7 best fitness exercises to get a lean body

Experts say there is no magic to doing fitness exercises: you get out of it with what you put in. This does not mean that you have to exercise for hours every day. It just means that you need to work smart.

However, experts agree that not all fitness lifting exercises are created equal. Some are simply more efficient than others, whether they target multiple muscle groups, are suitable for a variety of fitness levels, or help you burn calories more effectively.

What are the best fitness exercises?

This question has been asked by a number of fitness experts and we have compiled their favorite list.

1. Walking 

Any exercise program should include cardiovascular exercises, which strengthen the heart and burn calories. Walking is something you can do anywhere, anytime with no equipment other than good shoes.

It's not just for beginners: even highly-fitted people can get a good workout out of walking.

“Doing a brisk walk can burn up to 500 calories an hour,” says Robert Gotlin, MD, director of orthopedic and sports rehabilitation at New York Medical Center.

And since it takes 3,500 calories to lose a pound, you can expect to lose one pound for every seven hours you walk, if you do nothing else.

Richard Cotton, a spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise, says beginners should start with 5 to 10 minutes of walking at a time, gradually building up to at least 30 minutes per session.

He added: "Do not add more than five minutes at a time, and it is also better to extend the walk before increasing the speed or incline."

2. Interval training

Whether you're a beginner, seasoned, exerciser or aerobic dancer, adding interval training to your cardiovascular workout will boost your fitness level and help you lose weight.

“Variing your pace throughout the exercise session stimulates the aerobic system to adapt,” Cotton said.

"The stronger your aerobic system, the more calories you can burn," he added.

The way to do this is to push the intensity or pace for a minute or two, then backtrack anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes (depending on how long the total exercise will take and how much time you need to recover). Keep doing this throughout the exercise.

3. Squats

Experts say strength training is essential. "The more muscular you have, the more calories you can burn," Cotton said.

Our experts tend to favor strength training exercises that target multiple muscle groups. Squats, which work the quadriceps and hamstrings, are an excellent example.

"They give you the best results for the money because they use the most muscle groups at once," said fitness trainer David Petersen.

However, Petersen adds, "What makes exercise practical is how you perform the exercise, and if you have poor technique, it won't pay off."

For a perfect shape, keep your feet shoulder width apart and your back straight. Bend your knees and lower your butt, Cotton says, "The knee should stay above the ankle as much as possible."

For his part, says physical therapist Adam Rofa, of Cicero, New York: Training in a real chair can help.

"Start with the work of getting to the real chair and getting up from it properly," Rofa explained.

Gotlin sees a lot of patients with knee pain, and says weak thigh muscles are often the cause. He pointed out that if you feel pain while descending the stairs, strengthening your quad muscles in a squatting position can help a lot.

Read also: Fitness experts reveal the secret behind the difficulty of getting rid of belly fat

4. Lunges

Lunges like the squat work all the major muscles in the lower body: the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings.

Lunges is a great exercise because it mimics life, it mimics walking, just exaggerated, says Petersen.

Cotton says lunges are a bit more advanced than squats, which helps improve your balance, too.

Here's how to do it right: Take a big step forward, and keep your spine in a neutral position. Bend your front knee to about 90 degrees, focusing on keeping the weight on your back toes and dropping your back knee toward the floor.

"It's the back leg that you need to sit on," Petersen suggests.

To make lunges more effective, says Roffa, try to step not just forward, but back and out to each side.

5. Push-ups

One of the best fitness exercises, if done correctly, pushups can strengthen your chest, shoulders, triceps, and even core core muscles, all at once.

"I love the plank, almost like yoga," Petersen said.

He continued, "Anytime you have your pelvis and heart [abdomen and back] in suspended position, you have to rely on your own sticking strength for stability."

Cotton explains that push-ups can be done at any level of fitness: "For someone at a more beginner level, start pushing from the height of the kitchen table. Then move to a desk, chair, floor with bent knees, and finally the floor on your toes."

Here's how to do the perfect push-up:

From a face down position, place your hands about shoulder width apart.

 Put your toes or knees on the floor, and try to create the perfect diagonal shape for your body, from the shoulders to the knees or feet.

Keep your glutes and abs engaged.

Then lower and raise your body by bending and straightening your elbows, keeping your torso stable throughout.

Rufa says there are always ways to make it more difficult. Once you're in perfect shape, try what he calls a T pushup: Get into a pushup position, then do pushups with one arm raised to the side, balancing on the remaining three limbs without rotating the hips.

6. Abdominal Crunches

The barbell row works all the major muscles in the upper back, as well as the biceps.

Here's how to do it well:

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart

Then bend the knees and bend forward at the hips.

(If you have trouble doing this exercise while standing, support your weight by sitting on an inclined bench, facing back) Tilt your pelvis forward slightly, engage your abdomen, and extend your upper spine to add support.

Hold a dumbbell or barbell below your shoulders, with your hands about shoulder width apart. Bend your elbows and raise both hands toward the sides of your body.

Pause, then slowly lower your hands back to the starting position. (Beginners should perform the movement without weights.)

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