The Top 10 Most Popular Exercises and How to Perform Them Properly

The Top 10 Most Popular Exercises and How to Perform Them Properly

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.


  1. Dima, et al. “Five Reasons Why Burpees Should Be Your Favorite Exercise.” 12 Minute Athlete, 27 Nov. 2012,
  2. Rail, Kevin. “Muscles Targeted While Performing Squats.” COM, Leaf Group,
  3. Ardison, Staci. “How to Squat Properly – A Step-By-Step Guide.” Nerd Fitness, 7 Dec. 2018,
  4. Farley, Ashley. “What Muscles Do Lunges Target?” COM, Leaf Group,
  5. Lowis, Steven. “Muscles Contraction During Plank Exercise.” COM, Leaf Group,
  6. Reifkind, Tracy. “Swing For The Fences: Kettlebell Training-Burn Fat And Build Muscles!” com,, 27 July 2018,
  7. Vennare, Jen. “How to Do the Perfect Kettlebell Swing.” Greatist, Greatist, 10 July 2017,
  8. Cespedes, Andrea. “What Muscle Does the Lateral Pulldown Work?” com, 21 Nov. 2017,

Recommended Reading

Goals vs. Resolutions – Podcast Ep. 15

Goals vs. Resolutions – Podcast Ep. 15

Welcome to the fifteenth episode of the Living Healthy podcast, presented by LA Fitness. Woohoo! We’re back with Season Two – did you miss us? Because we missed you!

On this episode of Living Healthy, we speak with LA Fitness Personal Training Director, Tristen Alleman, who shares what he’s seen in his four years of experience in the clubs when it comes to members successfully accomplishing their resolutions.

We also beg the question, “Are resolutions really that different from goals?”

And we give tips on how to succeed on the goals you set for yourself this year. It’s a jam-packed episode, full of health advice, a special segment on the history of New Year’s resolutions from the crowd favorite, producer Matt, and Andrew and I share our own resolutions for 2019.


Tweet tweet: @LAFitness #LivingHealthyPodcast

Facebook: @LAFitness #LivingHealthyPodcast

Instagram: @LAFitness #LivingHealthyPodcast

Notice a theme here? We want to hear from you! Tweet, message, DM or email us at

This podcast should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Timecard Markers – Goals vs. Resolutions – Podcast Ep. 15


Begins at 0:01    

Producer Matt on The History Lesson You Never Knew You Wanted 


Personal Training Director, Tristen Alleman, Joins the Show 

Begins at 5:17 

Tristen’s Personal New Year’s Resolutions  


What Are Some Common Mistakes People Make? 


Are There Certain Traits That People Have That Make Them More Successful Than Others? 


Does it Make More Sense to Start a Resolution Before or After New Year’s/January 1st?  


Matt on the Street Segment  


How to Keep Yourself Motivated 


Resolutions vs. Goals 


How to Keep Persevering  


The Impact Social Media Has on Fitness 


Cutting Out vs. Adding-In Resolutions 


How to Change Your Thinking on Resolutions 




Recommended Podcast Episodes 

AAT: Ep. 37 – Which Machines Offer a Full Body Workout?

AAT: Ep. 37 – Which Machines Offer a Full Body Workout?

Ask A Trainer: Featured Question of the Week

LA Fitness Pro Results® Master Trainer, Morgan C., gives her expert advice on which machines offer a full body workout. 

Do you have a fitness question? Ask one of our certified Pro Results® trainers here! Your question may be featured in an upcoming Ask Our Trainer video.**

3 + 6 =

**Selected submissions will be featured on the LA Fitness blog and possibly other LA Fitness digital media entities & websites. By making a submission, you hereby grant LA Fitness a non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide, irrevocable license to use and make copies of the contents of such submission for any purpose and in any medium whatsoever, and you hereby waive and relinquish any copyright or other intellectual property right you may have in the contents of such submission and your right to pursue any claim for LA Fitness’s violation of those intellectual property rights.

Recommended 'Ask A Trainer' Videos

What to Expect When Joining LA Fitness

What to Expect When Joining LA Fitness

It’s the start of the New Year, which means endless possibilities for what you can accomplish in the twelve months that lay ahead! A fresh start, a clean slate, a brand-new year! It’s exciting just thinking about the positive changes that can be made. For many, taking control of their fitness and nutrition tops the list of changes wanted. While not everything in life can be controlled, your fitness and diet can be. Positive and healthy changes made to these parts of your life can transfer to other aspects of your life too! This probably leaves you asking yourself, “Where do I begin? How do I start?”

A great place to help kickstart a new positive change is to surround yourself with other like-minded individuals. That old saying about you becoming who you surround yourself with is pretty accurate. Chances are that if you’re around a group who prioritizes the importance of fitness and focuses on healthier eating habits, they’ll help inspire you to do the same – and keep you motivated!

That is why joining a local gym may be the key factor needed to accomplish your goals. However, for some people, this can be scary. There’s the pressure of thinking you already need to be in somewhat decent shape before joining or the fear of not knowing what to expect that can be holding you back. Change can be scary but change causes growth and growth in a positive direction is worth a bit of uncomfortableness in the beginning. Trust us, your future healthier self will thank you.

To put some of the unknown scariness of joining a gym aside, we’ve compiled a list of what you can expect when joining an LA Fitness.

  1. Greet the front desk staff and let them know you’re interested in joining.
  2. A sales representative will greet you and give you a tour of the club.
  3. They’ll take you to the service area and ask what your goals are.
  4. After careful review, they’ll educate you on plan and pricing options.
  5. They’ll introduce you to a PT representative who will set you up with a free fitness assessment.

You can always try us out first! Click here for a guest pass.

Once you’re all signed up you’ll have access to –

Group Fitness Classes

You’ll have access to many different options for group fitness classes including member favorites like cycle, yoga, and Zumba®. Group Fitness is a great place to begin if you don’t know where to start with gym equipment. It’s a fun way to keep your cardio options interesting so you never get bored during a workout again. Plus, some Group Fitness classes incorporate weight training or body weight exercises, meaning you can get your strength training in this way too!


Our pools are kept at a comfortable temperature in the low 80’s. Swimming doesn’t just have to be saved for the summer months. Try out a Group Fitness Aqua Fit class for some low impact cardio or enjoy the swimming lanes on your own when classes aren’t in session. The pool can even be a great way to unwind after a tough workout. Certain clubs even have a spa available to all members to relax in and help loosen up the muscles after a long day. Make sure to check to see if your club has these options available.

Weight Room

Each LA Fitness weight room typically boosts over 20,000 pounds of free weights for members to use. Dumbbells start at 5lbs. and go all the way up to 100 lbs. There are also plate weight options, barbell options, and resistance training equipment. The variety ensures that there’s a little something for everyone, depending on your fitness level and weight training preferences.

Locker Room

The locker room is the one place you’ll want to visit every time you work out in our gyms. With full-sized lockers, showers, a dry sauna, and restrooms, you’ll definitely benefit from our spa-like amenities. Just make sure to bring your own lock and please remember that lockers are for day use only. Some clubs even provide a towel service in case you left yours at home.*


Our cycle equipment is available for Group Fitness classes and solo workouts. In a Group Fitness setting, riders can expect to pedal a distance of 15 to 20 miles in a one-hour class! Cycle can be a great way to get in some HIIT training, otherwise known as high-intensity interval training. For those new to cycle, don’t let the distance or high intensity scare you away. Each class starts off at a beginner’s pace which you’re able to stay at until you get comfortable to pick your speed up. As long as you keep the pedals moving, you’re doing your body some good.


Ellipticals, treadmills, cross-trainers, stationary bikes, and stair climbers are what you can expect to find in the cardio section of an LA Fitness. If you’re not one for Group Fitness classes, these might be a better option for you to still get your cardio in. With plenty to choose from, you have the option to train different parts of your body, to choose a low impact or high impact option, or to simply switch up the routine if things get stale with your workouts. (It’s good to switch up your workout roughly every two weeks anyway to keep the body surprised!)

Pro Results® Personal Training*

This is the best option if you’re looking for someone to help hold you accountable for your workouts and make sure you’re doing the correct workout each time you’re in the club. It’s important to mention that when you join Pro Result® Personal Training, you’re not just being told what to do and how many times a week to do it, but you’re learning as well. You’ll be paired with a trainer that knows your specific goals and how to help you accomplish them. During your training, you’ll learn what equipment works best for you, helpful tips on cardio versus strength training, and how you can better improve your diet.

Selectorized Equipment

We recommend our selectorized equipment stations for those who are new to working out. These machines often times will help you focus on form to help you better understand how to do the exercise without causing injury to yourself. These machines can be adjusted to your strength level and height, and there are machines designed to focus on specific target areas. If you’re unsure how to use a piece of equipment, there’s usually a sticker diagram attached the machine showing you how to use it properly. If you’re still unsure, visit our personal training department and have them help you.

Basketball/Club Leagues*

Our basketball courts are full length and built for free play. They can also double as a volleyball court. Basketballs and volleyballs are provided for players to use during their time in the gym. For those who are looking for something more than freestyle pickup games, some LA Fitness clubs offer leagues you can join for an additional cost. Ask the front desk of your club for more details.

Racquetball/Club Leagues*

Racquetball courts can be reserved on the LA Fitness mobile app for up to two hours of play time. If you choose not to reserve online, you can also come in to the club and grab a free court. They are first-come, first-serve. For those who are looking for something more competitive, some LA Fitness clubs offer leagues you can join for an additional cost. Ask the front desk of your club for more details.

Stretching Area

The stretching area helps you recover after a hard workout. By taking 10 to 15 minutes to stretch after your workout, you can help lengthen your muscle tissues which will help you recover faster and get stronger. Nobody wants a pulled muscle – that’s why there’s an area dedicated to post-workout rest and stretch.

Kids Klub*

Perfect for the busy moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, and anyone else who may be responsible for watching the little ones while also trying to get their workout in. Our staff make sure your child is watched after, and safe and secure, while you enjoy your workout in peace. Check your home club for Kids Klub hours.

Front Desk/Mobile Check-in

The mobile check-in is a fast and convenient way to get your workout started faster. Have your phone out, the app ready, and simply scan your way in when entering the club to save you time at check-in.

Some additional member and non-member benefits include access to:

  • The Living Healthy Blog
    • Includes: Member Spotlight success stories, health, nutrition, and wellness articles to help educate you, and Living Healthy recipes from restaurants across the nation.
  • The Living Healthy Podcast
    • The official podcast of LA Fitness hosted by two Living Healthy members dedicated to learning more about the world of health, fitness, and nutrition. Every other week a guest is brought on to the show to give listeners a better understanding of what it takes to be healthier overall. (Listen here!)
  • Ask Our Dietitian
    • LA Fitness registered dietitian, Debbie James, is here to help answer your nutrition-related questions. That’s right – you can ask us your nutrition questions free of charge! Please note: We do not currently provide personalized nutrition plans, but you can send us in your nutrition-related question here for a chance for it to be a featured question on our blog.
  • Ask A Trainer YouTube Series
    • Filled with member questions related to fitness, this is the go-to place if you have a fitness question that you can’t seem to find the answer to. (Watch here.)

What are your health and fitness goals? Let us know in the comments below!

Click to explore our clubs, here.

*Amenities and classes vary by location. Some amenities and classes may be available for an additional fee. Pro Results® Personal Training requires an additional fee and entry into a separate agreement.

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Experience the Dory Catch from Lido Bottle Works

Experience the Dory Catch from Lido Bottle Works

“The Dory Catch at Lido Bottle Works highlights and encompasses the true meaning of local in every ingredient. The fish changes every day. Here’s one you can make at home. Try and support a local farmer’s market when you shop for this.”

Executive Chef Amy Lebrun , Lido Bottle Works

Photography provided by: Lido Bottle Works

Lido Bottle Works is located at 3408 Via Oporto #103, Newport Beach, CA 92663. Open Monday through Thursday 11am to 11pm, Friday and Saturday from 11am to 12am, and Sunday from 11am to 10pm. For the menu and additional details, please visit


Photography by: Niyaz Pirani, Knife & Spork Public Relations

Recipe provided by Executive Chef Amy Lebrun of Lido Bottle Works


For the Salmon

  • 2 each 6 oz. Salmon Fillet
  • 1/8 tsp. Smoked Paprika
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 tbs. Olive Oil
  • 1 tbs. Butter

For the Kabocha Squash Puree

  • 1 cup Squash Puree (peeled and small dice)
  • 2 oz. White Onion (small dice)
  • 2 each Garlic Cloves (small dice)
  • 1/4 cup White Wine
  • 2 tbs. Olive Oil
  • 2 oz. Seasonal Apples (peeled and diced)
  • 2 oz. Heavy Cream
  • 4 oz. Vegetable Stock
  • 1 tsp. Salt

For the Fingerling Potatoes

  • 1 cup Fingerling Potatoes (cut into 1/4 inch coins)
  • 2 tbs. Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1/2 oz. Chopped Parsley

For the Winter Green Salad

  • 1 oz. Apple (thinly sliced)
  • 1 oz. Fennel (thinly sliced)
  • 2 each Radishes (thinly sliced)
  • Handful of Garden Green (of your choice)
    • *Chef’s Note: I prefer Dandelion, Mustard, Arugula, Frisse, Kale, Blommsdale Spinach and Chard.
  • 2 oz. Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 1 oz. Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


Step 1:

For the Salmon

  • Season filet with olive oil, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper.
  • Put salmon in a buttered saute pan and in the oven at 350 degrees.
  • Cook to the desired temperature.

Step 2:

For the Kabocha Squash Puree

  • In a small pot on low heat add oil, garlic, onion, apples and white wine. Sweat until cooked through and alcohol is cooked out.
  • Add squash, cream, vegetable stock, salt, and pepper and cook until squash is cooked through.
  • Transfer to a mixer/blender/food processor to puree. If the puree is too thick, add more vegetable stock to it to thin out and make super smooth.

Step 3: 

For the Fingerling Potatoes 

  • Toss fingerling potatoes in oil, salt, and pepper.
  • Put on a sheet pan and roast in the oven at 350 degrees until cooked through.
  • You can cook the potatoes at the same time as the salmon, but note that the potatoes will take longer to cook.

Step 4:

For the Winter Green Salad

  • In a bowl toss all ingredients together and coat with lemon juice and olive oil.

Featured Recipes



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