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The Major Difference Makers

Everything You Need To Train HARDCORE!

Posted by Sean_Seaberg - May 5th, 2013

When it comes to the average person there are some exercises that I believe are more useful than others.  I’m going to list and talk about a few of my favorite exercises that I have incorporated while training my clients that produced the most dramatic changes. These exercises have proven to help my clients become more stable, strong, balanced, flexible, and improved their conditioning as well.

While reading this article I want you to keep in mind that although these exercises will definitely help you in your fitness journey, keep in mind that you are not going to become a yogi god overnight just by squatting different rep ranges and cadences. However, you will most likely improve your overall natural range of motion and strength if you incorporate each of the following exercises in your current training routine.


Just hanging alone is a stretch through the shoulders that is worth incorporating into your weekly routine if not daily. Pull-ups are a fundamental movement that can save your life if you ever find yourself in a real life cliff hanger. Your lats are big proponents in most pulling movements and pull-ups are the quickest way to fully engaged them.  If you pull yourself up so that the bar touches your chest you will benefit from working many of the stabilizing muscles around your spine as well. I find the easiest way to help my clients become more comfortable with pull-ups is to teach them to hang first and then to do partial reps even if they are an inch in motion.  From here I gradually have them increase the range of their reps and if needed use the assistance of bands.

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Grip Strength

  • Pull-ups also build grip strength very quickly and grip strength is what separates thestrong from the weak. No matter how big and strong you are if you do not have a solid grip you will be limited when it comes to more advanced exercises.

Basic Compound Exercise

  • Compound movements like this will bring your workouts and results to the next level in many ways because they require more work and thus burn more calories which means you have the potential to stay leaner and burn more fat during your workouts! The pull-up is almost equivalent to what the squat is to the lower body. You will need to recruit a lot of muscle fiber for this exercise which will not only help boost your metabolism, but increase your overall raw strength.

Push-Up Stabilizer

You could do 100 crunches a day, which is great if you want to work your rectus abdominis area, but no amount of crunches will build the kind of strength you need to build a stronger transverse abdominus. Push-up stabilizers will show you a lot about where someone is at as far as imbalances in their body and where they may have weaknesses in their kinetic chain as far as stabilizer strength is concerned.  I primarily use this exercise for TVA (Transverse Abdominis) activation, but like I said it will expose much more than TVA weakness, if any, when I train my clients.  As far as general population, this exercise is a great baseline for testing physical fitness.  This becomes especially true for athletes which is why you will almost never find one that cannot hold this position with relative ease.
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  • A simple stabilizer like this can make all the difference once you start to work with progressions and various added resistance protocols. One sport that comes to mind that requires a strong TVA is wrestling.  If you lack TVA endurance and can’t stabilize properly there’s no way you will be able to move dynamically with explosiveness and intensity.


  • Push-up stabilizers are at the top of the list of simple effective exercises. You will engage your shoulders, triceps, chest, both abdominal walls, hips, glutes, and quads in this isometric hold. To perform the exercise you must simply get down on the floor and hold an extended push-up position as long as possible. This is the most basic version, but tends to be very effective for most of the general population. As people become stronger the exercise tends to be a little more complex but not by much which is why I love using this exercise with my clients.


In my opinion, squats are pretty much the granddaddy of all exercises. As frustrating and utterly exhausting as they can be at times, I love them. There are a wide variety of squat movements and variations you can try.  As a beginner, a simple bodyweight air squat will go a long way. Once you have mastered the form, you can than transition to a barbell back squat and begin to focus on increasing the muscular size and strength of your legs.

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Basic yet complex

  • The squat is a fundamental movement for every human.  Although it may look like a squat is simply just “sitting down”, it is much more complex than that. Depending on your flexibility and hip mobility you may or may not be able to squat ATG (Ass-To-Grass) but with time, stretching and practicing proper form you can increase your range of motion.  Everyone can and should squat as long as their joints are working properly. It is one of the top exercises for hip explosiveness and hip extension if not the best.

Variety is the spice

  • One of the best things about squats is that there are many versions of them and many ways to perform them.  Some variations include the high-bar back squat, front squat, single-leg squat, goblet squat, split squat, sissy squat, air squat and frog squat. As you progress and become stronger, you should take it upon yourself to switch it up and try a few of these variations.


Nice legs

  • Everyone wants nice legs, but how many people do you see squatting religiously to get them?  Chances are very few and many of those that do don’t always perform them properly with full range of motion.  If you want to increase the size of your legs then you must understand that squats target your quads, glutes, hamstrings, adductors, and abductors and if you eat properly you will see some serious leg growth. It’s all about consistency. Squatting is a lifetime event and is not a flavor of the month exercise by any means.

Standing Overhead Press

Pressing is a fundamental function of any workout routine and the overhead press is a great way to build your base strength pushing power as well as the core strength to stabilize heavy weight overhead. Strengthening your shoulders should be listed in priority right after strengthening your hips and spine. Although every joint serves its own purpose and are equal in importance, shoulder strength & stability are key when performing upper body movements.
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Rotator Cuff

  • Overhead presses are a great exercise to help strengthen the rotator cuff. However, a warm-up is crucial to ensure that the area is “primed” to help decrease the risk of an injury whether you are performing working sets or a one rep max (1RM).  Do not let rumors and myths of overhead pressing being “bad for your joints” detour you from the exercise. As long as you focus on proper form you can easily avoid an injury and continue to build muscle and strength.

Full Connection

  • While performing an overhead press you will fully engage your kinetic chain. Almost every joint in your body will need to engage and stabilize to perform the movement.  This alone makes this exercise a great movement to help increase your overall stability.  I often have my clients hold the lockout portion of the exercise to help condition their bodies to not only be able to move the weight, but to hold it correctly.

Hanging Knee/Leg Raises

Leg and knee raises should be a staple in any workout routine. This exercise is a true testament of how strong your core really is.  More specifically, it will be a real measurement of the strength of your hip flexors and rectus abdominis.  If a client of mine cannot perform a simple leg or knee raise from the floor, let alone hanging, that is a major red flag and means that these muscles need to be improved if my client is to have a good posterior-to-anterior chain balance.

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Core Everywhere

  • The muscles needed to perform a hanging leg raise are used in many other exercises as well. Hanging leg raises or toe-to-bars will help strengthen your abdomen to the point where you will have no problem performing an exercise like a front squat with heavy weight while maintaining a decent spinal alignment. Also, keep in mind that most free weight movements that you do will incorporate hip flexor and rectus abdominis engagement so if you want to be at your strongest you need to be including these lifts in your workout regimen.

Six packing

  • While abs may be “made in the kitchen” by eating a proper meal plan geared toward your goals, hanging leg raises will help build the muscle you need to have a more visible six-pack as you lean out. If you are a beginner, start the exercise by raising your knees only. Then work your way to straight legs and finally a toe-to-bar raise. Keep in mind that this exercise will help improve your grip strength as well which is always a fantastic bonus!

The purpose of this article was not to tell you that these exercises are the only exercises you should incorporate in your weekly routine. They are however the few I’ve noticed that when incorporated in my client’s weekly regimen have proven to increase their overall strength and stability.  One other lift that could have been incorporated is the deadlift. Personally, I do not tell others to perform this lift unless being coached on proper form as you can really do a lot of damage to your lower back if not done properly. Push-ups could also have been added to the list, but in most cases they eventually become a progression movement from the push-up stabilizer position. I hope you all enjoyed my insight and receive the benefits of “The Major Difference Makers” when it comes to your workouts!

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Golden stuff. I am currently doing all but still have difficulties pulling of more then 5 pull-ups in a row. But I will get there eventually. I do loads of lats pulls meanwhile to strengthen up my lats so that it might help me conquer pull-ups full sets in a reasonable time. 


Great article.  My trainer has me working on most of these exercises and we''re making great progress.  It takes a lot of time and patience though as you get your fitness level to the right point particularly if you've been significantly overweight.  Wehaven't reached the point where I can do hanging leg raises but I can't wait.  

Scott_Herman  Edit  Delete  Close

happy to hear that @klcookson!  Just takes time and you can do anything you put your mind too!  Keep pushing it!


awesome article Sean! i gonna try the hangin knee raises tomorrow, and also the push up stablizer, take care and grow strong Hermanites,

Scott_Herman  Edit  Delete  Close

Awesome @fox84, let me know how you like the exercises!


I'm definitely going to incorparte Hanging Leg/Knee Raises as well as the Overhead Press in my new routine. The hanging raises always makes my abs pop and I love the full stretch you get as you lower your legs again.


Great article. The point you are trying to make is of great importance. Would love to read more articles Sean. :)