Two-Lift Programs, a Conversation Starter


Level 6 Valued Member
I'd say something like a 3-lift sort of program is great for the minimalist. From the article I read (Building the Super Soldier by Stephane Robert):

Press, squat, and pull heavy weights, and read anything by Dave Tate or Jim Wendler.
Of course I'd add Pavel Tsatsouline, Dan John, Mark Rippertoe and Johnny Shaeffer among others to the 'read anything by' list (and this list is by no means exhaustive).

If I have any doubts my azimuth is always press, squat, and pull something as the three moves to build a strength program around. For me my kettlebell lifts are the clean and press, goblet squat, and the swing and snatch (for the pulls piece).


Level 7 Valued Member
Now, what about how easy the exercise is to do? I think this counts a lot. S&S is great precisely because it covers so many different muscles and angles of strength with mainly just two big moves, but these two big moves are demanding in both time and space, let alone in technique. The complexity of these two not so simple or easy movements is what covers so much ground with "so little". At least this is what I think I experience with S&S. S&S to me is equivalent to playing basketball for an hour or having some good judo bouts.

Now, compare finding the quiet time and space to safely do S&S swings and getups, with the ease of just doing a bunch of chinups on a bar attached to the frame of your bedroom door, or to grabbing a kettlebell and doing a bunch of military presses with it? You can do these moves nearly in your sleep they are so easy to do - no big violent movements taking a lot of space and making you sweat buckets. Same with doing curls - easy to do, take no space, are safe, take little time at all, huge bang for your time buck. What about deadlifts? They're "easy" like pullups and curls in the sense of them being fast and simple movements that take little time, but their weight when done properly makes them more onerous an exercise.

Regarding legs - it's a shame if you can't live like a human being and go for walks or scamper around jogging somewhere, even if it's in your basement.

Days I'm not up to blocking off 40 minutes for S&S, I do chinups, curls (with the kettlebell), deadlifts, kettlebell military presses and similar, go for a jog or a walk.

I think chinups, and military press with kettlebells plus making sure you're walking or jogging around somehow or other in the week, would make a sane basic workout standard, with minimal time investment and minimal mental stress or scheduling needed. The chinups are you pulling yourself up to the bar but the presses are you pressing a weight up and away from you, so the movements are totally opposite and thus activate quite different strength systems in your body. The presses also demand stability through the lower body including the legs even if they're not really "leg exercises" whereas the chinups activate a little bit the muscles and things keeping the legs from falling off the hips when in the air.


Level 1 Valued Member
Steve, thank you for this thread, it was wonderful to read the responses. My current pick is Bent Press and SH Swing.

1. Factoring in injury (tactical lunge hurts - full TGU is out)
2. Goals and what we enjoy (strength, mobility, cardio)
3. Set-up (kettlebell only, for others it would vary)

I agree on being all-round in life, keeping time for swimming or badminton/golf with family or friends matter.
To revise:
KB BnP and SH Swing
DB Snatch and GSq


Level 6 Valued Member
I’ve been getting a lot out of 2-3 moderate sets of a DFSQ and dip couplet almost every day. It’s a great complement to A+A snatching and really helped bring up my stubborn press.


Level 5 Valued Member
I really like the idea of simple 2 movement programs but I have had a hard time getting them to work for me. I have tried several(ROP/SS/others with no name) and found that after 3-6 weeks too much of the same movements always seem to irritate one old joint/injury or another. Am the only one with this issue?

Last 2-3 months I have switched back to simple A/B/A/B... routine with A = swings/press and B = lunges/pullups/pushups. This just feels like enough variety and recovery and so far I haven't tweak anything so I am feeling good and gaining strength.

Steve Freides

Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
@kenaces, do what works for you. Many two-lift programs allow A/B variety simply because they're done 3 days a week, allowing "option B" as variety on the other days. I'm currently doing just that for myself.



Level 5 Valued Member
I have tried several(ROP/SS/others with no name) and found that after 3-6 weeks too much of the same movements always seem to irritate one old joint/injury or another. Am the only one with this issue?
I hear ya! Now that I'm approaching 50 I find myself gravitating towards what is often described as abbreviated training - small number of exercises, usually just three, push/pull/legs. But I keep the sets high, around five working sets, and I do go close to failure, so even with the low overall volume my joints prefer an A/B style program, most commonly alternating something like:

A - bench press, seated row, deadlift
B - military press, pull ups, leg press


Level 6 Valued Member
I like crawling + pullups.

Carries standalone.
Carries + crawling is also nice.

I think balance cannot be planned. It is better to be mindful and then act on it - variety day style or mobility work for example. Or just having a life. An active life that is. Work and play.


Level 5 Valued Member
Like so many others in this thread, when asked about my favorite ”two-exercise-program”, I immediately want to add something. Like pull-ups. But in attempt to trick the question; to stay within the two exercises but still add:

My suggestion would be Simple & Sinister with a twist:
  1. TGUs with a minimum of help from the assisting arm. That would still count as only one exercise, the TGU, but you would get an upper body (floor)pressing move when you position the bell for the actual get up. Five floor presses per arm. Daily.
  2. One arm swings; starting and finishing in the clean position. Still just one exercise, the one arm swing, but you would get an upper body pulling move when you position the bell for the actual swing. Ten cleans per arm. Daily.

There you go. Four exercises in two…

And if you use your (heavy) working bell for the goblet squats in the warm up and do them reasonably slowly, you would actually get five exercises in two.

Alan Mackey

Level 6 Valued Member
My go-to minimalistic program is:

Session 1: front squat to push press, plus pull ups.

Session 2: Romanian deadlift to bent over row, plus dips.

Steve Freides

Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
I did a similar sort of mix for the first time the other day - I felt like my glutes weren't doing all they could to help my press, so in between rungs of a press ladder, I did one-legged deadlifts.

Awesome good stuff, @Harald Motz.



Level 6 Valued Member

1. Clean + overhead. Lifter's choice. Clean can be full or power. Overhead can be strict press, push press, power jerk, or jerk. Variety is fine, e.g., power clean + push press once workout, clean + power jerk another workout, or keep adding weight during the same workout until you must do clean + jerk.
2. Squat. Back squat here.


Snatches. Just snatches.

Kettlebell and Barbell Combo:

1. Kettlebell snatches.
2. Barbell front squat.
Top Bottom