You made it to the gym and you are ready to hit it HARD! You are so amped to workout, burn some calories, and make some “Gainz!” (isn’t that the lingo the kids are using these days?)

You’ve got your new workout clothes, a device to track your steps and calories burned, a bottle for your protein powder, shiny gym shoes that look sweeeet, a headband to keep the sweat out of your eyes, and wireless headphones so they don’t get tangled while you are killing your workout.

But what are you planning to do when you get to the gym?

That’s where people often stumble. (And I used to be one of them!)

You walk into the gym, maybe jog on the treadmill or ride the bike for a few minutes, look around at what machines or free weights are available, see something that looks cool, do a few reps until you feel the burn, then move onto another exercise or machine. You continue this until it’s no longer fun, drink your protein powder, and go home.

That’s cool. But it’s not going to get you anywhere. (Unless your goal is to go nowhere!)

First of all, it’s great that you are getting to the gym and moving your body! And trust me, I used to be the epitome of the above story. I had no clue what I was doing!

Did I ever tell you the story about how I fell off an elliptical because I thought it was a good idea to run on it backwards while holding 5lb pink weights?

True Story.

For weeks I had to explain why my left arm was bruised from elbow to wrist. It was great to watch as people tried not to laugh when I told them the story.



Over the next few years I educated myself and eventually got to where I am now.

So do you want to know a secret about strength training?

The essence of it is really quite simple!! All you need to do is incorporate the four basic movement systems into every workout.

What are those, you ask?

  • Upper Body Push
  • Upper Body Pull
  • Lower Body Push
  • Lower Body Pull

Huh? Let me explain.

As coaches and trainers, we look at the body in terms of movement systems rather than exercises. Most of the exercises that you do can be categorized into the four movements. This allows us to be certain that every pattern is addressed equally while also individualizing the workouts to specific people.

Here are the four basic movement systems again with examples of exercises that fit into each pattern:

  • Upper Body Push
    • Push Up
    • Bench Press
    • Overhead Press
    • Dumbbell Press
    • Variations of the above
  • Upper Body Pull
    • Pull Up
    • Chin Up
    • Inverted or Suspended Row
    • Bent Over Row
    • Variations of the above
  • Lower Body Push
    • Squat
    • Lunge
    • Step Ups
    • Variations of the above
  • Lower Body Pull
    • Deadlift
    • Kettlebell Swing
    • Kettlebell or Barbell Cleans
    • Kettlebell or Barbell Snatches
    • Good Mornings
    • Variations on the above

Therefore, to ensure that you are a well-rounded human being, (I hope that we all desire this!) you want to be incorporating a balance of exercises from each movement system.

Here is a sample workout:

  • Mobility Warm Up
  • Goblet Squats – 3 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Chin Up Variation – 3 sets with 70% perceived effort
  • Deadlift – 3 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Push Ups- 3 sets of 70% perceived effort
  • Corrective exercises, more mobility, and some foam rolling

Pretty simple right?!

Yes, and no.

There are many more factors to consider such as: rep and set ranges, the variations you choose, rest times, how much weight you use, what exercises to pair with others, how to vary the workouts on a day to day/weekly basis, and programming in general.

If I could tell you how to do all of that in one blog post, I would not have a job.

But I hope that this gives you a better understanding of how coaches and trainers design their workouts. And when you go to the gym on your own you will have an idea of how to choose which exercises to do!


Have more questions on the movement systems or working out in general? Shoot me an email!

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