You’ve probably heard of a million fad diets claiming to help you eat better and lose weight. Interestingly enough, as with all fad diets, exercise trends are a dime a dozen. Also, like fad diets, these trends come and go. Now, don’t get me wrong here. Some exercise is always better than no exercise. So, if engaging in the latest Zumba or Cross Fit craze is working for you, and you’re able to stick with it, by all means, carry on.
But regardless of the method you choose, there are certain fundamental exercises that should always be incorporated into your routine. These include multi-joint, multi-muscle exercises that largely mimic your everyday movements. So as not to overly complicate things, I’ve compiled a list of nine relatively low-impact exercises that over the years I’ve found to be the most efficient and effective for maximizing calorie burning and enhancing muscle development.
Although generally classified as a “lower body” exercise, squats are actually one of the most effective exercises for your entire body. In addition to thoroughly working the muscles of your buttocks, thighs and legs, the sheer act of squatting also places a good stress on your abdominals (‘abs’) and other core muscles, which collectively aid in the maintenance of healthy posture, balance, and stability. Contrary to popular belief, squats are not bad for your knees. In fact, the more you squat, the stronger and healthier your knees become. Good form is key!
While no equipment is needed to perform squats, you can greatly increase the effectiveness of this exercise by using a barbell or a set of dumbbells.
When it comes to the best all-around exercises, push-ups and squats are neck and neck! Push-ups thoroughly build up the chest muscles and also work the shoulder muscles and triceps, which are located on the back of your arms. But, it doesn’t stop there! Every push-up you perform taxes your entire midsection making this exercise one of the best kept secrets to great abs. And, believe me when I say that performing 10-20 of them is much more effective and efficient than simply lying on the floor for crunch bootcamp.
I must, however, emphasize that performing standard push-ups can be quite difficult if you have limited upper body strength. So, if this is the case, I recommend starting with modified push-ups and interspersing them with as many standard push-ups as you can, even if it’s only 1 or 2 at a time. This way, you’ll eventually build up the strength necessary to continuously perform standard push-ups.
3. Stiff-Legged Deadlifts
With so many people sitting in chairs and in front of computers these days the back has become one of the most vulnerable areas to chronic pain and muscle injury. This holds especially true for the lower back. One way to potentially counter this problem is by regularly performing stiff-legged deadlifts. While this exercise places primary emphasis on the hamstring muscles that make up the back of your thighs, it’s also excellent for developing your lower back muscles as well as the gluteal muscles that make up your buttocks.
You’ll need a set of dumbbells or a barbell to effectively perform stiff-legged deadlifts. The decision to use either comes down to your access to equipment, personal preferences, and level of strength.