Best Total Body Workout: Swimming
To target all your muscles, hop in the pool. Both your upper and lower body will be working, and to maintain proper alignment, your abs and back will get in on it too. Another key reason that trainers choose swimming: It's low impact, so you're less likely to get injured. In addition to an aerobic workout, the water adds resistance, giving your muscles another challenge.
Note: If you're going to make swimming your primary form of exercise, complement it with weight bearing exercise such as walking, jogging, tennis, or weight lifting. This will help keep your bones strong.
Best Ab Workout: Crunches on an Exercise Ball
This won top honors because it's an intense workout that allows you a greater range of motion. "Balancing on the ball requires the core stabilizer muscles in your back to contract, in addition to the abdominal muscles," said one personal trainer. It takes less time to fatigue, so you don't have to do as many of these as you would traditional floor crunches.
"It's also the hardest exercise to cheat on," said another trainer. Since this is an exercise that ranks high on difficulty, beginners may want to start with crunches on the floor.
How to do Crunches: Position the ball so that it's supporting your back. Your feet should be flat on the floor. Start with your arms extended in front of you, then slowly curl up. Hold, then lower. For more of a challenge, place your hands behind your head.
Best Butt Workout: Lunges and Squats (tie)
These moves were chosen for many of the same reasons: You can do several variations, you can do them anywhere, and they work your leg muscles in addition to your gluteal muscles.
Here's what one trainer had to say: "Lunges help develop balance and posture." While another chose squats because they "simulate everyday functions such as getting up from your chair. As we age, strong legs become a necessity for balance, hip stabilization, and coordination."
How to do Lunges: Place your right foot about 2 to 3 feet in front of you. Keeping your right knee directly over the ankle, bend that knee, at the same time dropping your left knee toward the floor. Your left heel will come off the floor. Don't lean forward. Hold, then press into your right foot to push yourself back up. Repeat with your left leg in front.
For a more advanced move, start with your feet together and step forward or backward into the lunge. Then push yourself back up to the starting position. Note: If you have knee problems, you may want to skip this exercise and do partial squats only.
How to do Squats: Stand with your back to a chair and your feet about shoulder width apart. Bending at the hips and knees, lower your butt until it's almost touching the chair. Looking down, you should be able to see your toes as you bend. If all you see are knees, you're bending too far forward; keep your knees behind your toes. Then slowly stand up.
For a greater challenge, hold dumbbells at your sides. If you have knee problems, stick with partial squats-lower yourself only halfway to the chair.
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