Strength Coach Athlean-X Shares His ‘20 Greatest Exercises of All Time’

rear view of asian man performing barbell squats at the indoor gym
Athlean-X's ‘20 Greatest Exercises of All Time’wutwhanfoto - Getty Images

As the founder of YouTube channel Athlean-X, strength coach and physical therapist Jeff Cavaliere has released hundreds of videos sharing his workouts and training advice, amassing a seriously impressive 2.2 billion views since first launching the channel back in 2006. In his latest video, Cavaliere names his ‘20 greatest exercises of all time’ that everyone should consider including in their weekly workouts. Here’s a few of the exercises that made his shortlist.

Kicking off the video, Cavaliere begins with what he calls ‘the king of all lower body exercises’ – the barbell squat. He recommends focusing on moving your pelvis and ribcage together in one motion, to contract your glutes at the top of each squat and to grip the ground with your toes to promote a solid base. He awards the ‘prince of the lower body exercises’ title to the barbell or dumbbell reverse lunge – an exercise he says allows you to introduce different planes of motion and instability when you take a staggered stance.

Next up, he moves on to the cheat bicep curl. Cavaliere says that if you place one foot forward when performing this exercise, the momentum you generate allows you to overload on a slow eccentric and limits the amount of ‘cheat’. Facing your wrists up at the top of the movement will also help to take your forearms out of the exercise. Sticking with biceps, Cavaliere also names the dumbbell waiter’s curl in his top 20 – believing it’s the best exercise ‘for hitting that long head outer portion of the biceps’.

When it comes to shoulder exercises, he says ‘you have to have some variation of a lateral raise if you want to build up that mid delt best’. Cavaliere favours the cable variation as it has a more consistent resistance curve throughout the whole range of the exercise than when using dumbbells. Still with the shoulders, he goes on to name his favourite pushing exercise as the single arm high cable row.

Ab exercises also belong in the top 20, says Cavaliere, but ‘only if you’re doing the ones that allow for overload’. He names the hanging leg raise, as it allows you to ‘perform a posterior pelvic tilt and flexion of the spine’, which he says are responsible for building your abdominal muscles.

Here’s the full list of Cavaliere’s top 20 exercises of all time. How many would make your list?

Legs

  • Barbell squat

  • Deadlift

  • Barbell or dumbbell reverse lunge

  • Barbell hip thrust

  • Reverse hyperextension

Push

  • Dumbbell or barbell bench press

  • Lateral raise

  • Lying tricep extension

  • Dumbbell or barbell push press

  • Crossovers

Pull

  • Cheat bicep curl

  • Weighted pull-up

  • One arm high cable row

  • Dumbbell waiter’s curl

  • Dumbbell bench press

  • Dumbbell pullovers

  • Face pulls

  • External rotation

  • Dumbbell high pull

  • Barbell dead row

Abs

  • Hanging leg raise

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