The Only 5 Exercises That You Really Need

The human body has about 600 muscles.

The number of different (and safe) dumbbell exercises that have been invented is probably over 100.

So, how many movements should you be doing?

Well, it depends…………….

When I was 18 years old, I wanted to be bigger.  I did whatever the body builders at the time were doing.  Lee Haney, Lee Labrada, Frank Zane, etc.  This typically consisted of 15 to 20 different movements, maybe taking 5 per day and doing a bunch of sets.

Was it effective? Sure, but not very sustainable, at least not for very long.  I remember getting sick a lot, and I remember being super sore, and I remember eating a ton of not so good tasting powders.

When I was about 35 years old, my fitness goals changed.  I just wanted to be strong, lean enough and I wanted to put off losing strength for as long as I could, for the rest of my life.

And………..I wanted to only go to the gym 3 days per week, for less than 45 minutes.   Could I accomplish my goals in that amount of time?  And if so, what would the workouts look like?

After some research and thinking, I decided that I could accomplish what I wanted by doing only 5 strength training movements.



Overhead press.

Chest press.



1.) The Squat:

This movement uses every muscle in your lower body.  Quads, hammies, glutes, calves.


2.) The Deadlift:

This movement focuses a bit more on your backside than the squat.


Perform these two exercises.  3 sets of each 10 to 15 reps per set.  BUT, choose only one of them per workout.  Don’t do both, especially if you are a beginner or novice.  


3.) Overhead press:

Using the chest, shoulders, arms, and upper back, this exercise is for sure one of the most important for overall upper body functionality.  Perform it upright to bring your core into the mix.

3 sets of 8 to 12 reps per set.


4.) Chest press:

This exercise uses the chest, shoulders and arms.  Do this exercise to look better in t-shirts and improve your overall bone health.

3 sets of 8 to 12 reps per set.


5.) Row:

The dumbbell row is what I recommend.  This exercise will improve your posture, stabilize your core, and sculpt your entire back.

3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps per set.


Total sets for the workout is 12 to 13 sets.  With a 5 to 10 minute warm up, you should have no problem getting the entire routine finished in under 45 minutes.


If you are looking for general fitness and not trying to gain 20 pounds of muscle, these 5 exercises and a dozen total sets will do you just fine.

Yes, I do recommend that you mix in some other movements from time to time.  Lunges, raises, arm curls, etc.   But the above 5 exercises will get most all of your 600 plus muscles activated, and 100% of your major muscle groups will be worked.

And you can do all of the above with one set of PowerBlocks.



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About the Author:

Jason Linse

Jason Linse has a B.S degree in Public Health and 2 years of graduate work in Kinesiology. He has been in the fitness industry since 1995 with much of his time helping fitness center owners increase profits. In 2019, Jason, as part owner of a training studio, jumped back into coaching/personal training. He now co-hosts the More Than Just Dumbbells Podcast.