Minimal Number of Exercises to Stimulate Every Muscle Group

xagunos

Level 6 Valued Member
I recently had a thought experiment on determining what would be the minimal number of exercises to stimulate every major body part in the body. The key to this selection to make it interesting would be to remove the combination lifts like C&Js as well as multi plane movements.

Many people agree on three exercises by including some form of an upper body push, upper body pull and leg exercise. While that is probably more “balanced”, I’ve narrowed it down to just two exercises similar to a Pavel style program.

  1. Snatch Deadlift on Podium - popularized by Charles Poliquin, when done properly this combines a squat and deadlift hammering the entire backside, legs and forearms (if done without straps) like nothing else. I like a deficit where the top of my shoes touch the bar. Solid flexibility is needed to get in the right starting position which is the bottom of a deep squat. The set doesn’t begin until you retract the scapula back and down engaging the lats which will bring the bar off the floor. Once the bar is hanging, you begin the ascent focusing on driving with the legs just like an Olympic lifter style deadlift.

  2. Planche Push-up Progression - again when executed properly, the chest (especially on rings), serratus, shoulders and both biceps and triceps get hit extremely hard complimenting nicely by hitting all the major muscles not targeted by the deadlifts. The key is to make sure to finish each rep with locked elbows (palms supinated if on rings) and strong scapular protraction preferably pausing for a second at the top since the top portion is the hardest unlike the most pressing exercises where the bottom ROM is the most difficult. If tuck planche push-ups are too difficult for you, master leaned-forward push-ups with the same technique first. Funny anecdote, planche push-ups made my biceps grow far better than years of chin-ups.
I would argue that if someone was patient and grinded just these two exercises for 12 months with proper nutrition and recovery, they’d have a better physique than 99% of the active gym population. You wouldn’t be Mr. Olympia but I believe you would have damn good physique.
 

pet'

Level 8 Valued Member
Hello,

I guess you are right in terms of muscle activation (even if, maybe like other, I always add pull up to the mix to get push / pull / leg).

However, then come two topics, IMO:
- programming (a few singles or ladders everyday, MLH frame, etc...)
- goal (raw strength, mass building, S&C "S&S like"

Pavel claims for:
- swings
- dips

Swings are an explosive move which transfer fairly well to the regular DL.

Kind regards,

Pet'
 

Bauer

Level 6 Valued Member
I recently had a thought experiment on determining what would be the minimal number of exercises to stimulate every major body part in the body. The key to this selection to make it interesting would be to remove the combination lifts like C&Js as well as multi plane movements.

Many people agree on three exercises by including some form of an upper body push, upper body pull and leg exercise. While that is probably more “balanced”, I’ve narrowed it down to just two exercises similar to a Pavel style program.

  1. Snatch Deadlift on Podium - popularized by Charles Poliquin, when done properly this combines a squat and deadlift hammering the entire backside, legs and forearms (if done without straps) like nothing else. I like a deficit where the top of my shoes touch the bar. Solid flexibility is needed to get in the right starting position which is the bottom of a deep squat. The set doesn’t begin until you retract the scapula back and down engaging the lats which will bring the bar off the floor. Once the bar is hanging, you begin the ascent focusing on driving with the legs just like an Olympic lifter style deadlift.

  2. Planche Push-up Progression - again when executed properly, the chest (especially on rings), serratus, shoulders and both biceps and triceps get hit extremely hard complimenting nicely by hitting all the major muscles not targeted by the deadlifts. The key is to make sure to finish each rep with locked elbows (palms supinated if on rings) and strong scapular protraction preferably pausing for a second at the top since the top portion is the hardest unlike the most pressing exercises where the bottom ROM is the most difficult. If tuck planche push-ups are too difficult for you, master leaned-forward push-ups with the same technique first. Funny anecdote, planche push-ups made my biceps grow far better than years of chin-ups.
I would argue that if someone was patient and grinded just these two exercises for 12 months with proper nutrition and recovery, they’d have a better physique than 99% of the active gym population. You wouldn’t be Mr. Olympia but I believe you would have damn good physique.
I like your combo.

If you take into account energy systems and would allow loaded locomotion you could have pretty well rounded minimalist routines like

Crawling + deadlifts
Crawling + pullups
Crawling + snatches
Hill sprints + front lever rows
Sled Pushes + deadlifts
Zercher squats + battlerope waves
Carries + pushups (also planche PU or handstand PU)
Swings + pushups, oh wait, I know that one.

I would be confident that any of those combinations would build a strong, healthy and good looking body with as little as 5-20 minutes of training daily.

Also see this great thread by @Steve Freides
Two-Lift Programs, a Conversation Starter
 

pet'

Level 8 Valued Member
Hello,

I remember a podcast where Eric Frohardt told he did what follows (with a 24kg kb), during a 90 days deployement:
- C&J
- 2H swings
- 3 times a week (20-40 minutes sessions)

When he ended up:
- 2.5x bdw DL vs about 1.5
- running maintenance
- from 0 to 5 muscle ups
- increase in pull ups

Kind regards,

Pet'
 

Tim Randolph

Level 7 Valued Member
What is Simple and Sinister missing? This is not meant to be a rhetorical question.

I do the Cook/Jones/Cheng TGU variant from Kalos Sthenos and even if I skip the goblet squats feel like I get good coverage from the feet through the shoulders.
 

LukeV

Level 5 Valued Member
Many people agree on three exercises by including some form of an upper body push, upper body pull and leg exercise. While that is probably more “balanced”, I’ve narrowed it down to just two exercises similar to a Pavel style program.
I'm a huge fan of minimalist training and believe most people drastically overestimate the amount of exercise required to feel good and look great. I have no doubt this can be achieved with two exercises, performed as hard work, at least weekly, along with some brisk walks. But ... from the perspective of the aesthetic, the arm development is much better with a specific pulling exercise like pull ups, rows etc. So in my opinion two exercises are okay but three are better. My top pick is:

1. Bench or Overhead Press
2. Seated row or Lat pull down
3. Deadlift or Squat
 

Starlord

Level 2 Valued Member
Another killer combination.

High snatch pulls and weighted dips.

Prepare to have HUGE traps.
 

Alan Mackey

Level 6 Valued Member
I recently had a thought experiment on determining what would be the minimal number of exercises to stimulate every major body part in the body. The key to this selection to make it interesting would be to remove the combination lifts like C&Js as well as multi plane movements.

Many people agree on three exercises by including some form of an upper body push, upper body pull and leg exercise. While that is probably more “balanced”, I’ve narrowed it down to just two exercises similar to a Pavel style program.

  1. Snatch Deadlift on Podium - popularized by Charles Poliquin, when done properly this combines a squat and deadlift hammering the entire backside, legs and forearms (if done without straps) like nothing else. I like a deficit where the top of my shoes touch the bar. Solid flexibility is needed to get in the right starting position which is the bottom of a deep squat. The set doesn’t begin until you retract the scapula back and down engaging the lats which will bring the bar off the floor. Once the bar is hanging, you begin the ascent focusing on driving with the legs just like an Olympic lifter style deadlift.

  2. Planche Push-up Progression - again when executed properly, the chest (especially on rings), serratus, shoulders and both biceps and triceps get hit extremely hard complimenting nicely by hitting all the major muscles not targeted by the deadlifts. The key is to make sure to finish each rep with locked elbows (palms supinated if on rings) and strong scapular protraction preferably pausing for a second at the top since the top portion is the hardest unlike the most pressing exercises where the bottom ROM is the most difficult. If tuck planche push-ups are too difficult for you, master leaned-forward push-ups with the same technique first. Funny anecdote, planche push-ups made my biceps grow far better than years of chin-ups.
I would argue that if someone was patient and grinded just these two exercises for 12 months with proper nutrition and recovery, they’d have a better physique than 99% of the active gym population. You wouldn’t be Mr. Olympia but I believe you would have damn good physique.
My own variation of the deficit trap bar lift: squat all the way up and hinge all the way down (like a Romanian deadlift).

Muscle up.
 

q.Hung

Level 6 Valued Member
Planche is difficult to learn and needs lots of time to refine, also probably you need to learn few others moves first before getting planche, like handstand, back lever, different mobility drills...No way Pavel would put it to his minimum program.
What's wrong with Bench press and squat and deadlift?
 

Alan Mackey

Level 6 Valued Member
Planche is difficult to learn and needs lots of time to refine, also probably you need to learn few others moves first before getting planche, like handstand, back lever, different mobility drills...No way Pavel would put it to his minimum program.
What's wrong with Bench press and squat and deadlift?
Nothing wrong with that.

But I'd rather do front squats, incline presses and pull ups.
 

runninggirevik

Level 7 Valued Member
Double Half Snatch/Front Squat
Combo/Chain/Complex... whatever. Focus on pulling the weights down into rack and ready to do a front squat.
Works the most and takes very little time.
 

watchnerd

Level 5 Valued Member
I recently had a thought experiment on determining what would be the minimal number of exercises to stimulate every major body part in the body. The key to this selection to make it interesting would be to remove the combination lifts like C&Js as well as multi plane movements.

Many people agree on three exercises by including some form of an upper body push, upper body pull and leg exercise. While that is probably more “balanced”, I’ve narrowed it down to just two exercises similar to a Pavel style program.

  1. Snatch Deadlift on Podium - popularized by Charles Poliquin, when done properly this combines a squat and deadlift hammering the entire backside, legs and forearms (if done without straps) like nothing else. I like a deficit where the top of my shoes touch the bar. Solid flexibility is needed to get in the right starting position which is the bottom of a deep squat. The set doesn’t begin until you retract the scapula back and down engaging the lats which will bring the bar off the floor. Once the bar is hanging, you begin the ascent focusing on driving with the legs just like an Olympic lifter style deadlift.

  2. Planche Push-up Progression - again when executed properly, the chest (especially on rings), serratus, shoulders and both biceps and triceps get hit extremely hard complimenting nicely by hitting all the major muscles not targeted by the deadlifts. The key is to make sure to finish each rep with locked elbows (palms supinated if on rings) and strong scapular protraction preferably pausing for a second at the top since the top portion is the hardest unlike the most pressing exercises where the bottom ROM is the most difficult. If tuck planche push-ups are too difficult for you, master leaned-forward push-ups with the same technique first. Funny anecdote, planche push-ups made my biceps grow far better than years of chin-ups.
I would argue that if someone was patient and grinded just these two exercises for 12 months with proper nutrition and recovery, they’d have a better physique than 99% of the active gym population. You wouldn’t be Mr. Olympia but I believe you would have damn good physique.
As someone who does both snatch deadlifts and push ups (can't planche yet).....

Your two selections are vertical plane only moves.

A physique from only doing this is going to be incredibly imbalanced when it comes to anything rotational or side by side.

It's not anti-fragile.

Now if you only care about aesthetics, maybe this is moot....
 

North Coast Miller

Level 7 Valued Member
Loaded pushups
One arm rows
DL
Squat

I am not a fan of minimalism for its own sake, there are a minimum number of sets needed to get results and there is no point in doing them all with the same exercises.

I'd say four movements are the bare minimum among commonly used exercises - push, pull, hinge, squat - take your pick.
 

watchnerd

Level 5 Valued Member
What is Simple and Sinister missing? This is not meant to be a rhetorical question.
For what goal?

General health -- S&S is pretty good, especially for people starting from a sedentary background

Aesthetics -- that's 80-90% diet with almost any decent full body strength training, in any modality, that keeps you consistent.

After that, if you're beyond a novice, S&S isn't the best program for other goals (e.g. hypertrophy, absolute strength, bodyweight).
 

Rick213

Level 6 Valued Member
As someone who has worked up to a planche push up in the past, the progression is very advanced for the average gym goer and is not easy at all on the joints. It was something that I discontinued as it was not a tenable, long term approach to fitness.
Front lever and some form of squat
Bench and deadlift
Swings and push ups
Carries and crawls for cardio
 
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