Five Exercises You Must Do - The Most Effective Strength Training Exercises

by Paige Waehner ( Healthy Lifestyle Consultant )

What's the number one reason you don't exercise? If you said lack of time, I hear you! Everyone is busy and we all want ways to squeeze our workouts into an already full day. Well, you'll have to look for a new reason to skip your workouts because I've found the answer. I surveyed personal trainers all over the U.S. and asked them: "If you only had five exercises for your clients, which ones would they be?"

1. Squats.
Why They Rock: Most trainers agree that squats are one of the best exercises you can do. Squats work your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves all at once.
How to Do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart, toes facing straight ahead or angled slightly outward. Slowly bend the knees and lower hips towards the floor, keeping your torso straight and abs pulled in tight.
Keep your knees behind your toes; make sure everything's pointing in the same direction. Do not go lower than 90 degrees. Do this move 2-3 non-consecutive days a week for 12-16 reps. See how it's done or check out more in-depth info.

2. Push Ups.
Why They Rock: Push ups, like squats, are compound movements using almost all the muscles of your body. You'll work your chest, shoulders, triceps, back and abs.
How to Do It: Position yourself face down on the floor, balancing on your toes/knees and hands. Your hands should be wider than shoulders, body in a straight line from head to toe. Don't sag in the middle and don't stick your butt up in the air. Slowly bend your arms and lower your body to the floor, stopping when your elbows are at 90 degrees. Exhale and push back up. Variations include incline, decline, wall pushups or, for masochists, one-armed pushups. Do this move 2-3 non-consecutive days a week and add a rep each time you do the exercise. See how it's done.

3. Lunges.
Why They Rock: Like squats, lunges work most of the muscles in your legs including your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves.
How to Do It: Stand in a split-stance (one leg forward, one leg back). Bend knees and lower body into a lungeposition, keeping the front knee and back knee at 90 degree angles. Keeping the weight in your heels, push back up (slowly!) to starting position. Never lock your knees at the top and don't let your knee bend past your toes. Variations: front lunges, back lunges and side lunges. Do this exercise 2-3 times per week for 12 to 16 reps. See how it's done.

4. The Plank.
Why It Rocks: The plank (or hover) is an isolation move used in Pilates and Yoga and works the abs, back, arms and legs. The plank also targets your internal abdominal muscles.
How to Do It: Lie face down on mat with elbows resting on floor next to chest. Push your body off the floor in a pushup position with body resting on elbows or hands. Contract the abs and keep the body in a straight line from head to toes. Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat as many times as you can. For beginners, do this move on your knees and gradually work your way up to balancing on your toes. See how it's done.

5. Lat Pulldown
Why It Rocks: The lat pulldown works on the major muscles of your back (the latissmus dorsi), which helps you burn calories and, of course, strengthen your back.
How to Do It: Sit on the lat pulldown machine and hold the bar with palms out and wider than shoulders. Pull your abs in and lean back slightly. Bend your elbows and pull the bar down towards your chin, contracting the outer muscles of your back. Do this exercise 2-3 times a week using enough weight to complete 12-16 repetitions. If you don't have access to a gym, try bent over rows. See how it's done.

If you have a busy schedule, incorporating these five moves 2 or 3 times a week will help strengthen your muscles and bones, as well as burn more calories. Don't forget to do some cardio exercise as well!
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