Essential Strength Training Exercises for Optimum Results Written by: Kim Kisner

Thinking about starting a new weight training regimen and needing some help? Or maybe you’ve been doing your own routine and need to change it up and could use some pointers and ideas to get better results.

VIDA Personal Trainers Pruitt Brown and Robert Davis are here to help!

In terms of what strength training can do for you, Pruitt says, “Put simply, first it can help prevent injury, and second it makes you more capable and prepared for doing everyday things.” Robert adds, “Stronger people are more resilient and can endure more.”

So, where to start? According to the trainers from a functional standpoint, there are six motions our body is designed to execute. The body can push something up, or out horizontally. It can pull something in toward the body or pull something up. It can bend at the knees (squats) and it can bend at the hips.

Based on these six different motions, Pruitt and Robert have put together exercises that you can add to your training program. They have provided a “basic” and “advanced” version of each.

For some extra fun, Robert rounded out the list with three aesthetic movements for a great-looking physique. Pruitt added four functional movements to consider the direction and strain of daily life.


1. Horizontal Press

Basic: Low Incline DB Press: Adding a Low Incline (15-30 Degrees) to the DB Chest Press gives the added benefit of using more upper chest, while also strengthening shoulder stability.

Advanced: Larsen Press: If you want to add a challenge to your Barbell Bench Press and build greater upper back stability, Larson Press is your go-to variation. Set up like normal, and then stick your legs straight out before you start your first rep.

2. Vertical Press

Basic: Landmine Press: With so many variations able for Landmine Press, it’s a must-have for any full-body shoulder routine. Whether it’s standing, half-kneeling, single-arm, or two-handed, the Landmine Press is a great way to train the vertical press in a safe manner.

Advanced: DB Z- Press: A favorite of both Pruitt and Robert, DB Z-Press will challenge your core stability, hip flexors, and strict pressing power to the max.

3. Horizontal Pull

Basic: Half-Kneeling Cable Row: Offers all the benefits of a Seated Cable Row with the added benefit of training anti-rotation.
Advanced:  Pendlay Barbell Row: This explosive upper-back-focused barbell row is a game-changer for strength and power training. Make sure to come to a dead stop between reps!

4. Vertical Pull

Basic: Neutral Grip Pulldown: A staple of any strength training routine, pulldowns train the entire upper back. Whether you’re trying to undo the effects of sitting hunched over your desk or trying to get your first pull-up, don’t skip this exercise!

Advanced:  Strict Pull Ups: The king of calisthenics. Find a straight bar and pull your chest to the bar. How many can you do?

5. Knee Dominant

Basic: Goblet Squat: Holding the kettlebell or dumbbell next to your heart will hit your core and your quads.

Advanced: Single Arm Kettlebell Squat: Are goblet squats too easy? Turn them up to 11 by shifting the weight to one side and then to the other. This is one of Robert’s favorite ways to train the side abs.

6. Hip Dominant

Basic:  Kettlebell Suitcase Deadlifts: This beginner-friendly deadlift variation is a great way to strengthen the hips and lower back.

Advanced:  Barbell Deadlifts: The king of all exercises. Barbell Deadlifts train every muscle down your spine. A must-have for any serious gym goer.

7. Core (anti-movement)

Basic: Transverse Cable Chops: Whether rotating up-down, down-up, or side-to-side, the Transverse Cable Chop is an effective way to keep your spine healthy and ready for life’s challenges.

Advanced: Windshield Wipers: A favorite of Coach Pruitt, this core exercise uses the weight of your legs to push your core to its limits.

Aesthetic Accessories from Robert

Pick a focus to add in a little extra pump at the end of your workout!

  • Arms: Bicep Curls, Tricep Extensions, Lateral Raises
  • Legs: Leg Extensions, Hamstring Curls, Calf Raises
  • Glutes: DB RDL’s, 45° Glute Extension, Glute Kickbacks

Functional Accessories from Pruitt

Add these in to bulletproof your body against the daily demands of life:

  • Farmers Carry
  • KB Windmills
  • Sled Push/Pull
  • Ball/Sandbag to Shoulder