The top three exercises guys don’t like doing

by Ryan Wagner

We all have them.

Exercises that we just plain don’t like doing. Whether it is because we lack the technical know-how or maybe the exercise is just plain humbling, we have our reasons.

But every now and again, it is worth looking at a few that we may need to reconsider.

And so I’ve took it upon myself to investigate (3) exercises guys don’t like doing. These are rarely seen in the weight room, but pay huge dividends to those that will put the time in.

1. Barbell hip thrusts

Number one reason guys don’t do this exercise: They never heard of it

Do you know who has heard of this exercise? Old school strength coaches. Arnold knows about it. And contemporary gurus like Bret Contreras and Charles Staley are well aware of its existence. But if you’re the typical guy that never played high school football or dabbled in rugby then this exercise is probably brand new to you.

The barbell hip thrust is an amazing posterior chain building exercise. It’ll hit your hamstrings, back and especially your glutes. In fact, you may need to go shopping for a new pair of jeans after working this movement into your program.

The hip thrust can really be interpreted in a number of ways so long as it’s a hip dominant movement. For instance, when I started playing with it I always had my back flat on the ground. But to really get a great ROM, progress by using a bench such that your torso angle is around 45 degrees or so. Any more and you’ll likely have difficulties keeping your spine neutral.

And that’s a very important point. Just like with so many of the exercises I discuss on this blog, the most important thing you need to bear in mind while lifting is to maintain a natural arch in your spine. Sometimes people call it a straight back or neutral spine, but it’s all the same. This way your vertebrae are nicely stacked and compressing just the way they were meant to.

The movement is relatively simple. Remember the hip hinge discussion in my deadlifting post? Same principle because the hip thrust is just that, a hip dominant movement. If you’re using a bench, position yourself such that your torso is roughly 45 degrees off the ground with your spine neutral. Then roll a loaded barbell over your hips.

And here’s a tip that you’ll soon discover on your own – use the padded wrap that is popular with back squatters. It’ll feel a lot better across your body, trust me.

Now brace your core, tuck your chin and plant your heels. Drive the barbell upward using your glutes and squeeze at the top. But be careful to not hyperextend your back. Lower back down in a controlled fashion and finish your set.

And who better to provide a demonstration than the glute guy himself, Bret Contreras:

The primary reason you work this exercise is to build glutes that will turn hiking a 14’er into a warm-up. Now are you a fan of the hip thrust?

2. The Turkish get up

Number one reason guys don’t do this exercise: They don’t know how

If you’re one of those that’s intimidated by the TGU or simply don’t think it’s worth your time, I don’t blame you. It’s a complicated and technical lift. It requires mobility, flexibility and strength in planes that you may not normally train.

But the beauty of the TGU lies in its practicality. Because simply getting up off the ground is something us humans have been doing for a very long time. The TGU takes it one step further and breaks the movement up into its discrete, technical components. Think it’s too simple for you, tough guy? Don’t write it off just yet. It’s a powerful move that can really help to identify weak points and also serve as a great warm up.

A little background: The get up is one of the oldest known exercises. Originating in Turkey (as far as we can tell), strongmen would train with a kettlebell and considered the movement more or less a warm-up. I consider it almost a form of yoga. Watch the video below and see if you can point out some yoga postures at each of the seven steps in executing a TGU.

It would be rather silly for me to go about making yet another Turkish get-up video because it doesn’t get any better than this one by Gray Cook and Brett Jones:

3. Bent over barbell rows

Number one reason guys don’t do this exercise: It’s really hard

Just like the hip thrusts, bent over rows are a classic bodybuilding staple. Bro-science will claim that bent over rows are a mass building necessity in any lifter’s program while strength coaches will point to the activation of the central nervous system (CNS).

The reason I like this lift is that it is another chance to stand while you’re working out. Too often machines and trainer prescribed exercises involve sitting right back down. Didn’t we do enough of that at the office during the day!?

But here’s where the bent over barbell row can really be humbling. The amount of weight you can lift should be close to what you would bench press. For a lot of you, I’m guessing you’ll be surprised at how much more you can press than pull. But don’t be too overly ambitious and try and play catch up. Go easy with this because it is asking a lot from your lower back.

Here’s the set up:

I’d recommend using a power rack such that you can use the pins and save yourself a deadlift prior to each rep. Or maybe you want that punishment :).

Regardless, you’re going to begin with the bar below the starting position and so to lift it into position treat it like the upper half of a deadlift. That is, stabilize your pelvis, brace your core and hip hinge it up.

Now, the loaded barbell should be at arms’ length – just as though you had finished a deadlift. Now, hip hinge over until your torso is at about 45 deg to the ground. Keeping your core locked up tight row upwards by bringing the bar towards your chest and squeezing your scapula back. Imagine trying to crush a pop can with your shoulder blades.

All the while, minimize movement in your torso. All that should be moving are your arms. You’ll find this to be a ridiculously good core builder.

When your reps are complete, hip hinge right back up and reverse the set up procedure to set the barbell back down.

Wrap Up

So, what do you think? Did I miss my mark and you’re actually well versed in all three of these moves? Or perhaps you learned something new.

If there’s one common thread among the three it is this: The hip thrust, TGU and bent over barbell row are old school exercises that are big compound movements to help you pack on muscle and improve your own leverage. By taking some time to train these lifts you may just see noticeable improvement when you go back to more familiar exercises.

Did I miss an exercise? Let me know in the comments below.

By Ryan Wagner

Further reading

Everything you need to know about the hip thrust

Rack hip thrusts



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