These days there are so many new exercises and new pieces of equipment in the gym. I love innovative new exercises, but the old standbys are still among my favorite.  Here are my top 5:

#1 Plank

My #1 exercise is the plank. Why? The plank is a full-body exercise that focuses on the core. If you read last months post on core training, you know that core training will improve your posture, balance, and strength, and the plank is generally regarded as the number one core exercise because it engages all 4 of the major core muscles: transverse abdominus, rectus abdominus, oblique muscles and glutes.

#2 The Squat

Ever watch a baby pick an object up off of the floor? Babies don’t bend at their backs to pick their toys up off of the floor, they squat.  Long before you realized it, you were squatting. Many people stop squatting as they get older, and the lack of inhibition that they had as babies turns into fear that they may fall.  Though the primary movers in a squat are the muscles around the hips and knees, squats involve nearly every muscle in the body. Squatting is one of the most functional movements performed in daily life, and we lose serious mobility when we can no longer squat.

#3 Push Up

The push up is one of the first exercises that I remember learning in elementary school P.E. It is often used as a benchmark to test strength throughout our grade school years and even into adulthood. The push up is another exercise that engages nearly every muscle in your body because you’re not only engaging the muscles in your chest and arms, but also all of your core muscles (think of a push up as a moving plank).  I once read that doing variations of the push up for an extended period of time without bench pressing could actually increase my bench press, and I found this to be true. This is because the push up engages the entire body, most notably the core, and a strong core increase full-body strength.

#4 Row

The primary movers in a row are the latissimus dorsi and the rhomboids, but depending on the apparatus used and positioning, the biceps, posterior delts and core can also be engaged, along with several other assisting muscles in the chest, back and arms. Strong back muscles not only look great but are also important for daily movement. Rows can be performed several ways, but my personal favorite is the TRX Row.

#5 Lateral Raise

I have a love/hate with my shoulder workout. I love the way my shoulders look as a result, but I often hate the exercises that give me those results! The lateral raise is one of the reasons for the hate but also one of the top reasons that I achieve the results that I want. Lateral raises isolate the muscles in the shoulders and help to achieve the “rounded look.”

These 5 exercises hit all of the major muscle groups in the body and performed together create a great full body work out. Try them in a circuit; perform each exercise 1-5 for a specified amount of time and number of reps (based on your ability and goals). Take a break, and perform the entire circuit again.

As always proper form is crucial, and a certified personal trainer is recommended to help you get started on the way to meeting your goals.