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The Biggest Personal Training Secret is…

By Marc Perry / May 16, 2018

If you ask a smart personal trainer about what type of exercise program burns fat the fastest, it’s almost a guarantee the trainer will say “full body strength training workouts 2-3x per week combined with cardio”. That’s kind of a secret unto itself. But there’s a bigger secret that every good personal trainer holds close to the chest and forms the foundation of hundreds of exercise programs that can be created from it.

While I feel like the masked magician who gives away all those great magic tricks, I believe sharing this secret will be very beneficial for you. I’m willing to take the risk that some trainers will be very angry with me!

So here it is:

Every workout you do should incorporate 5 basic movements:

1) Squat
2) Lunge
3) Push
4) Pull
5) Twist

Sounds simple enough, right? The beauty of this framework lies in its simplicity, because an almost infinite number of exercise combinations can be created from it. Technically, there are 2 more movement patterns (bend & gait), but for simplicity, these five should be your focus.

Here’s a quick example:

Circuit Workout using 5 movement patterns
Complete each exercise back to back with little to no rest
1) Dumbbell Squat
2) Forward Lunge
3) DB Bench Press
4) Seated Row
5) Bicycles

You don’t have to follow the exact order I outlined either, but can get creative mixing and matching the 5 movement patterns. You also don’t need to incorporate every movement pattern in each workout, but instead spread them over a few workouts if you are more advanced and want to focus more intensely on a particular muscle group, but I think most people should try to incorporate all these movements into one workout.

The other beautiful thing about this framework is that you are going to build a very balanced body and engage all your muscle groups to help spike your metabolism. I particularly like circuit style workouts using this framework for women because it’s more graceful, so you won’t feel like a burly man with hair on his back while you are doing it. This workout framework works just as well for men and can be easily done at home with minimal equipment.

While basic, this conceptual framework is powerful and it’s almost like a trade secret in the personal training world!


  • RJ says:

    i've been looking for a new workout! circuit training it is. miss that workout soreness!

  • Hank says:

    Your insights into nutrition was eye opening and helpful. I can't wait to get started. Your 10 Cut report should be published in Mens Health, it is exceptional!

  • Dave says:

    So... what you're saying is that it's NOT nicotine and 'roids??

  • Mary says:

    I am looking forward to telling my friends to check out your 10 Cut for Women Report. It is excellent. Thanks!

  • Pat says:

    Thanks, Marc! I found the training tips page in the report especially helpful! Nice job!

  • Brian says:

    Great article! I am definitely going to subscribe to this blog!!!

  • rj says:

    marc i am desperately trying to figure out what a REVERSE lunge looks like. help?

    • Marc Perry says:

      Hey RJ, I will definitely get a pic up soon. A reverse lunge means that you start out standing tall, instead of lunging forward you lunge backwards so that your leg (let's say your right leg is lunging) goes as far back as possible, so you get a nice stretch. Then you come back up. It's smoother and easier (in terms of lifting weight) than a forward lunge, but tougher to balance.

  • Michael Knowles says:

    I saw your ad for an assistant, and have been navigating thru your site, really impressive Marc. Your balance of skill, technique, science and compassion are remarkable. I will definite be tuning in for more, and who know , NYC here our paths may cross.

    • Marc Perry says:

      @Michael - Thanks for the kind words. I appreciate it. Feel free to participate and share your insights.

  • Donald says:

    Marc could you explain. why do you need a squat and a lunge exercise, surly they are basically the same movement with little difference between them?

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @Donald - Interesting question, Donald. They are in fact different movements, because a squat is a stable exercise with two feet working in snyc, whereas a lunge requires "dynamic stability" on one leg. In sum, one is unilateral and the other bilateral exercises and both require different types of stability. Finally, there is a different type of glute/hip activation with squats vs. lunges. Strength coaches consider a lunge to be a "knee dominant" exercise and a squat to be a "hip dominant" exercise.

  • Marc Jongma says:

    Hey Marc, My knees aren't very strong, which means that I often get injuries from heavy leg workouts. Doing squats or lunges more than once a week is killing for my knees. Is there a way to compensate for not being able to train my legs as often as I would like?

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @Marc - I would do the following if I were you:

      1) get an assessment from a knowledgeable personal trainer, or physical therapist which includes a posture screen and movement screen. Many knee issues are caused by tight/dysfunctional muscles surrounding the knee, and even possibly in the hip/foot.

      2) I wouldn't lift heavy with my legs. It's really not necessary to get lean and fit. Decrease the weight, do more reps, you'll get a crazy muscle burn without sacrificing your joints.

      3) if the pain continues, I would talk to a doctor and possibly get an MRI to get to the bottom of the issue. I know from experience unfortunately that it's better to get to the root of the problem fast than to dance around it and pretend it doesn't exist.

      Good luck!