Off the heels of developing my Full Fourteen workout, I gradually condensed this to 12 exercises, one set a-piece. Each major muscle group works as a primary mover in at least one exercise.
When you track strength training workouts in Garmin Connect, it shows a heat-map of muscle groups worked. Any muscle not worked is gray. Any muscle working as a primary mover is red, and any muscle working as a secondary mover is yellow.
When I do this workout, every muscle group turns red. When I first posted the Garmin heat-maps of these workouts on social media, I’d claim in jest that I had put on a Red Swolework Suit. Eventually, I just called this workout the Red Swolework Suit.
The Red Swolework Suit is 12 exercises, each 1 set of 8 reps, at a suitably challenging weight when applicable. If trying any of these exercises for the first time, I’d recommend wasting a workout sampling unknown exercises at different weights until you find a weight heavy enough to be challenging but do-able for 8-12 reps. You don’t want to finish the 8th rep with shaking arms and not able to do another rep. If you need numbers, I’d say aim for 60% of your 1-rep max to start. You can always increase the weight next time if an exercise turns out way too easy.
Also, when using weight, I use dumbbells or machines. You can use a barbell if that’s what you have or prefer. Also, there’s a million diagrams of most of these exercises, so if you’re not sure what I’m talking about below then just web search the listed exercise for diagrams and instructions.
The Exercises, in rough order:
- Overhead Squat with weight
- Farmer’s Walk
- Bench Press with weight (flat, incline, decline, up to you)
- Russian Twist with weight
- Reverse Grip Lat Pulldown (e.g. like a chin up; you could also just do Chin-Ups instead if you’re able and prefer them)
- Seated Cable Row (or Chest Supported Bench Row)
- Triceps Extension (either with weight, or a cable machine)
- Adductor Extensions (on machine, or standing with support, or Sumo Squats with weight)
- Abductor Extensions (on machine, or standing with support, or Lying Clam Shell)
- Levator Scapulae Neck Stretch
While ideally I’d prefer to do these exercises in this order (bigger/heavier compound exercises first, lighter/isolated work later), I also work out in public gyms, and equipment availability often affects the order in which I do them.
An example: For a while I worked out in a busy gym where benches and back machines were so hard to come by that I always started with the bench press and the pulldowns/rows, to make sure I got them in before that equipment got taken. The burpees and deadlifts/farmer work came later as open floor space was easier to come by. Some may criticize doing these exercises “out of order” from how we’re taught to do them, but as mentioned above I only do one set each, at far from a max weight. This in part helps mitigate any injury risks from doing them “out of order”.
Astute strength trainers will also notice some redundancy, e.g. burpees and bench presses both working chest as the primary mover, pulldowns and row both working back, deadlifts and farmer’s walk both working hip flexor complex and thighs/glutes. While you or I could eliminate one of those exercises in each pair, I’m mindful outside of the Garmin heat-map that they work the respective muscle group in different ways.
For example, the row works the rhomboids and other muscles in the back in a way the pulldown does not, while the pulldown works the lats and traps in a way the row does not. Also, the Farmer’s Walk is actually there because the wrists are a primary mover, stabilizing the heavy weight as you walk with it. You could avoid the bench press as the burpee (among many other muscles) works the chest during the plank, but not only does the bench press work the pecs with heavy weight, but doing an incline or decline press will work those muscles differently.
Also, I include the burpee and overhead squat specifically because they not only utilize muscle groups throughout the entire body, but because they require balanced whole body strength and plyometric coordination, important components of fitness that most strength training approaches neglect, ignore, or inefficiently address.
The overhead squat in particular, an exercise I found through Dan John’s writing, is basically impossible to cheat. It will expose any weak links throughout your entire body. While John does the squat with the barbell, I do them using dumbbells in a neutral/hammer grip. In fact, starting out you may want to do the overhead squat with no weight, or with trivially light weight, to get used to the range of motion. Athletes are often surprised at how initially hard the overhead squat is, and no matter how much weight guys can squat John himself never recommends overhead squatting more than the amount of your bodyweight. Basically, my core and lower body strength has dramatically improved ever since I started regularly doing the overhead squat, so I recommend adopting it.
(Also, personally, I do my own developed floor exercises for adductors and abductors, but they’re a bit complex to explain and I’m not currently in a place to demonstrate with pictures. That will have to come another time. The exercises I recommended above work fine.)
So, this is the Red Swolework Suit. Done once or twice a week, you can guarantee that every major muscle group will be stressed/trained as a primary mover, which will help best maintain your whole body fitness.