Instead of thinking of this as your one-stop-shop gym guide, think of it as an intro to some of the top most popular exercises, and how to perform them properly. Once you have a handle on the basic exercises below, try out some of the advanced alternatives to step up your exercise game!

#1 Burpee

  • Muscles Targeted: Arms, chest, quads, glutes, hamstrings, and abs.
  • The How-to:
    • Begin in your basic neutral standing position.
    • Bring your palms to the floor while simultaneously squatting down.
    • Kick your legs back to a plank position.
    • Immediately bring feet back to squat position.
    • Push yourself upward into a jump and repeat.
  • Advanced Movement: Once you’ve mastered the basic burpee, you can increase the level of difficulty by trying a burpee with a pushup. Perform the same moves as a basic burpee but add a pushup before bringing your feet back into the starting squat position and jumping upward.

#2 Bodyweight Squat

  • Muscles Targeted: Quadriceps, glutes, adductors, calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, and abs.
  • The How-to:3
    • Begin with your feet slightly wider than your hips. Your feet should be slightly turned outward, only about 5 to 20 degrees.
    • Keep your head facing forward, don’t tilt it back or tilt it forward.
    • Push your hips backward and bend your knees. Keep your weight in the back of your heels. You can test this by wiggling your toes. If you can, you are balanced correctly.
    • Keep your spine in a neutral position and make sure your knees don’t go past your feet.
    • Once your hip joint is lower than your knees, push yourself back up to your original standing position. Squeeze your glutes at the top for some extra muscle building.
  • Advanced Movement: Once you’ve mastered the basic bodyweight squat, you can increase the level of difficulty by trying a weighted squat or barbell squat. Your form should remain the same, but now you’ll have the weight of a barbell resting on your shoulders. It might be best to start off on an assisted squat machine, if not, and you’re a beginner, try having a friend or fellow gym-goer spot you.

#3 Lunges

  • Muscles Targeted: Glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps.
  • The How-to:
    • Begin in a neutral standing position. Bring one leg forward, about 2 to 3 feet, and bend both knees.
    • Your forward leg should not bend past your knee. Keep at a 90-degree angle.
    • Push off with forwarding leg to return to neutral standing position. Switch legs and repeat.
  • Advanced Movement: Once you’ve mastered the basic lunge, you can increase the level of difficulty by trying a weighted side lunge. Grab a set of dumbbells and lunge to the side of your body. This helps work the inner thighs too!

#4 Plank

  • Muscles Targeted: Abdominals and back muscles.
  • The How-to:
    • Lie on the floor or an exercise mat with your stomach facing down and elbows tucked under your shoulders. You should be resting on your forearms with your arms facing down.
    • Tighten your abdominal muscles. Push your heels out. Your feet should be balanced by your tiptoes.
    • Push yourself up onto your forearms, much like you would in a push-up position.
    • Keep your neck in neutral alignment with your spine.
    • Hold for as long as possible before lowering yourself back onto the floor.
  • Advanced Movement: Once you’ve mastered the plank, you can increase the level of difficulty by trying a side plank. Instead of assuming a pushup position, lay on your side and push yourself up off the ground, balancing on your forearm and the side of your foot. Hold for as long as possible. Once finished, switch sides.

Shown: Advanced movement. Side plank. 

#5 Bench Press

  • Muscles Targeted: Chest, front shoulders, triceps brachii, and back.
  • The How-to:
    • Begin by lying on the bench with your eyes directly underneath the bar.
    • Grab the bar with a medium grip, include your thumbs around it.
    • Straighten your arms upward, un-racking the bar.
    • Bring the bar to your mid-chest and press back up to the beginning position with straight arms.
    • Safety tip: It’s always smart to have a spotter when performing a bench press. In case the weight gets too heavy, you have someone who can help safely return the bar to the rack.
  • Advanced Movement: Once you’ve mastered the basic bench press, increase the level of difficulty by increasing your weight. Always make sure you’re not pushing yourself past your fitness level, to prevent potential injury.

#6 Kettlebell Swing*

  • Muscles Targeted: Hips, glutes, hamstrings, lats, abs, shoulders, pecs, and grip.
  • The How-to:7
    • Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart holding the kettlebell in a firm grip.
    • Squat down while simultaneously swinging the kettlebell through your legs.
    • Stand up and swing the kettlebell forward, making sure you keep your grip firm.
    • The kettlebell should not come higher than the face/chin level for a basic kettlebell swing.
  • Advanced Movement: This exercise is pretty great as is. Trying variations of this move could potentially do damage to your shoulders, so for safety reasons, we recommend sticking to the basics on this one.
  • Disclaimer: *Not all LAF clubs have kettlebells.

#7 Lat Pulldown

  • Muscles Targeted: Latissimus dorsi (back), biceps and forearm.
  • The How-to:
    • Stand tall and grab the bar while simultaneously sitting down on the bench. Your arms should be in a “V”-shape.
    • Keep elbows pointed down. Pull the bar down towards your chest, squeezing your lats (back muscles).
    • Lower the bar to your chin or slightly below.
  • Advanced Movement: Once you’ve mastered the basic lat pulldown, increase the level of difficulty by increasing your weight. Always make sure you’re not pushing yourself past your fitness level, to prevent potential injury.

#8 Russian Twist

  • Muscles Targeted: Abdominals/obliques.
  • The How-to:
    • Sit on the floor and place your feet under something weighted or use a workout partner to help hold your feet in place.
    • Bend your body back slightly and twist/rotate from side to side.
  • Advanced Movement: Once you’ve mastered the basic Russian twist, you can increase the level of difficulty by balancing your feet off the ground or holding weights when you twist.

#9 Leg Press

  • Muscles Targeted: Quadriceps, calves, glutes, hamstrings and hip adductors.
  • The How-to:
    • Sit on machine with head and back on padded bench.
    • Please your heels flat against the footplate. Your feet should be about hip-width apart. Make sure your knees aren’t inward or outward. They should align with your feet.
    • Carefully release the assist handle, making sure you have the appropriate weight on the machine beforehand and bend your knees towards your body.
    • Push away, back to starting position. Repeat.

#10 Curl

  • Muscles Targeted: Biceps.
  • The How-to:
    • Stand tall with a dumbbell in each hand.
    • Keep elbows close to your body with your palms facing outward.
    • Curl weights upwards towards your shoulders while contracting your biceps.
    • Lower back to starting position. Repeat.
  • Advanced Movement: Once you’ve mastered the basic bicep curl, increase weight for a more enhanced burn.

Sources:

  1. Dima, et al. “Five Reasons Why Burpees Should Be Your Favorite Exercise.” 12 Minute Athlete, 27 Nov. 2012, 12minuteathlete.com/burpees-are-awesome/.
  2. Rail, Kevin. “Muscles Targeted While Performing Squats.” COM, Leaf Group, www.livestrong.com/article/328228-target-muscle-area-for-squats/.
  3. Ardison, Staci. “How to Squat Properly – A Step-By-Step Guide.” Nerd Fitness, 7 Dec. 2018, nerdfitness.com/blog/strength-training-101-how-to-squat-properly/.
  4. Farley, Ashley. “What Muscles Do Lunges Target?” COM, Leaf Group, www.livestrong.com/article/439335-what-muscles-do-lunges-work-out/.
  5. Lowis, Steven. “Muscles Contraction During Plank Exercise.” COM, Leaf Group, www.livestrong.com/article/520533-muscles-contraction-during-plank-exercise/.
  6. Reifkind, Tracy. “Swing For The Fences: Kettlebell Training-Burn Fat And Build Muscles!” com, Bodybuilding.com, 27 July 2018, www.bodybuilding.com/content/swing-for-the-fences-kettlebell-training-burn-fat-and-build-muscle.html.
  7. Vennare, Jen. “How to Do the Perfect Kettlebell Swing.” Greatist, Greatist, 10 July 2017, greatist.com/move/how-to-do-the-perfect-kettlebell-swing.
  8. Cespedes, Andrea. “What Muscle Does the Lateral Pulldown Work?” com, 21 Nov. 2017, livehealthy.chron.com/muscle-lateral-pulldown-work-8582.html.

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