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Every once in a while I get this question "What is the single best exercise I can do?  It's not a simple

question so I always answer it in two parts.

Squat Thrust Pull-Up

The first part of the answer is that the single best exercise should incorporate the most work on the most muscles (including the heart) in the shortest amount of time, and should be easy to do with minimal equipment. If you consider those parameters, then there is no better exercise than the Squat Thrust Pull-Up (or the Burpee Pull-Up).

Let's look at why this is so effective.

  • You have a combination of squats to work your hip muscles like the glutes, knee muscles like the quads, hamstrings, and leg muscles like the calves.
  • This is followed by a jump into the plank position for working your core dynamically.  
  • Then you have the pushup that works your pushing muscles like your chest, deltoids, and triceps
  • Then there are the pull-ups that work your pulling muscles like the biceps, shoulder blade muscles, and back muscles as well as your grip strength.
  • And to make it even more effective, the act of jumping and landing incorporates a pylometric exercises that is effective for the bones, joints, and ligaments as well improving your balance.
  • And the pace at which you do it makes it a very vigorous cardio exercise for your heart which is the most important muscle.

Keep in mind, you can do any one of these steps or all of the steps depending on your level of experience or limitations.

The Best Exercise for YOU

Now the second part of my answer is much more important. Even though the squat thrust exercise is a great exercise, I would say that truly the single best exercise is the exercise that YOU can and will DO.

Hear me out. That means anything that you enjoy and are willing to do is much better than any other exercise that is out there that you won't do. So the key is to find something you can do, want to do, and will do.  Perhaps you could consider breaking down the squat thrust pull-up into its component parts.  You could do just the push-up, or even do the push up against a wall. Instead of squatting all the way down, you may just do a mini squat on a chair. You can do a plank on a chair or table for your core muscles. You can even use an exercise band to do modified pull downs instead of pull ups.

Get Started

In fact, you may just start by going for a walk! Seriously, anything that gets you moving is always going to be the single best exercise for you.  Don't worry about what you wear, what kind of shoes you need, or where you can do the exercise.  The key is to just get up and start moving. So what are you waiting for? Go get started!


If for whatever reason you have an injury or limitation that prevents you from getting started with exercise, you can contact Emery Physical Therapy at (847) 786-2014. Let us help you get to living a better life.