What does it mean to be a “fit guy?” Do you have to bench 300 lbs? Do you have to run a five-minute mile? Do you have to have a six-pack while standing?
If it did, I wouldn’t make the cut. Fitness, to me, is being strong enough for whatever you want to do. If you want to rock climb like a boss, you can; if you want to do better at your underground bare-knuckle fight club, you can too. Sure, you have a good foundation in strength, speed, power, and endurance, but you can always specialize in one area.
But building the strength for real fitness involves five essential exercise that all fit guys should commit to.
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1. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift
If an exercise is named after an Eastern Bloc nation, it will suck. The deadlift is already hard, but in Romania, you can’t set the barbell down.
Doing a Romanian Deadlift with just one leg makes it masterful. Not only do you blast your hamstrings and back, but you also strengthen your glutes and hip stabilizers more than a regular deadlift. This will help you with any physical activity.
2. Lateral Squat
Leg exercises are mandatory for fit guys: I’ve never met an athlete who said, “Leg exercises? What the hell are those? By the way, are you using that squat rack? I need to do some bicep curls.”
But most leg exercises have the same limitation: They only move front-to-back, which is called your “sagittal plane.” Instead, if you move side-to-side—your “frontal plane”—you can emphasize different muscles in your legs and unlock a new plane of movement for athletics.
With the lateral squat, you’ll increase your hip mobility (which is good) and your hip strength (also good).
3. Bear Crawl
Most guys haven’t crawled since they were two (or in a fraternity, possibly). But the crawl is a fundamental movement pattern with tremendous benefits: it targets the muscles deep inside your core, builds total-body stability, and improves your movement patterns and cross-body linkage.
Use the bear crawl as a gentle warm-up exercise or wear a weighted vest and use it as a conditioning exercise.
4. Weighted Carries
This is pretty easy:
Step 1: Grab something heavy. Step 2: Walk with it. Step 3: Put it down when you’re tired. Step 4: Repeat as necessary.
Carries build everything: strength, powerful forearms, a strong core, joint stability, and, uh, mental fortitude. The two main variations are the appropriately named “Farmer’s Carry” (where you hold a weight in your hands and keep your arms at your sides) and “Waiter’s Walks” (where you hold a weight straight above your head).
5. Turkish Get Up
There’s no core exercise like it: it’s 7-exercises-in-1, moving from supine to standing while holding a weight above your head the entire time. Specifically, it increases your total-body stability, improves your movement patterns, and blasts your entire core (not just your six-pack).
Start with no weight. Instead, make a fist and balance your shoe on top of your knuckles throughout. Then, progress to a kettlebell.