My Five Favourite Exercises

Posted on: January 24th, 2018 by Karl Gellert No Comments

Hello there! Once again, I’ve managed to make our company blog all about….. me. I’ll do that from time to time, but don’t worry I’ll make it up to you in the future.

Keeping in the theme of “me me me”, I had an idea that it might be interesting to see some of my favourite exercises, and later, the rest of the team’s. Now, these aren’t the “best exercises”, or in any particular order, they’re just ones I personally like doing myself or using with clients.

In my decade of training, these have changed a few times and probably will again, so this list is somewhat of a moving target. But here it is:

Kettlebell Swings

Ah, the kettlebell swing. Widely used, frequently butchered, totally awesome.

I did a program a couple years ago that called for 100 total swings, twice a week, for time. At first, I thought it was an impossible feat (ok, not impossible but intimidating) but I did adapt pretty quickly and strangely enough, actually grew to really love the swing. The newfound strength in my hamstrings and glutes really seemed to translate well to the lockout portion my squats and deadlifts. Obviously, I can’t 100% guarantee that result for everyone but nevertheless, I really started to enjoy them.

Swings are not only one of the best exercises for your hamstrings, glutes, and core but they’re also super versatile. They can be used as conditioning (they get the lungs burning), as an accessory exercise for lower body, or just as a solo workout if you’re short on time. Yes, I’m in the camp that would put these in a “five-minute workout” category (though no “five minute workout” is ideal).

I usually do them as either a finisher exercise on lower body day for aforementioned 100 reps total, or if I’m lucky enough to be training in a place that has a few heavy ones (over 70lb), I’ll use them as an exercise for strength/hypertrophy, doing 3 – 4 sets of 10 – 15 reps.

In short, do them. They’re good.


Deadlifts at their core have a very simple appeal – you grab a weight and pick it up off the floor. It’s simple, it’s primal and it’s totally sweet. Because of the mechanics involved, it’s one of the two exercises human beings can use the most possible total weight (the other being barbell squats), which is great for building the overall body strength.

A deadlift is THE hip hinge movement and the traditional barbell deadlift is a fantastic way to test whether or not an individual is flexible or mobile enough to move well in the “hip hinge” pattern, with an additional load. It’s not only a great tool to build overall strength but also a great way to assess how well we move in everyday life.

Contrary to some very outspoken individuals beliefs, the deadlift isn’t bad for your back, but moving improperly through the low back instead of the hips certainly is. Add several hundred pounds and the wonders of time to this rounded back deadlift and you have a recipe for disaster

Due to my short arms which makes getting down to the bar a chore and the fact that I didn’t really have anyone to teach me how to deadlift for the first few years of my career, I used to hate deadlift day with a passion. Over time though, I’ve figured it out a little more, got some great pointers, and they’ve since become one day of the week I really look forward to.


I’m paraphrasing something one of our other trainers, Dylan Stanton, said here because he totally nailed how I feel about the pull-up. He said something along the lines of “I love pull-ups because there’s no real set up, you just grab the bar and pull yourself up”

While this is not 100% accurate (I just took the part I liked, Dylan knows how to cue a set up on pull-ups) his point was that pull-ups are super simple. You set your shoulder blades, squeeze your butt and pull yourself up.

It’s a great test of relative strength, a fantastic lat exercise and a surprisingly effective core workout (check out the old Brett Contreras T-Nation article on EMG tests I linked below).

In short, it’s simple, effective and fun. Ish. It’s a classic.

Bench Press

We can argue all day whether or not bench pressing is “functional” but what I won’t be arguing is it’s pure, unbridled awesomeness. Due to my anatomy sharing much in common with the Tyrannosaurus Rex, bench has always been the easiest of the big lifts for me (I get to move the bar much shorter than the rest of you).


I like what I’m good at, ipso factso, I like bench press.

On a more practical note, I do feel it’s probably the best exercise for total upper body strength there is, besides maybe the barbell overhead press, and there’s more than enough variations to work for almost anyone. Does it need to be in your program? No. Will most people probably do it anyway? Yes. Yes they will.

Sled Push


Let’s get this out of the way – I hate pushing the sled. It sucks. Your legs burn, your lungs burn and one time both of my shoes popped off. Trust me, it’s way harder pushing on turf in your socks. In fact, you kids are lucky you even get turf! We used to push the sled on concrete! There were pebbles and tiny rocks everywhere and the sled would hit rough patches and slow to a grind and that would suck. A couple (several) times we’d slip on those damn tiny and fall shin first right onto the concrete, so we’d come back bloody and bruised. Once, for some reason, we decided to push the damn sled in the rain because it seemed hardcore. And it was. Careful what you wish for. It felt like the weight had doubled. Didn’t do that one again.

Grandpa Simpson rant over. In my mind, the sled is the best cardio – period. It’s hyper-effective, it’s super easy on the joints as there’s no impact, it can be a fantastic tool for a leg exercise if someone is a bit beat up, and it’s great to teach sprinting mechanics.

But the main thing? It’s really hard to do the sled wrong. There are a couple ways for sure, but for the most part, you just lean into it and push it. Simple = good in my books.

There you have it, my 5 favourite exercises. Hopefully, you got a glimpse into my thought process and some ideas in the process. Til next time make me proud and keep living that GTL lifestyle


The Brett Contreras Article mentioned earlier

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