The seemingly endless number of exercises available is enough to make your head spin. Sure, you know the basics, but do you know which exercises are the best ones for a full-body workout?
In general, a strong candidate for the "best" title will be any easy-to-learn exercise that targets multiple muscle groups and gives you the practical strength and muscle tone to meet your fitness goals. Exercises that don't require fancy, expensive equipment earn extra credit.
Here are seven of the best exercises for athletes and fitness junkies looking for a simple and effective full-body workout.
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Push-Ups1 of 8
The push-up might be old school, but it's effective.
There's a reason the push-up is introduced to most folks in elementary school. It works a wide range of muscles, though they primarily target the chest, triceps and core. Individuals typically lift about 60 percent of their body weight when completing a push-up.
There are many different variations of the push-up, so take your pick. Just make sure that push-ups are a part of your training.
Squats2 of 8
The squat is another classic lifting exercise that is especially beneficial to the lower body. The exercise directly works the hips, hamstrings and glutes. It also indirectly strengthens your core and even your upper body if done with weight.
Amateur weightlifters oftentimes focus on their upper body and neglect the lower half. Don't fall for that. Any training regimen should work the entire body and squats are an essential piece. They're that good for you.
Lunges3 of 8
This brilliantly simple exercise isn't for the fitness weary. The exercise does triple duty by extensively working the quadriceps, the glutes and the hamstrings. Still want more? Hold a dumbbell in each hand while performing the lunge.
Like most exercises, lunges can be executed in various ways. The traditional lunge is completed in a stationary position working one leg at a time. Want a change of scenery? Pick a target, say, 50 yards away, and lunge your way toward it. Either way, your legs will be begging for mercy as you finish up.
Pike Roll-Out4 of 8
A 2010 study by the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy found, that of the 10 exercises it tested, the pike roll-out combination was the most effective for core muscles.
To do it, grab a Swiss ball (also known as an exercise ball or stability ball). Get into a push-up position with your feet on top of the ball. Begin by using your core muscles to lift your butt into the air, over your torso. This is the pike portion of the exercise. As you bring your body back down, allow your body to move along the ball until it's under your knees and your arms are now out in front of you. This is the roll-out.
Together, the pike roll-out combination is a challenging exercise that benefits nearly every muscle in your core.
Clean and Jerk5 of 8
The clean and jerk is an explosive lift that targets a lot of useful muscles and can test your endurance. No wonder it's considered the ultimate test of strength in the Olympic Games.
Olympic lifters do the clean and the jerk as one complex lift. Amateur lifters can do them separately.
Begin by snapping the weight to the torso until your arms are under the bar. In an explosive movement, push the bar over your head.
The hang clean is another version, where the lift starts with the bar already hanging in the individual's hands, not on the ground.
There's a reason this single exercise has been labeled the total-body workout. The list is long—hamstrings, biceps, triceps, the back, core, quadriceps and calves are all engaged during this straightforward exercise. No matter what you're hoping to build, the clean and jerk will probably be a great addition to your training.
Burpees6 of 8
It's complicated—and maybe even a little silly—but burpees are one of the best exercises for a reason: They work.
Start in a standing position, squat down and put your hands on the ground, kick your feet out and do a push-up. Tuck your feet back under you, and spring up out of your crouch with a leap. That's a burpee. If you're really feeling wild, put a dumbbell in each hand.
Burpees bring in two other exercises on this list (push-ups and squats) while adding some leg work and a leap for good measure.
Deadlift7 of 8
The deadlift is an old-school lift that builds total-body strength. It's a gimmie for the best-exercise title, but it does come with risks. The wrong technique can injure your back, so it's important to keep it flat throughout the lift. When the deadlift is executed correctly it will strengthen your back as well as your calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, core and forearms.
The lift is simple and with the proper focus and attention to technique it can be completed without injury. The goal is to pick up a weighted bar off the ground and bring it up to your thighs using your whole body. The completion of the lift will have you standing up, your arms straight with the weight hanging.
The deadlift is effective at building strength because the inert weight starts on the ground and must be lifted up in a controlled movement. The lifter doesn't have a chance to use any momentum, hence the "dead" name.