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10 Essential Exercises for Men To Achieve Peak Fitness

Get in the best shape of your life with these trainer-approved moves.
FACT CHECKED BY Alexa Mellardo

If you want to achieve peak physical fitness, incorporating the right exercises into your routine is non-negotiable. In fact, there are many exercises you can scrap altogether as long as you focus on mastering these fundamental exercises. To help you get in the best shape of your life, we spoke with certified personal trainers and fitness experts who share the most essential exercises for men to boost their physical fitness.

Regular physical activity offers many benefits for men beyond just building muscle or shedding pounds. Exercise can enhance your mood, boost your energy levels, improve your sleep, support healthy weight management, and reduce your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Incorporating the following essential exercises can also promote healthy aging in men by increasing muscular strength and endurance while increasing overall flexibility and mobility.

Now that we've established the importance of regular physical activity, let's dive into the 10 essential exercises for men to boost their physical fitness, according to certified personal trainers. Then, when you're finished, be sure to check out the 10 Best Floor Exercises To Boost Mobility as You Age.

Running or Sprinting

sprinting exercise

First up on this list of exercises for men to boost their physical fitness is all about cardio. Running and sprinting are excellent cardiovascular exercises that can help strengthen your heart and lung function while increasing your speed and agility. Start with a warm-up jog, then increase your speed to a sprint for short intervals, followed by recovery periods of jogging or walking. Aim for five to 10 sprints for 30 to 60 seconds each.

Mike Masi, CPT, a certified personal trainer at Garage Gym Reviews, tells ETNT, "Running and sprinting are classic exercises for improving cardiovascular health, endurance, and lower extremity power. Sprinting is an excellent high-intensity activity for developing power and speed, engaging fast-twitch muscle fibers, and challenging more anaerobic energy systems. Conversely, longer-distance running improves aerobic capacity, stamina, and muscular endurance. Incorporating both modalities into a fitness regimen can enable you to train a wide range of cardiovascular and muscular demands."

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man doing squats

Squats are a foundational exercise for building lower-body strength and muscle mass. They target the quads, hamstrings, and glutes to help you achieve better balance and mobility.

"Squats can be used to develop power, strength, endurance, and muscle," says TJ Mentus, CPT, a certified personal trainer at Garage Gym Reviews. "Mastering the full-depth squat will also help keep the joints of the hip, knees, and ankles healthy and mobile. Another benefit of squatting is that there are many squat variations available, either to scale to your ability level or target specific muscles in different ways."

To perform squats, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, lower your body by bending your knees and pushing your hips back, then return to the starting position. Keep your chest up and back straight throughout the movement. Do three to four sets of eight to 12 reps.

Barbell Thrusters

barbell thruster

Barbell thrusters combine a front squat with an overhead press, providing a full-body workout that targets multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

"Barbell thrusters target the lower body, core, and shoulders, offering a powerful stimulus for strength and power development," says Masi. "Additionally, due to their dynamic nature, thrusters can significantly elevate heart rate, improving cardiovascular fitness and endurance when performed in high-repetition sets. This exercise is beneficial for enhancing functional movement patterns and metabolic conditioning."

Hold a barbell at shoulder height, squat down, then explosively stand up and press the barbell overhead. Lower the barbell back to shoulder height, and repeat. Perform three to four sets of eight to 12 reps.

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Ring Dips

ring dip

Ring dips are a stellar bodyweight exercise that targets the triceps, chest, shoulders, and core to help build some serious upper-body strength.

"Compared to a dip on a bench or dip bars, ring dips create more of a challenge due to the instability of the rings, but this will help create a stronger shoulder joint in the long run," Mentus explains. "However, before trying the ring dip, you should be able to do at least 15 to 20 push-ups and 10 dips on parallel dip bars."

Hold onto gymnastic rings with extended arms, lower your body by bending your elbows, and press back up to the starting position. Keep your body upright, and avoid swinging. Aim for three to four sets of six to 10 reps or as many reps as possible.


illustration of barbell deadlift

Deadlifts are a popular compound movement for a reason—they're one of the most effective exercises for building overall strength, particularly in your posterior chain (backside) muscles like the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.

"Deadlifts are crucial for improving overall body strength, power, and stability," says Masi. "They also have a significant carryover to everyday movements, such as lifting heavy objects off the ground, making them essential for functional fitness and injury prevention. Their capacity to recruit many muscle fibers makes them an excellent selection for muscle growth."

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, bend at your hips and knees to lower your hands to the bar, grip the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart, then stand up while keeping your back straight. Lower the bar back to the ground and repeat. Complete three to four sets of six to 10 reps.

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Walking Lunges

reverse lunges exercise

"Single-leg exercises like walking lunges are essential for developing the lower body and preventing muscle imbalances from one side to the other," states Mentus. "Walking lunges will develop the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Holding a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells in each hand will also work your grip strength, upper back, and core."

Step forward with one leg, lowering your hips until both knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle. Push off your front foot to bring your back leg forward into the next lunge. Repeat while walking forward. Perform three to four sets of eight to 10 lunges per leg.


illustration of pull-ups exercise

Pull-ups are a killer exercise for building upper-body strength since they target the back, shoulders, and arms.

"Pull-ups are a test of relative strength, as you must lift your body weight. However, you could easily scale this exercise up or down by adding assistance from the lower body or holding a weight between your legs," explains Masi. "Regularly performing pull-ups can improve grip strength, upper-body muscular endurance, and a well-defined back."

Hang onto a pull-up bar with your hands shoulder-width apart and palms facing away from you. Pull your body up until your chin is over the bar. Lower yourself back down with control. Complete three to four sets of six to 10 reps or as many reps as possible.

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Farmer's Carry

farmers walk

Farmer's carries are an underrated exercise for building grip strength, core stability, and muscular endurance.

Mentus says, "Walking while carrying weights is one of the most functional exercises you can do that transfers to daily life. Teaching your body to engage the core and brace to support the weight and protect the lower back will help lower the risk of injury for daily carrying activities."

Hold heavy dumbbells or kettlebells in each hand, stand tall, engage your core, and walk forward for a set distance or time. Keep your shoulders back, and avoid leaning to the sides. Do three to four rounds of 30 to 60-second carries.

Fan Bike Cycling

illustration of air bike

Fan bike cycling is a high-intensity cardiovascular exercise that can help improve endurance, torch calories, and boost metabolism.

"Cycling using an air resistance bike is exceptional for high-intensity interval training," says Masi. "It can also provide a low-impact exercise that's easy on the joints while offering a rigorous cardiovascular workout. Most fan bikes allow for lower and upper-body engagement, promoting balanced muscle development and improving aerobic and anaerobic fitness."

Sled Push

sled push illustration exercise

Sled pushes are a powerful full-body exercise that targets the legs, core, and upper body to help increase strength, power, and conditioning.

"What makes sled pushes safer than most other posterior chain exercises is that the weight isn't loaded directly on your spine or body, like a squat or deadlift. Performing a short sled sprint at max speed is a great tool for developing sprinting speed for running. Pushing heavier weight for longer distances or time will develop the strength or endurance in the lower body," says Mentus.

Place your hands on a sled and push it forward using your legs and upper body. Keep your back straight and engage your core. Push the sled for a set distance or time. Aim for three to four sets of 30 to 50-meter sled pushes.

Adam Meyer
Adam is a health writer, certified holistic nutritionist, and 100% plant-based athlete. Read more about Adam
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