Top 5 exercises to keep in your fitness repertoire

September 9, 2014

Summer is officially here, and there may be no greater motivator than that bikini or swimsuit sitting in your closet to get you up and moving with your workouts.

To really look your leanest and meanest this season, it’s important to work all aspects and areas of your body. This means you need to incorporate both cardio and strength sessions into your weekly routine. There are plenty of ways to organize your program to ensure you get the best of both on your home gym equipment.

With seemingly endless options for strength exercises, it can be a challenge to discern what’s beneficial and what’s not. You may find yourself wondering, “Should I stick to the basics or get fancy? Do I need to do compound movements? Are body weight exercises sufficient or do I need to incorporate equipment?”

While it’s always a good idea to switch things up from time to time to keep your interest engaged and avoid fitness plateaus, there are some ways to take the guesswork out of each strength session. Women’s Health magazine said that these five exercises should be included in your strength program to see the best results and get the most out of your workout:

It’s not surprising that planks are included, as they are one of the best exercises for your core and they work muscles in your upper and lower body as well. To do a basic plank:

  • Start on your hands and knees
  • Push each leg up so you’re on your toes (like the start of a pushup)
  • Make sure your shoulders are directly over your wrists, keeping your elbows loose
  • Squeeze your core muscles and make sure your back is flat
  • Hold for 30 seconds to start, and as you get stronger you can hold it for one or more minutes

Challenge your balance by adding hand and leg lifts, opposite arm-leg reaches, alternate moving from hands to forearms or rotating your hips side to side.

The muscles along the backside of the body are often overlooked, but rows help strengthen your back and improve your posture, which is important for running and cycling. Grab a set of 5- to 8-pound dumbbells and:

  • Stand with feet hip-distance apart
  • Bend forward slightly, engaging your core and with your arms straight out in front of you
  • Pull your elbows back, squeezing your shoulder blades together
  • Return to the starting position and repeat 10 times

Wood chops
It can be beneficial to work multiple muscles, which wood chops do – they target your core (front and side abs), legs and arms:

  • Hold a medicine ball or 8- to 10-pound dumbbell in both hands
  • Raise the weight over your left shoulder
  • Swing it toward your right foot as you squat
  • Repeat 10 times, then switch sides

Side step ups
When we work our legs, we usually think of front and back and not side to side, so those muscles don’t get exercised as often. The muscles of the inner and outer thighs and your side glutes are necessary for stability while on your feet.

  • Stand with a chair or step bench on your right side
  • Firmly place your right foot and step up, tapping your left toes
  • Lower your left foot then right foot, and repeat 12 times
  • Switch to the left side

Loaded squats
Your leg and glute muscles are the biggest in your body, so to really challenge them it helps to add weight to your squats:

  • Hold 12 to 15 pounds in each hand, standing hip​-distance apart
  • With your weight in your heels, squat like you’re sitting in a chair
  • Return to the starting position and repeat 12 times