The Single Most Effective Exercise Any Man Can Do

If I were to survey every guy in my gym and ask them what’s their favorite lift I imagine bench press would be the overwhelming answer. And that’s just what I’ve come to expect in today’s disappointing everybody-follow-the-leader culture.

What’s the best exercise?

However, If I changed my question and instead asked what’s the best exercise you can do, many would probably stick with their original answer firmly believing that the bench press is, in fact, magical. But some would smarten up and say the squat or the deadlift. And in terms of the most muscles worked per exercise or the highest degree of difficulty those last two answers aren’t wrong. But, if I had to prescribe just one exercise to the average man today, it wouldn’t be any of those.

I’d instead opt for the back row. I’m not overly concerned about which back row you choose – it could be the seated cable row, the TRX row, the inverted bodyweight row, the T-Bar row, the single arm dumbbell row, or my personal favorite, the bent over barbell row.


Combating a weak lifestyle

The row is so vital for men to perform in this day and age because it serves to correct the biggest postural problem our society faces: the forward slouch. This is when your shoulders round forward and you look like the humpback of Notre Dame.

Today, everything we do is in front of us: we lean forward to type on computers, we drive our cars using  steering wheels that we grip in front of us, and then we goto the gym and we make matters worse. We bench press, we cycle, and we run – all anteriorly dominant movements that make this problem even worse. The end result is a severely overdeveloped chest and anterior shoulder muscles, coupled with a disturbingly loose and weak upper back. This is the cause of weak posture.


Combating a weak mindset

Instead of standing straight and tall, we slump forward and appear nervous. We appear shorter and less confident. And the problem extends far beyond appearances. Recent studies have even linked our physical stature to our mental attitude. When we stand up straight and take up large amounts of space, we assume a matching and measurably more confident mindset. When we cower and slouch forward, we similarly adopt a matching mindset – this time timid and weak. If men weren’t already getting soft enough as it is, this only intensifies the depressing downward trend.

If your posture isn’t perfect you must act now to fix this problem. Forget building muscle or cutting fat, when you strengthen your back, stretch your chest, and begin to assume a correct posture – you’ll look far more confident and strong. You’ll shoulders will appear broader, and your chest bigger. You’ll feel the same way, too. And it will take only a fraction of the time to see a big difference when compared to trying to alter your body composition.


While this article is aimed at men, women should take note too–correcting their posture will lead to visibly larger breasts and a more perky appearance, two things all men find attractive.

Check out my new book Shredded Beast, for more advice on building a strong, manly body. To see reviews and more info: click here.

Read More: The Only 2 Things A Man Can Depend On

86 thoughts on “The Single Most Effective Exercise Any Man Can Do”

    1. Read it again. He never said that, and best all around exercise wasn’t even the point of the article.

  1. This article is on point. I’m always at the gym doing rows and rear deltoid exercises. In fact where I work out I’m known as the guy whose always doing rear delt work outs. It’s one of the hardest muscles to grow. I do it mostly to correct my bad posture. This is straight truth.

  2. It’s almost as if I wrote this article! Structural inegrity is the most important thing in all forms of exercise for stability and strength. And even in game, it exudes body language messages of confidence and strength.

  3. I wonder if rowing is the best exercise as the article asserts, but the benefits to posture were profound for me after adding pendlay rows to my routine; I find myself standing up straighter without thinking about it.

    1. I’d have to say it would rowing, but on a machine. There are very few muscles it doesn’t hit, plus you get your cario at the same time…

    1. this is what i was thinking as well.
      deadlift is all lower back baby, and thats basically the area that gets fucked after chronic office desk job repetitive strain shit

      1. Very true. That’s why I need to focus on my deadlift. I have been doing Roman chair hyperextensions too, and I’ve found that I can focus on my lower back better, whereas with deadlifts I feel it more in my hamstrings.

    2. Do dead lift and pull ups. Vastly superior in terms of function and mass building to doing rows.

      1. I second this. Pull-ups were the game changer for me that really helped me put on some serious size and muscle.

        1. Yes. Pull ups hit the traps hard and force correct posture. Definitely agree with the deadlifts as well for overall back strength…including hip power. And when rows are included, that’s pretty much all you need.

  4. What happened to the tried and true squat?
    That is the most effective full body exercise– its an all in exercise.
    What say you???

    1. The deadlift is superior in all ways to a squat. Just think about it practically. When in your life will you ever have a weight on your back that is perfectly lined up with your center of gravity? Not often..
      However, when in your life will you have an object on the ground in front you you and your center of gravity? Quite often actually.
      They’re both good for strength training, and both have their uses though. The squat is not the most superior technique though.

      1. Squats are often referred to as the “king of exercises”, not because of how directly it translates to a specific task, but because it has carryover to virtually any task.
        As opposed to the deadlift, a deep, ass to grass, squat stretches and strengthens both the hip and knee knee extensors; across their entire range of motion. Versus the short range exercised by the dead lift.
        In addition, the free weight barbell back squat also exercises the entire stabilizing function of the core, from erectors all the way to the abdominals, and ell the way up the spine to the smaller muscles stabilizing the upper body.
        There is simply no other (simple) exercise that trains such a large number of major muscles and joints, over such a wide range of motion, with as much weight, as the back squat. If you are able to perform full Olympic style clean and jerk with meaningful amounts of weight, that is definitely even more of a total body exercise, but for most trainees, that is simply not in the cards. And besides, the squat (front more so than back, but back as well) have good carryover to the Olympic lifts as well.
        That’s not to say the dead lift isn’t a major exercise as well. With the big boon that it can be performed safely with just a barbelll and some plates, while squatting heavy safely requires at a minimum some stands and spotters; ideally a full rack. But for those who are members of a gym, there is simply no point trying to figure out which one of the two is most “important.” Just do both, as they are pretty darned complementary. Just like pullups and rows is for the upper back.

        1. The deadlift isn’t necessarily “safe”; especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. If your form isn’t right when doing deadlifts, you’re at serious risk for permanently fucking up your back.

        2. Deadlift form is really easy to learn though, and you never need a spotter or rack for it

  5. Here are the big 6- bench, squat, deadlift, standing military press, rows, pullups.
    You can get very jacked and strong with just those

    1. I would find a way to add power clean in there. The big three in most sports are bench, clean, and squat. Rows are considered extra, but very good and pull-ups are really just becoming mainstream bc of military workouts and cross fit junkies. I am a fiend for pull-ups, pushups, occasional burpees, and situps. I have been able to maintain my strength and form from my athletic days with just those few exercises you can do without leaving your living room.

  6. Ever since I started building serious mass in my upper body, I’ve had a serious problem. My daily ventures of churning out power rows and military press have left me with boulder like shoulders and lats that are just shy of being legally classified human wings. I’m proud and will not be ashamed of my body.
    However, it seems the societal shitlords have found ways to purposely keep people like us down. The other day, I was walking into to grocery store to purchase my weekly ration of meats and complex carbohydrates. As I walked through the door, I encountered a problem. The door was so narrow that my shoulder cannons were colliding with the frame, rendering me unable to enter the establishment like a normal person. As I pondered my options, I realized a cute petite blonde was waiting behind me, clearly irritated at me as she wouldn’t take her wide eyes off my carved up biceps.
    How am I supposed to fit through these doors designed to adhere to societal norms? Just because I have traps that would intimidate a cobra I’m not allowed the privilege of simply walking through a door? Then I’m shamed by some matriarch shitlord for it? Wow, just wow.
    Fuck everything

    1. If all that muscle mass was functional, as in as much go as show, you’d simply lean into the doorframe a little, and break it down. Giving you the room you need…….. 🙂

  7. Much as I love side boob, what does that pic have to do with the main point? Is it just in case the point of the article bombs?
    “Knibb High football rules!”

  8. Ive always hated the fitness industry emphasis on the front of the body-the back is the second largest muscle group besides the quads.

  9. If there was only 1 exercise, it would be the burpee or dead lift. For posture, the front squat trumps all.

    1. If you can do them with serious weight, overhead squats are even more posture supporting. And even better is Olympic style snatches. Good Oly lifters have postures, and a spring in their step, that is so exaggerated it doesn’t even look natural.

  10. I agree with Jefe. Additionally, I think Paul Carter would as well. He would go further in his book Base Building. He would agree with Jefe; the back row, dead lift, squat, and incline press are the basis of a large back.

  11. The valedictorian of my class was a very upright and just man named Joseph. I could not help but notice Joseph’s posture. He NEVER slouched. Not while sitting in class, not while watching tv, and not while sitting on the bus.

    1. To many who saw him for the first time, what they remember most vividly about the young Elvis Presley, was that he was the “only guy they had ever encountered, who could strut sitting down…”

    2. I learned this extremely important but subtle tip from physiotherapy: when you sit in a chair shove your butt as far back as possible and then sit upright. With some lower support you will naturally want to straighten out your back.

  12. I dunno, I get pretty good results just from situps, push-ups, squats, and chin-ups.
    Not really trying to get ‘super ripped’, but I am certainly defined enough. Have never really used ‘equipment’ other than a punching bag and a pull-up bar.

    1. Add inverted rows, also know as Australian pull ups, to balance the push ups. It’s the body weight version of what he is recommending.
      Haven’t any idea what you’re doing situps for. They’re pretty well pointless unless you have to pass a performance test based on them. Do a leg raise with your chin ups for abdominals, and add dips as a balance for the pulls.
      If you can do more that 20 pushups it’s also time to start working on the planche. Keep it progressive in intensity, not reps, to build muscle.

      1. well, actually, I am ex military, and got used to doing situps as part of my routine.
        At the very least they are fairly good calisthenics. That and walking about 4-6 miles a day.
        At my age (40+) I am more concerned about maintenance than building muscle mass… the submuscularl damage for mass is all too likely to lead to REAL damage without a younger man’s resilience.
        I am INTERESTED in a back exercise I have seen, but never tried, where you hold your legs straight on a raised object with your feet hooked under something, face down, and then lower your head to the floor (Bending at the waist) and then raise up to a straight position again to combat some back damage I took in the military and maybe build better back musculature to fight aging, but I am a little uncertain as to whether it would cause more damage.
        I still frequently move furniture, and can do about 200 pushups or so if I push it (with soreness), but I am leery of about all ‘new’ exercises, simply because of my age.

        1. One of the biggest lies fed to the public nowadays is that heavy exercise causes injuries.
          Bad form causes injuries. You’re a mature guy: read up on proper form and start with a low weight on new things, and build up to doing them properly.
          What you’re talking about is a back extension. It’s a great workout and I’d advise it to anyone who is doing any ab workout. Think of yourself as being held up by two cables when standing: your abs and your lower back, which form your core. You’re working your abs extensively, and thus increasing the passive tension on your front “cable”, but ignoring your back “cable”. You’re obviously going to have an imbalance, right?
          Work that lower back. I’d suggest straight-legged deadlifts to supplement your squatting, but the back extension is also a good workout.
          And as far as working out with new exercises and mass building, don’t worry about injuries as long as you don’t go crazy. A survey of the scientific literature regarding stress loading of bones and tissues shows that frequent loading of the bones causes increased osteoid (bone) density and similar results for connective tissue (ligaments/tendons). Please do your own search, but in short, working out into your older age is important for remaining healthy and will actually reduce injury, not increase it.

        2. Oh, I thoroughly intend to, and always have… frankly, when i am on the prowl (Not too much nowadays, have two slaves I am happy with long term) I have much better success than I did when I was in my 20’s… not only because I am a hundred times as confident and much more of an asshole (snicker) but because I think that at 40, a lot of guys look better than they did in their 20’s.
          Generally, what I have found, is that if you stay in shape, you can peg even the youngest and hottest well into your fifties… It’s only 60’s and beyond that you need to start with money as an aphrodisiac, and even then it’s not even the reality but the sniff of power that drags in the big game.
          But I was mostly worried about making sure that I don’t turn my back into an inclined plane like my pop did.

  13. Since I started using a standing desk at work, my posture has greatly improved. I focus on standing straight all day with my shoulders back. I suggest everyone with an office job consider getting a standing desk.

    1. And consider good inserts or shoes to prevent fallen arches. Happened to me when I was a banker for 2 years. We were not allowed to sit, ever. I thought I was fine until I started getting serious arch pain. Inserts made it go away.

  14. and i’m reading this article on the sofa hunched over a laptop … hahahahaha….

  15. If you’ve got a desk job, try swapping out your chair for an exercise ball.
    Also buy a posture brace. It will feel awkward at first but using it will change your habits(posture usually is one) over time.

  16. Side boob exposure really is the way women should go when trying to attract a man. That way, they cover about 180 degrees, increasing their chances of being seen. Even small boobs shown from the side can be pretty hot. Of course, if she has a fat stomach and a fat ass, that doesn’t work. In which case, she should abstain from eating and exercise until she has a desirable body.
    Imagine a world in which all fat women are shamed into getting thin. So shamed that they do not go outside into public until they are presentably thin. What a glorious world that would be.

  17. disagree. the most single best exercise a man can do is look at the past. was john wayne a steroid fuck? no. it’s to dress well, hold your liquor, and learn to play poker. all men die and will die sooner than women because we are dangerous men. be a man. wake up everyday and be a man.

    1. Part of being a man is taking care of your body. Have some pride in your self image and your health.

    2. Steroid fuck? Dude, you’re not even a dick…just an asshole. Fitness is the most important thing- of body and mind. Don’t be a scrawny fuck who needs money to get girls. Be a fully developed man whose masculinity is exuded in everything he says and does. Moving your refrigerator shouldn’t be all that difficult. Also, you shouldn’t have to worry about getting mugged like a woman would. Additionally, many great physiques were crafted naturally. has examples. Also, Reg Park naturally benched 500 and deadlifted 700 while having abs. It would behoove you to get strong like those before you, especially since women are getting choosier.

      1. don’t need to be like you. naturally I’m 6’2″ and 210 and naturally strong. I do push ups, pull ups, sit ups and split squats. that’s all. don’t need to bench 4 billion pounds can hold my own. so can it junior

  18. This is a great tip. Let me warn you guy, especially you younger ones. Not only will bad posture give you a bad back, it’ll mess with your gut too, and it will stick out more in addition to being plagued with issues around or comparable to acid reflux or GERD. Trust me on this. I was on my way to being a hunchback with really bad stomach issues until I learned that my posture was the cause.

  19. It should also be noted that no man should make the prime motivation of his fitness to be the admiration of women. You should always exercise in the preparation of something, or just to stay strong for potential combat. Traditionally, fitness is a byproduct of male readiness for combat or plowing the land. I run into these guys all the time who pathetically workout for the sole purpose of pussy. Honestly no bitch is worth the effort that I put into Crossfit or mixed martial arts, however it does keep me combat ready with a nice side effect of getting women on the side. Dethrone women completely, stay fit for yourself.

    1. Agreed.
      But traditionally fitness was necessary primarily for the hunt for food. More so than the combat, and certainly long before the plow.
      I do big game hunting myself, and i can tell you that walking several ours in mountain terrain with a 100 lbs backpack is one hell of a testosterone boost.

    2. wait, could you repeat that bit about not using pussy as your primary motivator for getting ripped?
      I had trouble hearing you through all the gay.

      1. Frankly, getting motivated is by far the hardest part of exercise. Getting in shape is a fantastic goal for any man, even white knights and pussy beggars.
        If it take dreams of thigh gaps and perky tits to make you get up off you duff, more power to you. Who gives a fuck about the ‘wrong reasons’? That’s just defeatist talk and an excuses to stroke your own ego by putting down guys that are, at least, TRYING.
        A guy who’s been pounding iron for a year dreaming of the pussy he’s going to get when he’s strak is still better than the guy who cannot get started because he’s concentrating on the ‘noble goal’ of combat preparation or ‘staying fit for yourself’.
        It’s results that matter.

        1. “A guy who’s been pounding iron for a year dreaming of the pussy”
          If one does the workout correctly and eat right, two months is all that is needed to get buff.

  20. Do gymnastics.
    Most serious gymnasts are so fixated on just getting their technique perfected that they barely even notice the incredible musculature and symmetry they are building in their process.
    It’s just a mere afterthought for them. In the mean time they have this incredibly functional strength that can be applied to all manner of situations and it will never let them down.
    Heavy things have existed since the beginning of time, yet ask yourself, what have the world’s toughest soldiers, from the Spartans to the Navy SEALs, been doing?
    Calisthenics and gymnastics of course!

  21. Bench, Squats, and Deadlifts for me, but with a problematic back ache that comes and goes, I’m always afraid of going heavy with squats and deadlifts… sucks!

  22. Nothing wrong with the row, but for an unconditioned individual (the apparent intended audience of this piece), you have to address the lack of conditioning, not one particular helper lift. Going waaay back to the 70’s, Bill Starr’s programming in “The strongest shall survive” used only the squat, press, and powerclean (it was targeted at football, of course). Today you have Rippetoe preaching the full-body workout gospel, with an even simpler approach to programming for the unconditioned.
    Put a bar on you back and follow an incremental approach. That’ll fix your posture, and a lot of other things in the bargain long before you get ‘stuck’ enough to make rows, or leg presses, or any other isolation exercise necessary, or even worth the time away from your core lifts.

  23. Looking at Sherman McCoy, hunched over like that and dressed the way he was, in his checked shirt, khaki pants, and leather boating moccasins, you would have never guessed what an imposing figure he usually cut. Still young … thirty-eight years old … tall … almost six-one … terrific posture … terrific to the point of imperious …-Bonfire of the Vanities

  24. I don’t believe in “isolation”- isolating muscles. As much as possible I am standing up for most free weight exercises: curls, overhead press, squats. I rarely sit down because I want EVERY “twitchy” muscle down to my Achilles heel to be utilized. Since I started adhering to this philosophy (10 years) I have never had to gym room injury while all my friends complain about injured backs and shoulders.

  25. I agree with the author’s premise, but the better exercise for this purpose is front squats. Arguably the most demanding movement. You need your entire back to participate in the entire lift or you’ll dump the weight, with the added bonus of lower body development. Nobody does these at the gym for a simple reason – they suck. They humble you. You need to take the weight waaaaaay down to perform them correctly. Give these a shot and watch your entire body grow. Otherwise, a snatch grip dead lift will serve you well too.

  26. Rows are great but pull ups should be included. They actually do more work to strengthen the traps and neck area to promote better posture in the upper back…while rows hit the lats hard. So doing both exercises regularly is probably best.

  27. Farmer walks, by far, THE most effective overall body workout, hands, forearms, traps, glutes, hammies. Pick up 120 pds and walk a hundred yards one learns a great deal about yourself

  28. Barbell rows do target the muscles of the mid/upper back, but they are still primarily a lat exercise. A far more effective exercise for combating these postural issues is the face pull, which is a row performed using a rope attachment to your upper chest/face which targets the actual muscles that need activation/strengthening.

  29. Working to improve posture is deff a good idea. Here are some of my favorite lifts to improve posture:
    Bent over reverse fly

    Reverse pec deck

    Bent over rows
    (shown above) – I change grips on this to target different muscles – try overhand wide grip and underhand close grip
    Lat pull downs

    try this with an overhand wide grip and an underhand close grip to target different muscles

  30. The problem with the bent-over barbell row, is that the lower back tends to fatigues when you get into the higher rep ranges or heavier weights. The strict bent-over barbell row done with impeccable form is rare these days.
    Good posture actually stems from the spine, and not the musculature system. People who slouch up top (kyphosis) also will have hips that shoot forward (excessive anterior pelvic tilt). The spine is like the shape of an “S”, so the bigger the curve is up top, the bigger the curve will be at the bottom to maintain balance, symmetry and even loading on the spine.
    This article is wrong, correcting structural imbalances like slouched forward shoulders, also stem from exercising the glutes, hamstring and lower-back muscles.

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