A plethora of information on fitness and health has led us to believe that there are dozens of essential exercises in a general fitness routine. However examining human physiology and biomechanics makes obvious that there are only several basic movements, and thus only a handful of exercises required to help keep your body functioning efficiently.
Squats not only promote development of both large and small muscle groups, but also are a very efficient way of expending excess calories. The squat targets large lower body muscles such as quadriceps, glutes, areas of your lower back, and your core.
The most common form of this lower body workout is the back squat – with a barbell sitting somewhere between your lower neck and your shoulder blades. However there are many variations of the squat such as dumbbell/kettal ball squats, swiss ball squats, Smith machine squats, front squats, and the more difficult Zombie squats.
While performing squats will work your hamstrings (the muscles at the back of your legs), squatting generally focuses on muscles in the front of your legs. Performing hamstring curls will target and promote activation of all the muscles fibers in the back of your legs, and are thus the perfect addition for completing a lower body workout.
Hamstring curls can be performed lying, seated, or standing. There are often several different machines at any fitness center that specifically target hamstrings. A more advanced technique for targeting hamstrings is the stiff-legged deadlift, which can be performed with either dumbbells or a barbell.
Performing movements that involve pushing exercises are advised because developing the front portion of your upper body will help prevent injury, balance out upper body strength, and can add tone.
Areas that will be targeted will be your pectorals, triceps, and the front portion of your shoulders.
Exercises that can be classified under chest press include the bench press, dumbbell press, chest press machine, and traditional push-ups.
Similar to how it’s important to work both the front of your legs and the back, it’s important to balance out a chest press workout with rowing exercises.
Back rows are a full body, compound exercise that work your upper and middle back, biceps, and the rear portion of your shoulders.
There are a variety of ways you can perform rows including bent over barbell/dumbbell rows, seated rows, or cable rows.
Abdominal crunches are very important because every twist, bend, kneel, and step you do relies on the muscles in your abdomen – even when you’re sitting you’re engaging your core. The stronger your core muscles, the easier it is to perform physical and daily activities.
To perform abdominal crunches, imagine your bellybutton moving towards your pelvis. Avoid clasping your hands behind your head because this can lead to injury by straining your neck – try some variation of keeping your hands to your side or crossed across your chest. Do as many repetitions as you can while maintaining good form throughout.