The 5 most effective and productive fitness training movements

I literally CRACK UP when I waste my time, I just CAN’T STAND it. It drives me nuts because my productivity during the day is paramount.

Why? Because time is one of the most important and precious things I have, I want to spend it doing the things I enjoy with those people I care about most, my family and friends. The same goes for my clients; I want the most effective programming and training methods available to maximise the safest results in the shortest time possible.

So when I say I’m not the biggest fan of, what I refer to as “the kitchen sink workout” well that’s what I mean when I’m talking about, bad program design which basically throws every exercise imaginable known to man into a 2 hour long training session with lots of unnecessary padding just for good measure. The rational being, if one includes everything it will have to work across the board with every client.

Again it drives me NUTS, why would one do 10 different movements when one exercise executed well will elicit the same response from the body and muscle group.

“The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be”.
– Bruce Lee

I really mean it; I want my programmes to be as minimalist as I can possibly make them.

I want to get in, get out, get on with my day while getting the best results and I bet I’m not the only one?


So not long ago, I partook in a seminar hosted by Dan John in Dublin. He mentioned something that got me thinking about this whole idea. He said

“If you found yourself stranded on a deserted island and you could only have one piece of exercise equipment with you what would it be?”

and the more I thought about it the more I began to change my perception of “What’s really necessary and important?”

I thought about it on the 3 hour journey driving home to Sligo from Dublin, and again pretty much all the next day in Storm Bodyfitness. Then I began to formulate lists of my thoughts which lead to me writing them on the blackboard, constantly changing my mind scribbling bits of reminders and notes to myself (it’s my mad scientist alter ego haha) and

I came up with this list

  • Strength
  • Mobility/Movement Quality
  • Cardiovascular Capacity
  • Strength Endurance
  • Stability/Flexibility

Then it went a step further, what 5 exercises, if I could only choose 5 would I pick?

From my years of training experience coupled with my studies, I’ve come up with, in my opinion what are the top 5 most effective and most productive movements, that if they were the only 5 movements I could do they would deliver the most efficient impact and I’d be happy knowing I’d be in pretty good shape (on my Island) haha.


Storm Body Fitness Sligo



The kettlebell swing is regarded and has been described as “the centre of the kettlebell universe” it’s the fundamental foundation bed rock of all kettlebell training.

It’s the easiest kettlebell movement to learn and the most significant and efficient in totally transforming the body especially for increasing overall strength, endurance and fat loss.

It’s very similar to the barbell deadlift in that it is a hinge movement and it predominantly impacts the posterior chain of the body. Ahh, I here you say then why not just pick the common deadlift? the difference being and here’s the secret… the kettlebell swing is also a ballistic movement. Remember productivity “2 birds one stone”



Right enough said, stick the kettle on and we’ll just have a cuppa, job done.

The Kettlebell Snatch is referred to by Pavel as the Tsar of the Kettlebell Lifts.

It’s pound for pound one of the most demanding and brutal movements you can do with a ordinary dumbell or KB. When it’s done right with good technique and correct weight it will quite literally turn you into a machine.

It builds and strengthens every part of your body (including your will). This is possibly why most armed Special Forces like the Navy Seals, SAS and the Russian Spetsnaz all frequently use it in their assessment of candidates and their training. It’s also a staple training “go to”of most MMA fighters, boxers and Greek Roman wrestlers not to mention Crossfit.

Just look at this for just some results (another list) haha

  • Strips off body fat like a hot knife through butter
  • Increases heart and lung conditioning and capacity
  • Increases your grip strength dramatically
  • Increases your overall strength output which spills over into the likes of deadlifts Strict Pull Ups and Overhead Presses

OK, choice number 3…

Some of you reading this who know me personally will be shocked not to see me automatically pick the barbell Squat, for those of you who don’t know me “my absolute favourite exercise ever is the Barbell Squat hands down, but unfortunately we must remain true to the parameters of our current hypnotises. Therefore for number 3 in my opinion has to be ….



This is a great exercise with a single Kettlebell, but in my opinion it really shines when one performs it using a pair of KBs. It just has such a dramatic impact on the body in a relatively short period of training time.

As hard as the previous 2 in our short list are, when performing the squat press as density or volume sets, it just develops a will of iron and a constitution and body of steel. Trust me it’s really that powerful on the body. It’s a real game changer.

“Long before the invention of the plate loaded barbells and dumbbells, history spoke of men of seemingly superhuman strength. On display at the Archaeological Museum of Olympia in Greece is a 316lb that’s approx. 145kg sandstone, dating back to early 600BC, with the inscription “Bybon son of Phola, has lifted me over his head with one hand.”
– Kenneth Jay, Perfecting the Press, Dragon Door Publications



Back in the old days it really didn’t matter what you could bench or what your Squat number was for that matter, for most old school pre steroid and supplement strongmen of the time the test of strength was the TGU and the emphasis for them was quality of movement.

Hard to believe but its true they respected quality of movement and balance as much if not more than most trainers today. My point is somewhere down the line we lost touch with the importance of good overall quality of movement and then recently rediscovered it as if it were something new.

Sig Klein, American strength legend, wrote:

“The one-arm get-up is a general test of strength, which had considerable appeal to most strongmen of yesteryear…It has always made a hit with the theatrical public, for it was obvious to them that magnificent strength was being displayed when an athlete did a one-arm get-up with a heavy bell.”

The TGU movement requires good stability, core strength, mobility and leg drive.

It can help develop body control and awareness that you just don’t get from any other type of gym equipment and it also helps to re-establish a better mind to body connection as most adults have lost the ability to crawl, roll, leap, hang, balance and tumble.

The calm nature of the TGU is a great contrast to the intense nature of the other movements we’ve selected but is just as effective in developing improvements in our list of health requirements.



My final Choice for number 5 is the simple loaded carry or hill sprint. Forget doing monotonous cardio on a Treadmill or some other contraption. If you want to get into shape fast, burn fat, and build muscle do some simple loaded carries or hill sprints.

Sprinting is very effective, and is a practical method for improving total speed and power along with being a very strong stimulus for rapid body composition changes. Basically if you perform 20 hill sprints with good technique and short rest periods on you non training gym days the body fat will just melt away.

As for the loaded carry well lets face it it’s all well and good picking something heavy up and putting it straight back down, but in the real world, well most of the time, we pick something heavy up to move it somewhere else.

Ahh yes, but the all important WHY?

Well when it comes to loaded carries we’re talking about muscle gain, fat loss, total overall body strength, balance improvements and intense metabolic conditioning and if you want a “6 pack” trust me a loaded carry will get you there a lot faster than performing copious amounts of sit-ups.


Yes I kind of cheated and picked 6 but it’s a writers prerogative and I wanted to give you the best advise possible. If you just performed the above as a training program you wouldn’t need much else. You also might have noticed I’ve mentioned a Kettlebell a lot, well lets look back to our initial question:

“If you were stranded on a deserted island and you could only have one piece of training equipment with you what would it be?”

There is a reason why it’s been around for the last couple of centuries, making people and athletes immensely strong:

  • It is brilliant in its simplicity and effectiveness and it’s really only limited by your imagination.
  • It hits all the criteria of our “What’s really necessary and important?” list.
  • It’s a simple structure, only one component and practically impossible to break.
  • It works just as well with beginners as it does with the advanced athlete.
  • It combines the ability to improve strength endurance and cardiovascular output in equal amounts and above all it’s just so productive regarding time spent verses tangible results.
Keith Richardson

Keith Richardson

Founder, Storm Body Fitness


Thanks for reading and as always if you have any questions or if you’d like to post your own list or even if you disagree with the above by all means, I’d love to hear your comments or thoughts.

-Keith, Storm body Fitness

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