I'm a Trainer, and These Are the Exercises You Need to Start Doing This Year
Instead of sharing a list of exercises I think should be retired (like the crunch — please stop doing crunches!), I decided to compile a list of exercises I think you should be doing more of today, tomorrow, in 2020, and beyond.
For starters, compound exercises are a must. Ask any trainer and they'll tell you that multijoint movements like squats will help you burn more calories and fat because they require more energy to perform. You'll also find that unilateral exercises (single-arm or single-leg exercises) made the list because they help build symmetry on both sides of your body.
It's my hope that these exercises inspire you to try something new and experiment with your workouts to become stronger.
Deadlifts should definitely be included in your total-body and lower-body workouts to strengthen your legs, glutes, and core. Here's a list of deadlift variations you should try.
- Holding the barbell (or two dumbbells at your side), keep your arms straight and knees slightly bent.
- Slowly bend at your hip joint, not your waist, and lower the weights as far as possible without rounding your back, which should remain straight. Looking forward, not at the ground, will help you avoid rounding your back. Keep the weights close to, almost touching, your legs.
- Squeeze your glutes to slowly pull yourself up. Be sure not to use your back or round your spine!
Banded Assisted Pull-Up
Next year is the year you accomplish your goal of doing pull-ups, and adding a band for assistance is key to getting there. Here's a guide on how to master the pull-up.
- Place a large resistance band securely around a pull-up bar. A band with more resistance will provide you with more assistance/momentum to pull yourself up.
- Stand on a stable object (a bench will work), and grip the pull-up bar. With one hand, place the band around the arch of your shoe. Fully extend the banded leg.
- With a neutral spine and your abs engaged, pull yourself up. The band will provide you with momentum to lift your body up. Lower back down to the starting position.
TRX Pistol Squat
Unilateral exercises like the pistol squat will help you improve your strength and stability, and you'll really feel your butt muscles working.
- Start facing the anchor point with the straps at mid-length and your hands on the handles.
- Step back so that there's no slack on the suspension trainer.
- With your feet about hips-width apart, lift your right leg off the ground.
- With your arms fully extended and tension on the suspension trainer, lower down into a squat. Be sure to keep your weight shifted back on your heels while maintaining a neutral spine. Your arms should be extended throughout the entire movement.
- Drive your left heel through the ground as you come into a standing position. There should be a slight bend at your left knee. Be sure not to pull yourself up with your arms. Instead, push yourself up with your leg. This completes one rep.
If you want a stronger core, add the plank into your routine. It's a classic move, and it will work your transverse abdominis (your true core muscles) like no other. Put your skills to the test with this 20-minute plank challenge.
- Start on the floor, resting on your forearms and knees.
- Step your feet out one at a time, coming into a plank position.
- Contract your abs to prevent your booty from sticking up or sinking. Your spine should be parallel to the floor, with your abs pulling toward the ceiling.
Dumbbell Squat Press
Compound exercises like the dumbbell squat press will help improve your strength and help you build more lean muscle.
- Stand with your legs just slightly wider than hip-distance apart, arms raised to shoulder height with elbows bent, holding weights by your ears.
- Bend your knees as if you were sitting in a chair, keeping weight on your heels.
- Press the dumbbells overhead as you straighten your knees to return to standing.
Consider adding more glute-activating exercises into your workouts. Not only will your butt reap the benefits, but you'll also prevent injuries and keep your glute muscles firing efficiently.
- Lie on your back with your hands by your side, and your heels about 12 inches from your pelvis. Press your heels into the floor to come into a bridge position with a neutral spine.
- Press your right heel into the floor, and keeping your knee bent, raise your left leg until your hip is a 90 degrees. Lower your left leg down, pressing through your glutes so your pelvis doesn't drift to the floor along with the leg. This counts as one rep.
If you want to improve your upper-body strength, you can't skip out on the push-ups. Here's a simple trainer tip for mastering the push-up once and for all.
- Start in a plank position, with palms spread out evenly and your shoulders over your wrists and legs out behind you. Pull your belly button in, and keep your back straight.
- As you lower and exhale, bend your elbows outward to the sides. Hold at the bottom before you raise back up to complete one rep.
Bulgarian Split Squat
This squat variation is often overlooked, and I'm warning you now: you'll definitely feel it after a few reps. Not to mention, it'll help improve your stability.
- Grab a pair of 10-pound dumbbells. Begin by placing the toes of your left foot on a bench, box, stair, or chair, with your right leg straight.
- Make sure your right foot is out far enough so that when you lower your hips, your knee stays directly over your ankle.
- Bend your right knee, squeeze your left glute, and lower your pelvis toward the ground.
- Press your right heel into the ground to straighten your right knee. This completes one repetition.
Dumbbell Bench Press
Another way to master moves like pull-ups and push-ups is by doing arm-strengthening exercises like the bench press.
- Grab a set of dumbbells, and sit on a flat workout bench.
- With one dumbbell in each hand resting on your thighs, lie back onto the bench.
- Hold the dumbbells above your chest, shoulder-width apart, creating a 90-degree angle between your upper arm and forearm. Palms should be facing forward.
- Exhale as you push the dumbbells up, fully extending your arms. Hold for one second.
- Inhale and lower the dumbbells to the sides of your chest with control.
- This counts as one rep.
Plank With Knee Tap
If you've already mastered the plank, continue to challenge your core strength with this plank variation. Do this move before your workout to activate your core.
- Start resting on all fours.
- With your palms flat, raise up off your knees onto your toes. Keep your hands directly below your shoulders.
- Contract your abs to keep yourself up and prevent your bottom from sticking up. Remember to keep your belly button pulled in.
- With your head and spine in line, keep your back flat — don't let it curve. Picture your body as a long, straight board.
- With control, slowly tap your left knee to the ground without moving your hips. Lift your left knee back up, returning to the starting position. Repeat the same movement with the right leg. This completes one rep.