10 exercises for the rest of my life

Recently, I read somewhere a question asking if you could only do 10 exercises for the rest of your life what would they be?  This question resonated with me so I decided to come up with my own list. To make things a little more challenging, I will be answering this question not from the perspective of competing in any strength sport but just for general health and strength. I am partially using the 7 movement patterns for some of my answers.

1.Trap Bar Deadlift

I had to start this list with my favorite movement pattern.  But alas what is this - I chose a trap bar deadlift over my usual competition conventional.  

“You must have had one too many Monster Energy drinks today, Ethan!” you are probably thinking.  

No, I have not exceeded my limit of 4 thank you very much.  

The reason I chose the trap bar is that there is the potential to be able to lift more weight……..  That’s it, end of story, goodbye.

Oh, you are still here? Ok fine, there are a few other reasons I picked the trap bar.  For one it is a little easier on the lower back which is good for me because mine has had years of abuse from football and walking like Donald Duck.  

Grip is not as big an issue as I no longer have to choose between calloused thumbs with no feelings (aka Hook Grip) or looking like Quasimodo (aka mixed grip).  

Also, the trap bar deadlift is considered the athlete’s deadlift and my delusional self likes to still think of myself as one.  Oh and for those wondering what grip they should do - always go for the Quasimodo look.


2. Safety Bar Squat

Ah, the safety bar, how I love thee.  But Ethan you’re a powerlifter! Why not low bar or even high bar squat.  Well since in this scenario I am just lifting for strength, I don’t want to have to deal with warming up my shoulders and stretching them just to squat, lazy I know.  I also like how the safety bar makes things harder by forcing you to really keep your back tight and finish with your upper back at the top.

3. Pushups

Because I like my shoulders feeling healthy and pushups are “functional”.  You can also make them harder or easier by changing the angle of your body (i.e incline/decline)  Who knows maybe I will get real “functional” with them and progress to handstand pushups and go on to win the Crossfit Games 2025 Big Boy division, if they had the balls to make such a division.

4. Chin Ups

Back, biceps and escaping bears what more could you ask for.  Oh and they are “functional”.

5. Walking Lunges

Cardio check! Legs burning check! Self-loathing, hatred, and enjoyment of pain check!  Whether my wife starts asking me to do stuff around the house, I use these to walk right out the door and yell over my shoulder I am too busy training to help right now.

6. Farmers Carries

Everyone knows these are here so you never have to do multiple trips carrying groceries again. Carries are great for grip strength, upper back/trap development, core strength, conditioning, and unilateral leg strength. Basically do them.


7. Overhead Press

I have always preferred overhead press over the bench press.  Lifting something over your head reminds me of the strongmen of old who were badass. Plus, who doesn’t like having boulders for shoulders and having to turn sideways to fit through doorways?

8. Face Pulls

Believe it or not, these are one of my favorite exercises of all time.  They help keep my shoulders feeling healthy and keep me from looking like a neanderthal with rounded forward shoulders.  I also credit these and heavy deadlifts for my trap development.

9. Bent Over Rows

I have chin ups for back width and bent over rows for back thickness and strength.  Bent over rows are also an exercise that you can decently load up the weight on.

10. Prowler Pushes

See number 5 for reasons.  But seriously I do like a challenge and pushing a prowler is exactly that.  No matter how strong or conditioned you get working with a prowler never gets easier.  Oh and whether you are pushing a defensive lineman, a broke down car, or a door shut on a crazy ex these are extremely “functional”.  


Why do I keep saying “functional”

It’s a little private joke that makes me smile because it pokes a little fun at the fitness industry right now as functional is a big buzzword that a lot of people use but don’t really know or understand what it means.


Of course it is important to do movements that will help in daily life or with whatever sport you do but a lot of time the “functional” movements you do are from sports practice or daily movements.  You should therefore focus on building a base level of strength and conditioning rather than focusing on creating workouts that solely focus on movements that mimic your sport or activity.

I challenge those who read this blog to try these exercises and think of what their 10 exercises might be.  It was definitely fun and made me think about training from a different point of view.

Ethan McElroy