5 Essential Exercise Types

Some time ago I came across a blogger who was writing about “the best exercises.” I can’t remember the person’s name but he classifies exercises based on their movement. He groups exercises as being a push, pull, squat, lunge or hinge.

The day after I read that, I happened to be in my boot camp class and realized he was right. As our group did the prescribed circuit that morning, I realized everything we did fell under one of those categories, along with plyometrics.

Push (press)

The most obvious exercise involving a push is the push-up. The push up’s focus is primarily on the chest, triceps and anterior deltoid, the front of the shoulder. In addition, the rectus abdominals – the “6-pack” muscles that run down the front of the torso.

There are lots of push variations, including:

  • Pushups
    • staggered pushup
    • one hand on a medicine ball
    • with your feet on a box or oversized exercise ball


    • on a flat bench
    • on an incline
    • with a barbell or dumb bells


Pulling exercises target primarily the back muscles but also the triceps and deltoids (shoulder)

These sorts of exercises include:

        • rows
        • lat pull downs
        • seated rows
        • chin ups
        • pull ups


Squats focus on the quadriceps and the glutes

There aren’t many squat variations but you could include a barbell or follow a squat with an overhead press with a dumb bell.


Lunges target the quads, hamstrings and gluteus maximus. One caution about doing lunges is that stability can be an issue so be careful how much weight you hold if you add to the basic lunge. That’s what happened to me. The kettle bell I used for a walking lunge pass-through was too heavy, I lost my balance, turned my knee out and sustained a minor knee injury.

Some lunge variations are:

        • reverse lunges
        • walking lunges
        • split squat jumps
        • side lunges
        • reverse lunge with your back foot on a plyo box

Hip Hinge

Hinge exercises are those that involve moving the hips and strengthen the hamstrings and gluts.

Hip hinges movements include:

          • deadlifts
          • kettle bell swings

Include a variety of these five exercise categories and you’ll have a well-rounded workout, especially if you include some cardio, flexibility and agility exercises as well. Focusing on these movement exercises will also help you meet the functional fitness training that is so important in our daily activities.


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