What are the 5 basic strength training exercises?

You can achieve a lot of success in the gym with five basic movements – squat, hip hinge, push, pull and core – whether you are new to strength training or have some experience. Your overall strength training workout should include the five basic movements.

The 5 basic strength training exercises are compound movements involving many muscle groups. They use free weights, such as dumbbells and barbells rather than machines.

what are the 5 basic strength training exercises

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Unless you are training for something very specific, like a body building competition, obstacle race, or something of the sorts, these movements can be put together for a full-body workout.

Keep it Simple

The 5 weight training exercises listed below will work your entire body, improve muscle strength, lean muscle mass, enhance balance and increase metabolism.

Aim to perform 10-12 repetitions of each exercise, three times through.

If you’re new to weight training, start out primarily with bodyweight exercises or lighter weight. Work on proper form and proper technique before moving to heavier weight.

These are the main exercises you would usually perform with a bar or with dumbbells. They are called compound movements because they involve several joints at once, and they engage a large number of muscles, making them your go-to exercises.

Equipment used

The only 5 strength training exercise movements you’ll ever need

What are the 5 basic strength training exercises that will make you strong, fit and healthy? A squat, hip hinge exercise, a push exercise, a pull exercise and a core exercise. There are many variations to each of these movements, so it is possible to mix up your resistance training routine.

the exercises for beginners

Bodyweight squat (squat movement)

The squat is possibly the best lower body weight training exercise. It works all the major muscle groups of the lower body and is one of the most natural movement patterns for the human body.

It targets almost every muscle in your posterior chain which includes your quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves.

Variations: Barbell squat, smith machine squat, front squat, Dumbbell squat, Sumo squat and leg press machine.

Glute bridge (hip hinge movement)

Glute bridges target one of the largest muscles in the lower body—the glutes. They also contribute to building leg strength and core stabilization.

Chest bench press (push movement)

woman in black leggings and blue shirt for bench press

Chest presses will help you build strength in your upper body while improving your overall fitness. The chest press works the largest muscles in the front of your upper body, as well as your front deltoids, triceps, back and core.

Variations: Barbell chest press, dumbbell chest press, machine chest press, cable chest press, incline chest press and pushup.

Bent over row (pull movement)

woman in black leggings and blue shirt doing bent over rows
woman in black leggings and blue shirt doing bent over row

The bent over row allows you to strengthen your back and work your biceps through a repeated motion.

This exercise targets the most neglected muscle group in the upper body: the back muscles. Weak back muscles will cause poor posture, and can eventually lead to spinal misalignment and pain.

Variations: Barbell row, dumbbell bent over row, single-arm dumbbell row and cable row.

Plank (core)

woman in black leggings and blue shirt in plank position

The plank is perfect to strengthen your abdominal muscles. The plank position requires minimal movement and can be adapted to something harder or easier depending on how you feel.

Variations: Straight-arm plank, forearm plank, side plank, plank hip dips, plank jacks and reverse plank

If you have lifting experience:

Dumbbell squat (squat)

squats are one of the 5 basic strength training exercises

To step things up, add a dumbbell at each side for more resistance. You also use a stability ball against a wall or door to test your form and stability.

Squats target almost every muscle in your posterior chain which includes your quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves

Deadlift (hip hinge movement)

woman standing in black leggings and blue shirt in starting position for deadliffs
woman standing in black leggings and blue shirt doing deadlifts

Deadlifts gets their name from simply picking up dead weight off the floor. Using a single barbell or a dumbbell in each hand, a deadlift will activate most of the muscles in your body from your head down to your feet – traps, abs, core, lower back, glutes, thighs calves and glutes.

Variations: Barbell deadlift, stiff-legged deadlift, single-leg deadlift, sumo deadlift, good mornings and hip thrust.

Overhead press (push movement)

The dumbbell overhead shoulder press increases strength throughout the shoulders and engages the core for stability. It can be done in either a sitting or standing position and with dumbbells held horizontally at the shoulders or rotated in a hammer grip. A sitting position helps stabilize the back.

Variations: Barbell military press, barbell push press and deadstop shoulder press.

Lat pull down (pull movement)

woman sitting at pull down machine in blue shirt and black leggings

The lat pulldown is a great way to train your lats and biceps with the weight being adjustable to fit your needs. This movement teaches you how to depress your scapula and engage your lats. Pulling your elbows in towards your sides will help you get more out of your lats.

The pulldown exercise works the back muscles, especially the latissimus dorsi or the lats.

Variations: Wide grip lap pull down, close grip pulldown, reverse grip lat pulldown and single arm lat pulldown.

Russian twists (Core)

Woman on the floor doing russian twists exercise in black pants and blue top

Rotational movement exercises, like Russian twists, are movements that take place through your hips and core.

Rotational movements are characterized by an action that starts with the core and the spine. By doing exercises that utilize rotational movement, you better protect your spine and strengthen your core. 

What are the 5 basic strength training exercises?

The basic 5 weight training exercises that will make you strong, fit, and healthy are the squat, hip hinge, overhead press, row, and chest press. They work all major muscle groups in the body, including the core.

Can I gain muscle with dumbbells?

Dumbbell training can help you add muscle mass, increase coordination, correct muscle imbalances and gain strength. You do not have to use barbells for each lift.

Wrap up

The classic 5 strength training exercises are a great way to build strength, muscle mass, core strength and bone density. The five movements will give you a full body workout each time while achieving strength gains through simple yet basic exercises.

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