There are many different exercises you can do for weight loss, but none of them are quick fixes. Actually implementing a lifestyle change is what it takes to lose weight and keep it off, fitness expert Hannah Bronfman says. Fitness trends vary and seem to get fancier every year, but you can always count on the basics. "They are called 'basics' for a reason - they always work," Shane McLean, certified personal trainer at Balance Guy Training, says. Check out these all-time best exercises if you're looking to get in shape and feel healthier.
"Not only does it involve all major parts of the leg but it activates my nervous system, which is super important," track legend Julian Reynolds says. "As we get older, the nervous system slows down and we aren't as reactive, but it doesn't have to be that way with proper, consistent training." Plus, there is something exhilarating about being able to jump on top of a box 48" high, she adds.
Their reputation supersedes them for a reason, Reynolds says. "They are highly effective: cardio, total body." It is also an exercise you can play with. Throw in a double push-up or a do a knee to chest on the jump, she adds. "One time (yes, only one time), I went to the track and did one complete lap of burpees. Instead of jumping UP, I jumped FORWARD; therefore moving me around the track."
The plank is almost every professional's favorite. It certainly is one of the "most basic and fundamental exercises that if done right can really make a difference," Brian Mazza, a rising force in the fitness industry, says. "Planks work not only your core and your abs but your back and glutes as well and no matter how fit you are these are still challenging." There are so many plank variations that you have plenty of options for switching it up and making it more challenging without adding on weights, he adds.
Pilates mat techniques are fantastic, fitness expert Hannah Bronfman says. "Lots of abs, legs and butt you can do while on a mat." Also, exercising while on your period can be really beneficial to help alleviate cramps, she adds.
Knee to Elbow Kicks
One of the most effective abs exercises that Reynolds recommends is also the plank, with a simple addition. "If I had to choose it would be Plank alternating Knee To Elbow because it targets the obliques while simultaneously working other parts of the abdominal," she says.
This is an exercise that can easily be done anywhere, doesn't require weights and if very effective, Bronfman says. The most obvious benefit of squats is building your leg muscles - quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. These drills also create an anabolic environment, which promotes body-wide muscle building, improving muscle mass. The squats also activate you glute and back muscles. There are many ways you can make the basic squat more challenging.
Barbell Upright Row
Reynolds recommends the Barbell Upright Row for the shoulders because "it gives the definition I'm looking for and I am forced to keep my core engaged." To ensure proper form with this exercise, it's important to keep your spine flat and your core tight as you row.
Crunches can help flatten your stomach if done right. Many people tend to do this on a flat surface which doesn't provide lumbar support, Reynolds says. "To be effective, you should use something like a Swiss ball that will give you the lumbar curve you should keep when doing crunches." Your muscles are working harder than normal because you have to balance yourself on an unstable surface to sculpt your core and tone your muscles.
Going back to basics is always a good choice. "Even when you really don't feel like it, I suggest doing some light cardio - you'll definitely feel a difference after the workout," Bronfman says. Good examples of light cardio include walking, using the elliptical machine, and light jogging.
This is one of Bronfman's favorite workouts for total body fat burning. When all muscles are targeted at the same time, more fat is burned. But remember, the runs need to be shorter. "Long distance running is not the best for weight loss," Shane McLean, certified personal trainer at Balance Guy Training, says. "I see many people who run for 30 minutes but are disappointed with the result." The body adapts to the slower running pace and burns fewer calories for the same amount of work.
"Shorter workouts do not always mean that your body isn't working and HIIT conditions your body to recover quicker from higher intensity work," Mazza says. Try doing short sprints outside or on a treadmill. Just 10 minutes spent running at a pace of about 8 mph (7:30/minute mile) will burn about 120 calories. If you're not at that level, try running intervals instead- alternating between about 30 seconds at 8 mph and 1 or 2 minutes at a jogging pace.
Lifting weight and eating right are among the very best things you can do for your body if your goal is to lose weight, McLean says. Incorporating lifting into your workout routine will help you build muscle. The more muscle your body has, the more calories you burn every day. Bonus: Did you know that lifting weight also helps prevent diabetes?
Body Weight Circuits
Reynolds loves to do body weight circuits with 3-4 exercises done back to back for 3-4 rounds, for total-body fat burning. A circuit workout consists of a series of exercises performed one right after the other with little or no rest in between. One of the best benefits of circuit workouts is that they can effectively increase both cardiovascular and muscular endurance as well as muscular strength all in one exercise session.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Most trainers highly recommend HIIT. It is the essence of quick and effective cardio, which is perfect for those interested in maximizing their time in the gym. The high-intensity routines are centered on bouts of all-out exercise followed by short rests or active recovery periods, so many HIIT workouts take no more than 30 minutes. HIIT has proven to burn more calories because of the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide by the body. It takes longer to recover, which means you're still burning calories even though you're not exercising.
You may not think of dancing as a workout because it's usually fun, but it is a very effective one, Bronfman says. Certain styles - such as Zumba, pole dancing, ballet barre and hip hop - torch calories. You can have a blast while strengthening your bones and muscles, and improving your posture and balance.
This is a highly effective workout, but it's not for everyone. Reynolds recommends it only to break up the monotony that working out can inevitably create. "A change of pace and scenery keeps me from getting bored and encourages me to keep moving in different ways." When force is produced while the muscle lengthens, the action is referred to as "eccentric." So you focus on moves that are working muscles as they lengthen, rather than as they contract. If you're doing a straight leg raise, for example: Start from a prone position, draw your knee up to your chest, extend your leg and very slowly lower it down to the floor.
Push-ups, simple but powerful movements that can be used to increase your overall fitness, are a challenging bodyweight exercise. They primarily target the pectoral (chest), anterior deltoid (rear shoulder), and triceps muscles, which means they're ideal for building total upper-body strength. Do them correctly and you'll see a difference in no time. Try Spider(wo)man pushups (by bringing one knee to your chest) to make it more difficult.
"I love pull-ups," Mazza says. "They will always stay difficult and there are so many different pullups you can do." Use just your body weight or, for some added challenge, add some heavier weights, he adds. You have to keep your core tight and engage the back as you descend from the bar - the slower the better. The body should be in a straight line. Don't lift your legs or swing.
Stretching is just as important as regular exercise. It is always important to warm up the muscles, Mazza says. Before exercising, dynamic stretching is what professionals agree is best. This will warm up the body by getting the heart rate elevated and move the body through a range of motion, but will do so actively. Moving while stretching increases the temperature of the muscles to ensure they are flexible and pliable.
Nobody thinks of this aerobic activity as an exercise because more than 7 billion people do it daily and it's not hard. "When too tired, walking is a great way to stay active and not overexert yourself," Mazza says. Go outside and the air will give you the motivation to walk and possibly even run, he adds. The new minimum is 250 minutes a week if you want to lose a few extra pounds. Walk for half an hour a day for maximum effect. You will eventually need to increase the intensity or mileage to achieve the same or better results.
Playing sports is an effective and, more importantly, fun way to burn calories if you're too tired to actually go to the gym. The best way to make exercise seem less dreadful and more exciting is to simply engage in sports or activities that you actually enjoy. Playing sports is a way to stay active and have fun while creating a lifestyle that keeps you alive, engaged and healthy.
The deadlift is great because it's a functional movement. You can always progress it by adding weight. This glute-building exercise is another one you can do while entertaining yourself with Netflix. Make the single-leg deadlift a little more intense by grabbing a pair of light dumbbells. Stand on one foot and lift the other behind you until it's parallel to the ground. Hold that positions for 10 seconds and push back. Bonus: Your hamstrings get a great workout too.
This exercise involves getting up from the ground with or without weights. That always creates a lot of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), a measurably increased rate of oxygen intake following strenuous activity, McLean says. That's a good thing if weight loss is your goal. Increasing the amount of oxygen consumed both during and after a workout can increase the amount of calories burned.
Single-leg Balance Exercises
"One leg is stronger than two halves of legs," Jill Brown, personal trainer, fitness instructor and a wellness coach says. This is called "bilateral deficit." It's completely counter-intuitive, she adds, but it works very effectively. Single-leg (Romanian) deadlifts while holding 8-12 lb dumbbells, or a Bulgarian split squat, will show a lot of definition really quickly, especially in your thighs, Brown adds.
People may not see results immediately, but they will definitely feel a change, Brown says. Done with proper technique, kettlebell swings will challenge you. Your hamstrings, glutes and inner thighs are guaranteed to be sore for a few days. The swings, which are a high-intensity move, work your entire backside, making it look more toned.
Squat to Press
This is a combination exercise of which McLean is a fan. "They are great because they work a lot of muscles at the same time," he says. Combining these two exercises into one fluid motion will burn more calories and build more strength by stimulating the muscles of both your upper and lower body together. Repeat the sequence for 10-20 reps, depending on your ability and fitness level.
Lunges are the go-to exercise for the legs. When done right, they can be very effective, and you can modify the exercise to fit your fitness level. Hold weights as you move. You can hold a rubber band over your head and pull it apart. This added balance component activates the shoulder muscles.
Bridges are like reversed planks, Eric Guilleminault, certified personal trainer at Off the Grid Fitness says. They are an awesome exercise because they contract the glutes while engaging the abs at the same time. "That's why it's so popular," he adds. The Glute Bridge is one of the best functional exercises that target your glutes. It's also very easy. You have to just lie on your back, bend your knees and lift your hips. Eventually you can make this drill a little more intense, by doing a single-leg bridge.
The name comes from the position of the exercise - you start on your legs and arms (like the 4-legged animal) and kick one leg back at a time. The magic of the donkey kicks lies in the fact that they don't require any equipment, are technically easy, and you can do them while watching TV or even reading a book.
This is a timed static exercise because the muscles are contracting without movement. It's a good addition to your leg training because you strengthen two major muscle groups in the thigh - quadriceps and hamstrings. Sit against the wall for as long as you can. Do several sets of 30 seconds or a minute.
Add climbing stairs to your cardio routine and you can get results much faster. The StairMaster, or stepper, strengthens your thighs, buttocks, and calves. The legs go through a full range of motion, and that is pivotal for shaping toned muscles.
Walking Up the Stairs
Your calves, hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes are trained when you do a lot of reps. If you're not at the gym to use the machine, take the stairs instead of the elevator every chance you get. A quick walk up and down a few times, followed by 15-25 jumping jacks, is a great cardio drill to boost your health.
TRX Suspension Training
Guilleminault recommends this type of training because it doesn't matter what your fitness level is. "You use your own body and gravity to get fit," he says. Also, he says, it focuses on strength exercises that increase flexibility and endurance so your body has a wide range of motion.
This is a really awesome exercise, Melissa McClusky, Mobile Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach, says. "You start with two dumbbells in the push-up position, then row with each arm, then do a squat-clean-thruster, and repeat!" Put light dumbbells on the floor in front of you. Bend forward to grab them while keeping your back flat. Assume a pushup position but hold onto the weights. Do a one-arm row for each side. Then put your feet together and jump - as you bring your hands, holding the dumbbells to shoulder level - into a squat position. Extend your arms and lower the weights to your shoulders.
Jumping rope is an effective way to increase your calorie burn in a quick amount of time, and it forces you to have great posture, working the shoulders, and gets you quick on your feet, Alayne Rowan, personal trainer and a fitness instructor, says. "I would recommend jump rope as a 3 to 4 time per week workout," "Like everything, if you do it all the time, your body gets used to it, or it gets injured from repetitive motions," she adds.
This is another full body exercise, primarily used for cardio, which also builds strength. It's a plyometric exercise that strengthens multiple muscle groups - core, lower and upper body. The torso won't drop towards the ground because the obliques, abdominals and the muscles around the hips are all engaged. Place your hands on a medicine ball for bigger challenge.
The rower is nearly incomparable to any other piece of fitness equipment you'll find on the gym floor. A workout on this machine combines both cardiovascular and strength training into one sweat-inducing workout, challenging almost every muscle in your body. And, because the faster you row, the higher your heart rate will rise, there's the potential to burn a whole lot of calories in a pretty short amount of time.
This is another easy yet effective exercise. Your hamstrings, rear and back all get a workout. Your neck must stay in neutral position at all times. Lift your legs and arms simultaneously forming the letter "U." Hold that position for about five seconds. Squeeze your glutes as you raise your legs. You don't want your lower back to do all the work.
A dash of plyometrics is so beneficial when it comes to functional fitness. Neurotransmitters that reside in the feet are rendered sleepy as a result of shoe-filled sedentary lives. Light impact is great to wake them up. And like walk-outs, jumping jacks, when performed with control, also work multiple muscle groups and increase your heart rate.
This is a great exercise that works lower abdominals. The key is to use your abs to lift the legs. Relax you back. Fully extend your legs if you want to get more out of it. Lie on your back with arms at your side, pull navel into the spine, lift both legs up at once until they are perpendicular to the floor, and slowly lower back down. Do not let your back arch up off the floor. Add a scissor kick vertically and horizontally up a few inches (legs stay straight and move up and down or side to side and crisscross each other). Repeat at least 15 times.
A typical Tabata-style workout lasts for only four minutes, and consists of intervals that alternate between 20 seconds of high-intensity activity followed by 10 seconds of rest. This pattern is repeated for eight sets. The workout is simple, you pick an exercise and perform it at the highest intensity for 20 seconds followed by a 10 second rest period. Burpees are one of the best exercises to incorporate in a Tabata workout because they challenge the entire body in one move.
Begin lying on your back with your arms extended over your head. Keep your core tight and engage your abdominal muscles to lift your upper body off the ground while also lifting your legs, reaching your fingers towards your toes. Pause for a beat and then slowly return to the starting position.
The Dead Bug
The dead bug exercise is for beginners and is great for eventually getting flat abs. It's used a lot in physical therapy and by people who have a weak core. You should be lying on your back; your hands should be reaching up or you can leave them by your side. Bring your knees up forming a 90-degree angle. Start the exercise by extending one leg - straighten the knee and hip. Maintain this position for a few seconds, switch legs and repeat.
The Bird Dog
It may not look like much but this exercise will really work out your core. Start by getting on all fours. Your back should always be straight. Reach out with one hand and extend the opposite leg. Engage your abs to maintain balance. Hold for a few seconds and switch. Repeat each side about 15 times.
Triceps kickbacks are some of the most effective exercises for these hard-to-tone muscles. The movement activates the triceps and requires little to no equipment (you can do them with our without weights). You need a relatively short amount of time to produce a positive result when included in a regular fitness routine, according to the American Council on Exercise.
"Diagonal movements like woodchopper with exercise tubing train core muscles to integrate with upper and lower body," Ingrid Wentzel, ACE Personal Trainer & Health Educator, says. "With these moves, you don't have to do hundreds of crunches: just a few done well will do the trick," she adds. If you are using an exercise machine: With your side to the cable, grab the handle with one hand. Your feet should be shoulder width apart. In one motion, pull the handle down and across your body to your front knee. Rotate your torso. Always keep the back and arms straight. Tighten the core. Return in the starting position slowly. This exercise may also be done with a medicine ball.
CrossFitinvolves mixing high-intensity cardio and strength exercises with aerobics and gymnastics. Whatever your goal is, you're going to achieve it with CrossFit. You want less body fat and more muscle mass? Increasing your heart rate in no time is easy without running for half an hour: Just do a 10-minute combination of burpees, push-ups and air squats. Stronger and more muscles mean faster metabolism, which means burning more calories even when you're not doing anything.
Leg raises are great for the abs. They can be really tough, so make sure your back us supported. Leg raises are often recommended as a beginner's strength exercise. Try lowering the legs on the opposite leg to the ground because it's low intensity. Make it a little more challenging by adding weight by holding a dumbbell in between your feet.
Yoga is also a relaxing form of exercising, Mazza says. Practicing yoga can help you lose weight by adding to your daily activity levels and increasing your muscle strength. But what you may not have realized is that it can also help improve your mental awareness, which can also be a helpful weight loss tool.
Unless you have shoulder problems, bench dips are an effective bodyweight exercise that directly targets the triceps. Proper form is key if you want to reap the benefits later. Begin seated on the edge of a sturdy bench, your fingers facing forward. Your knees should form 90-degree angles and your thighs should be parallel to the floor. Keep your shoulders back and down, and slowly lower yourself by bending the elbows. Want to really amp up your fitness goals? Pair these exercises with the 50 best foods for weight loss.
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