pull-downs and rows you want, but nothing gets you more bang for your buck than the traditional chin-up/pull-up.

a) Grab a bar with a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width.  Hands can be facing away from you or towards you.

c) Pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar, then pause for a split second at the top, really concentrating on isolating/squeezing your back and biceps.

d) Lower yourself all the way back down.

How NOT-to: Don’t swing as you come up – kipping is NOT cool. Don’t use a partial range of motion; go all the way down, and all the way up.

5) Ab Wheel

© Mark Bradfield
Strong core, tight abs. Easy. Abs aren’t just about the sexy six pack facing the mirror. The Transverse Abdominus (TA) is the muscle that acts like ‘nature’s weight belt’ because it wraps around your body (abs and lower back), to provide core stability and to keep your stomach shape. Moral of the story: a stronger TA= a tighter-looking midsection.

a) Hold an ab wheel with both hands and kneel on the floor, with the wheel straight in front of you.

b) Roll it forward, stretching your body into a straight position. Go down as far as you can without touching the floor with your body.

c) After going out as far as you can, initiate the movement back with the ab wheel, and pull yourself to the starting position.

How NOT-to: Don’t arch your back. Don’t go quickly.

Jaime Filer is a professional writer, certified personal trainer and exercise physiologist. She received her Bachelor of Arts with Honors degree in Kinesiology. As a writer, she has a long history of working in the fitness industry for various on-line and in-print publications. Jaime has also competed on the international level as a female bodybuilder.

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