Pete McCall by Pete McCall

Bench press. Lat pulldown. Biceps curls. Ab crunches. Leg press. For many men, these are their go-to choices for strength-training workouts. While these exercises can certainly help increase strength or improve definition, each one focuses on just one body part or muscle group at a time, which isn’t actually the way muscles are designed to function. And men who’ve been doing these exercises for an extended period of time might find they’ve hit a plateau and their workouts aren’t producing the same results. The solution is to change up a workout routine to add new exercises that use different muscles or, at the very least, use the same muscles but in different ways.    

The body is made to move while using multiple joints and muscles at a time. The fundamental patterns of movement are the bend-and-lift (hip hinge or squat), single-leg (lunge or step-up), push (to the front and overhead), pull (from the front and overhead) and rotation. Exercises based on these fundamental movement patterns use multiple muscles at the same time, which can help develop greater levels of strength while burning more calories during a workout.

If you are looking for ways to level-up your workouts and add more strength, give these options a try. Each exercise includes one modification to give you more control so you can learn how to do it properly, as well as one option for increasing the challenge, so you can add more strength. An added bonus: Exercises that use the hips and shoulders at the same time are performed from a standing position (such as a bent-over barbell row or a squat to shoulder press) can increase the activation of core muscles to enhance overall levels of strength.

Each movement pattern includes two exercises plus modifications for progressing or regressing the movement. To design a great workout focused on increasing strength:

1. Complete a 5-10-minute warm-up that elevates your heart rate.

2. Select one exercise from each movement pattern for a total of five exercises.

3. Select a weight that makes 10 repetitions challenging (for body-weight exercises, complete repetitions to a point of fatigue).

4. Rest 30 to 45 seconds between exercises.

5. Complete two to four sets, depending on available time.

To increase the metabolic demand (burn more calories), perform the workout as a circuit, moving from one exercise to the next with little-to-no rest and allow 60 to 90 seconds of rest after completing all five exercises.


Movement pattern



Dumbbell goblet squat



Bodyweight squat

Squat to overhead press

Barbell Romanian deadlift (RDL)

Barbell hip bridge

Barbell deadlift


TRX push-up



Standard push-up

Feet in TRX cradles

Barbell shoulder press

Seated overhead press

Single-arm overhead press


Barbell bent-over rows



Standing cable row

Body-weight chin-up

Single-arm cable row

Kneeling single-arm row

Lunge to single-arm row


Bulgarian split-squat


Single leg

Reverse lunge

Forward lunge


Single-leg RDL (inverted flyers)

Single-leg curl on ball


Standing rotational chop



Two-hand press

Lateral lunge with chop

Medicine ball chop

Kneeling lift (hay-bailer)

Rotational slams


When compared to traditional muscle-isolation exercises, performing workouts based on movement patterns might feel different at first because you will be performing new movements that involve multiple muscles at the same time. After a few workouts, however, you should start to feel like you’re moving better and experiencing less post-workout soreness while increasing your overall levels of strength.