Pictures Slideshow: 7 Most Effective Fitness Exercises
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These seven exercises deliver results - whether you do them at a gym or at home. Pay close attention to the form demonstrated by the personal trainer in these slides - good technique is a must for a safe, effective workout. If you're new to exercise, over 40, have a health problem, or take regular medication, check with your doctor before starting a fitness program.
No. 1: Walking
Why it's a winner: You can walk anywhere, anytime, either on a treadmill or with no equipment other than a good pair of shoes.
How to: Beginners should start by walking five to 10 minutes at a time, gradually moving up to at least 30 minutes per session. As you progress, lengthen the time of your walks before boosting your speed or incline.
No. 2: Interval Training
Why it's a winner: Adding interval training to your cardio workout can boost fitness, burn more calories, and help you lose weight. The basic idea: Vary the intensity of your aerobic workout to challenge your body instead of loafing in your comfort zone.
How to: Push up the pace for a minute or two, then back off for 2-10 minutes, depending on the length of your workout and how much time you need to recover. Do this throughout the workout.
No. 3: Squats
Why it's a winner: Squats work multiple muscle groups - the quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteals - at the same time.
How to: Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and your back straight. Bend your knees and lower your rear as if you were sitting down in a chair, keeping your knees over your ankles.
Squats: Technique Tip
Practice with a real chair to master this move. First, sit all the way down in the chair and stand back up. Next, don't sit all the way down; barely touch the chair's seat before standing back up. Lastly, graduate to doing squats without a chair.
No. 4: Lunges
Why it's a winner: Like squats, lunges work all the major muscles of the lower body. Lunges also help improve your balance.
How to: Take a big step forward, keeping your spine straight. Bend your front knee to approximately 90 degrees. Keep weight on your back toes and drop the back knee toward the floor - but don't let it touch the floor.
Lunges: Extra Challenge
Try stepping not just forward, but back and out to each side, with each lunge.
No. 5: Push-ups
Why it's a winner: Push-ups strengthen the chest, shoulders, triceps, and core muscles.
How to: Face-down, place hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Place toes or knees on the floor, creating a smooth line with your body, from shoulders to knees or feet. Keeping rear-end muscles and abdominals engaged, lower and lift your body by bending and straightening your elbows, keeping your torso stable throughout the move.
Push-ups: Too Hard? Too Easy?
Beginners may start doing push-ups leaning into their kitchen counters, then working their way down to a desk or chair, onto the floor with knees bent, and on the floor on their toes. To make it harder, put your feet on a stair, bench, or couch while maintaining good form.
No. 6: Abdominal Crunches - Method A
Begin by lying on your back with feet flat on the floor and palms supporting your head. Press your lower back down. Contract abdominals and raise first your head (tucking your chin slightly), then your neck, shoulders, and upper back off the floor.
Abdominal Crunches - Method B
Do crunches with your feet off the floor and knees bent. This technique may help you avoid arching your back; it also engages your hip flexors.
Abdominal Crunches: Troubleshooting
Keep your neck in line with your spine. Don't stick your chin out. Don't hold your breath. To keep chest and shoulders open, keep your elbows out of your line of vision.
No. 7: Bent-Over Row
Why it's a winner: The bent-over row works all the major muscles of the upper back, as well as the biceps.
How to: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, bend knees, and flex forward at the hips, then engage the abdominals and extend spine to add support. Hold weights beneath the shoulders with hands shoulder-width apart. Flex elbows and lift both hands toward the sides of body. Pause, then slowly lower hands to the starting position.
Bent-Over Rows: Tips for Beginners
Beginners should perform the move without weights. If you have trouble doing this exercise standing up, support your weight by sitting on an incline bench, facing backward.