Get a Complete Strength Workout in Two Moves

These supersets build strength while giving you a cardio workout. Credit: Mihail Omilovanovic / Getty Images

Looking to simplify your routine at the gym? Try these workouts that require just two moves. Besides streamlining your strength session, these moves complement each other to help prevent injury, imbalanced workouts, and unwanted joint stress. The inverted row in our second superset, for example, sets up your shoulder for a safer, stronger bench press. And because these exercises work different muscle groups, you can perform them back-to-back to keep your heart rate in the cardio zone. For each superset, perform four to five rounds of 10 reps. Rest one to three minutes, only after both moves have been performed.

Superset 1: Strict Press and Chin-Up
As a general rule, pair movements that decompress the spine with one that causes compression. Regardless of the order, it will give the spine relief over the duration of the workout when compared with two spinal loading crushers back to back (like deadlift and strict press). The hanging element of a chin-up does wonders to help restore intervertebral space and allow for blood flow between discs, to counter the pressure on the column created by a strict (AKA overhead) press.

Superset 2: Inverted Row and Bench Press
Pairing pushes and pulls on the horizontal plane is more than balancing muscle groups. Performing pull exercises first (in this case, the row) before the push exercise can act to stabilize the shoulder by engaging the muscles that make up the rotator cuff. The truth is, all four of the rotator cuff muscles originate on the scapulae (shoulder blades), and sending blood to that area will engage them, tighten them up, and create a safer environment for the shoulder girdle to bear loads afterward. You’ll likely notice a much more comfortable and shoulder-friendly experience bench pressing when you’ve started off with some rows first. By extension, your performance and weight lifted may make a small leap.

Superset 3: Leg Press and Half Kneeling Press
Unlike a squat, the leg press never brings the hips to full extension. At the top of the leg press position, the body is still folded to a 90-degree angle at the hip, which encourages hip tightness and increased (unwanted) involvement of the quads and hip flexors. Following up leg presses with a half kneeling press variation helps open up the hip flexors by placing one of them in a stretched position at a time. Releasing the hips in turn takes stress off the lower back since that’s where one of the hip flexors attaches. The half-kneeling landmine press (see below) is a great choice for a shoulder-friendly variation that effectively engages the core and opens the hips at the same time. 

Superset 4: Deadlifts and Parallel Bar Dips
Many struggle to find an ideal pairing for a big compound movement like a deadlift — and there's nothing wrong with doing deadlifts on their own — but dips are a smart exercise to couple with it. Again, compressive exercise like the deadlift pairs best with a decompression hanging exercise like dips. Plus, the involved muscles are almost mutually exclusive. The triceps, front deltoids, and chest are the main targets of the dip, while the muscles of the posterior chain get to rest. More importantly, deadlifts tax your grip strength as the workout progresses, and good performance relies on the grip being top notch. Dips create force in the opposing direction, which offers a much needed rest.