If You Could Only Do Two Exercises…

Strength Training 2 min Read

Written by

Keith Hansen

I wrote the article If You Could Only Do One Exercise and it felt like I had to write a follow up.

The premise of the first article is what exercise would you choose if you could only do one strength training exercises for maximal health, strength, posture, and carryover to life outside of the gym.

What if you could do two?

Would you do the deadlift and add one more exercise? Or would you pick two completely new exercises?

Here’s what you should do.


Most of our joints move in two directions and each direction has a set of muscles responsible for those movements. We refer to this as pushing, and pulling.

To round out your strength training with only two exercises is going to be tough, but it’s obvious we will need a push & a pull exercises.


We’re going to keep the deadlift from If You Could Only Do One Exercise for the reasons outline there–it hits more muscles than any other single compound movement. That will be our pull because it hits the quads lightly, forearms,  and all of the muscles that run down the backside of the body. For more information about the deadlift check out The Serious Guide to the Conventional Deadlift.


Now we need a push exercise for the triceps, chest, and shoulders.

The overhead press will focus the triceps & shoulders at the expense of the chest.

The bench press will focus the chest & triceps but neglects the shoulders

What’s the solution?

Meet in the middle with the incline dumbbell press.

This will bridge the gap between vertical & horizontal pressing with the added benefit of developing your shoulder stability.

What’s Missing?

Between the deadlift & dumbbell incline press you will hit most of the muscles in your body.

But not all of them.

We’re still missing the biceps, and the quads could get more love.

Lucky for you there’s one more article in the is series and it will address the missing links.

Want more?

You’ve got the time to do more than two exercises, and the Seriously Strong Beginner Program will tell you which exercises you should be doing to cover everything.

Looking for 12 weeks of preprogrammed workouts that is more intense? Download the Seriously Strong Intermediate Program.

Do you want to go H.A.M. on the deadlift, squat, bench press, and overhead press? The Seriously Strong Advanced Program will let you go all out on each of those lifts once a week.

Keith Hansen

Keith was an All-State wrestler in high school and in 2007 hung up his singlet to attend Florida State University to pursue a B.S. in business management. He wasn't sure what industry he wanted to be involved in at the time, but soon realized after graduating in 2011 that fitness was the ever-constant activity in his life. Keith began studying to become a personal trainer and in 2013 earned the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Personal Trainer certification. After a short stint as a big box gym trainer he realized he wanted to bring something different to Tallahassee. Keith competes in Powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, and Crossfit.