Bob Greene’s Basic 8

By Bob Greene

There are literally hundreds of different strength training exercises, enough to boggle the mind. But don't let the abundance of options confuse you. There are eight simple moves—which I call The Basic Eight—that accomplish everything you need.

The Basic Eight hit all the major muscle groups and insure you equally develop strength, power, and endurance. Together these elements give your muscles the ability to perform quickly and efficiently, while also preventing the loss of muscle tissue that occurs naturally through aging and disuse. And for anyone trying to lose weight or maintain weight loss, strength training is indispensable — nothing does a better job of reshaping your body and helping to keep your metabolism in high gear.

Whether you’ve never lifted weights before, or are an experienced exerciser who has never found the right strength training regimen, you’ll find The Basic Eight straightforward and not at all intimidating. It consists of the following:

1. Squats: Upper legs (quadriceps and hamstrings)

2. Lunges: Upper and lower legs (quadriceps, hamstrings and calves)

3. Chest Press: Chest and back of upper arms (triceps)

4. Shoulder Press: Shoulder muscles

5. Butterfly: Upper back muscles (trapezius and latissimus dorsi)

6. Dumbbell Fly: Chest muscles

7. Biceps Curl: Upper arms (biceps)

8. Triceps Extension: Backs of the arms (triceps)

You can perform all Basic Eight moves with dumbbells, although if you belong to a well-equipped gym, all of the moves except squats have a machine alternative. (Members of can visit the site's exercise library to see video demonstrations of each exercise.) In either case, whether using dumbbells or a weight machine, keep in mind that the weight needs to be heavy enough to fatigue your muscles after 8 to 10 reps.

Here's a good progression for both beginners and experienced exercisers to follow:

• Begin with 1 or 2 sets per exercise, 8 to 10 repetitions per set, three times a week. (Take no more than 15 to 30 seconds in between sets). You may find you can’t make 8 to 10 reps in the second set, but that’s OK—it’s evidence you’re working hard enough in the first set to produce changes in your muscles and, as your strength improves, you’ll eventually make the reps.

• After about four weeks, reassess. If you’re making all your sets easily, add another. Also check your weights. Are they heavy enough?

• Keep reassessing every four to six weeks and when you’re ready for a new challenge, add another day. Your ultimate goal: 3 sets of each exercise, 8 to 10 reps, every other day.

As you advance and increase your activity level to Level 4 or 5, you may want to add additional exercises to your routine like Lateral Raise, One-Arm Row, Upright Row, Incline Press, Thumbs Down, Frontal Raise, External Rotation, and Lateral Pull-down.

If the Basic Eight sounds technical, or even daunting, don't let it fool you. They're simple to perform and best of all don't take much time. You can go through the Basic Eight in about 20 minutes. That's little time to invest for what will be a huge pay off.