There are hundreds of types of exercises. If one was to take into account all of their different variations, then there’d be thousands. Myself, as a personal trainer, I rely on dozens of them. However, when picking out the Top 5, my bet’s on the classics. I’ll show you exercises that have become the basics to creating other exercises. I’m certain you’re familiar with them. But are you familiar with how effective they are?
One of the most global exercises in terms of muscle involvement. I’m not talking about the number of muscles involved, but in their overall size. When performing squats, the leading group of muscles involved is the buttocks, as well as the muscles on the front and back of your thighs. These are the body’s largest muscles. That means that, when squatting, you’re stimulating a whole bunch of muscle cells that generate a huge amount of energy. If your training goal is to burn fat – which always involves stimulating the body’s biggest muscles – then this is your number one exercise. It’s worth noting that burning fat is a complex process that takes place all the time. By stimulating the “engines” (mitochondria) inside your cells, you’re causing the “burning” of fat to continue long after you’ve finished your workout.
Additional muscles that get involved when squatting are the calf and torso muscles. By adding external weight (usually in the form of a weight bar on your back), you get even more muscles involved. To summarize – whether you want to build strength, improve your aesthetics or burn fat – squats are the best. And that’s that!
I often compare push-ups with squats – just the other way around ? Just as squats involve your entire hips and lower limbs, push-ups engage your entire shoulders, upper limbs and chest muscles. Just as with squats – push-ups are a complex exercise. By performing push-ups, you ensure the harmonious development of all the body’s upper muscles. Push-ups are great for building strength. They also offer exercise flexibility by making it possible to perform them if various methods; i.e. by changing the width at which your hands are apart, by shifting your center of gravity, by changing the tempo). This lets you fine-tune which muscles will be targeted by the exercise. In truth – it’s several exercises in one. I don’t think this is an exercise I need to recommend.
Let’s get back to leg and hip muscles. In my opinion, lunges are another FANTASTIC exercise. They have the following advantages:
- An ideal, almost invasive effect on sculpting your butt, front and back thigh muscles;
- Lunges strengthen the muscle groups involved;
- They accelerate the rate at which you metabolize fats;
- They improve blood circulation throughout the entire body;
- They strengthen the muscles that stabilize your torso and your legs;
- They help improve your sense of balance.
Nothing more, nothing less. Start lunging!
This is an exercise that requires a lot of strength. It’s great for checking out how your body is being affected by gravity. I reckon that anyone with the aim of harmoniously developing their strength should conduct this exercise. Pull-ups help strengthen your arms (mainly the biceps) and the upper part of your back (especially your shoulders). Remember that choosing a specific technique and the way you hold the bar can have a huge impact on which muscles are involved when you move. Even slight changes in how far apart your grip is, or how you hold the bar, can have a huge impact on the exercise’s effects.
The only exercise on my list which involves the isometric tensing of muscles (without changing the position of the muscles relative to each other). Some people see planks as the most comprehensive exercise for developing abdominal muscles. In my opinion, this complexity is far greater because the exercise also positively affects the muscles around the spine, the thigh muscles, the buttocks and the shoulders. Its simplicity is what makes it so difficult. The less body movement there is, the better. Planks can improve the visual appearance of the muscles in the torso, and also help stabilize your core. This, in turn, helps you work your upper and lower muscles a lot more effectively.
Remember – “nature’s strength lies in its simplicity”. This also applies to workouts. The exercises I’ve listed above are the absolute basics and are so popular that people tend to overlook them. This is a huge mistake. Most of my clients begin with these very exercises. They work on perfecting their technique, combine these exercises with additional ones, with exercises on machines, with free weights. Moreover, this list of exercises is kind of a training plan all on its own. One that can be performed outside the gym – for example during short spring vacations away from the city. Do 2 to 4 series of each; the number of reps should be based on your abilities. You’ll see that you don’t need a gym to get a serious workout done. Good luck!