Everyone has different goals when it comes to fitness. Some people simply work out to look better while others are striving for certain numbers such as a time on a run or a weight on the bar. Others just know they need to be active to stay healthy.

Regardless of the goals one might have, there are a lot of similarities between the different goals when it comes to the program. Whether you are trying to burn fat, gain strength, or stay healthy, there must be strength training involved. Strength training makes our muscles stronger and bigger, leading to a better shape, less fat and healthier joints and functions. It also speeds up the fat loss process with proper nutrition. Simply running everyday may help shed some pounds but it will also lead to many imbalances without strength training.

Too Much Time

Some may say they don’t have time to do a full cardio workout as well as strength train.They only focus on cardio because they want to lose weight. I won’t go into the number of ways to save time today, but I will say in just a couple hours per week it is possible to develop a complete workout.

I understand time constraints and busy schedules but if you have a goal of fat loss, strength gain or healthier joints you must incorporate strength training in your regimen. Check out the article on more reasons why strength training is so important for health and aesthetics for more information.

Top Three

If time is an issue, cut down your strength training volume and incorporate these three exercises. I choose these because they are all full body, multi-joint movements and are functions of our everyday lives.

Dead Lift

The dead lift is one of my favorite exercises. The exercise consists of picking up a weight from the floor by engaging the upper and lower back, abs, buttocks, hips, and thighs. The arms and shoulders are also put to work while holding on to the bar. If you are new to the exercise start with a kettlebell and progress to a bar.

Key Coaching Cues:

• Keep the feet about hip width apart.

• Make sure the spine stays neutral (straight line from the back of the head to the tail bone).

• Activate the abs to keep the ribs pulled down. You should be tense throughout the entire midsection.

• Keep the chest tall to avoid any rounding of the back during the lift.

• Squeeze the buttocks to finish the lift and push the hips through.


The squat is another movement that incorporates the entire body. Start with only body weight squats and progress to a kettlebell held in front of the chest and finally to a bar across the upper back. If you are having trouble keeping good form, place a box behind you and squat down to the box to develop the proper squat pattern. Perfect form learned from the beginning is important so that imbalances can be avoided.

Key Coaching Cues:

• Place the feet shoulder width apart.

• Engage the entire core to stay rigid in the middle.

• Start the movement by pushing the hips back, not by bending at the knees.

• Try to “split the floor” as you descend and ascend. Push the knees out to keep them in line with the ankles. If your knees are caving in, that is bad…

• Stay tight in the upper back whether you have a kettlebell in front or a bar on your back.


The final exercise is the pushup. Everyone knows what a pushup is but many people perform it improperly. Too many times I see elbows flaring, hips sagging, and poor range of motion. The ideal pushup is meant not only to strengthen the chest but the entire upper body as well as the hips and core. This exercise is great because it integrates the entire body to work together to stabilize. If you cant maintain proper form from the floor don’t drop to your knees, as many of us were taught. Instead put a bar on a squat rack about hip height and go from there. Work your way back down to the floor as you get stronger. This way the entire body is being worked and you are still maintaining perfect form.

Key Coaching Cues:

• Place the hands just outside the shoulders and directly in line with them.

• Tuck the chin so that you are not looking up or letting your head hang.

• Squeeze the abs, butt, and thighs to help maintain a straight line from the back of the head to the tailbone.

• Keep the elbows at about a 45* angle as you descend and ascend.

• To add difficulty, add resistance by bands or weight.

• Stay Simple for the Best Results

You don’t have to be in the gym hours upon hours to have a good strength training program. There is no need for a separate workout for each muscle group. Unless you are bodybuilding you can get away with full body workouts using multi-joint movements. Add these three exercises to your plan and progress them with heavier weight. Change the rep schemes every 6 weeks shifting from higher rep sets such as 12-15 to more strength involved sets of 3-6.

These changes will help keep things progressing and cover both aspects of the strength training continuum. You don’t have to be flashy to get results, you just have to do the basics right.

Chance Cianciola is owner/strength coach at the Complete Performance Institute in Louisville. While studying to get his master’s degree in exercise physiology, he spent  time working with the strength and conditioning programs at the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky as well as in rehab centers learning about movement . After graduating, Chance started working with the general public and gained knowledge into the world of powerlifting. His philosophy consists of bringing the aspects of sports and powerlifting to the general population to teach people that it is acceptable to train hard and train heavy.