10 Effective Exercises to Try ...

If you’re like most people, you made a resolution to be more fit this year. Good for you! It’s not an easy resolution to keep, especially if you’re not sure where to begin. I can help! Here’s a list of 10 very effective exercises to try, targeting your abs, glutes, and core. Be sure to give yourself plenty of room, turn on your favorite music, and go for it!

1. Squats

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Targets: Glutes (your bootie!)
How to: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with a solid, balanced footing. Keeping your back straight, slowly lower yourself (with your hips) as though you were sitting down in a chair. Make sure to keep your heels firmly on the floor, and lower yourself to no more than a 90 degree angle. Raise yourself slowly, and repeat as many times as you comfortably can, then pause between sets and try again. When you’re comfortable with your position and form, try adding a little weight. If you have difficulty keeping your blance, try holding your arms straight out in front of you.

2. Lunges

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Targets: Glutes (your bootie!)
How to: Stand with your feet together, your arms at your sides, and your back straight. Step forward with your right leg, while kneeling with your left. Do not let your knee touch the ground; stop about a half-inch from the floor. Stand straight again, in your original position, then repeat, stepping forward with your left leg, and kneeling on your right. Repeat twenty times for each leg. For more of a challenge, add hand weights. If you have difficulty maintaining your balance, put your hands on your hips.

3. Crunches

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Targets: Abs and core
How to: Lie flat on your back with your knees drawn up. Cross your arms across your chest, but do NOT hold your neck or sides. Using your stomach and back muscles (but NOT YOUR NECK), raise yourself up towards your knees. Stop about ¾ of the way up, then lower yourself SLOWLY down, “crunching” your abdominal muscles all the way down. Repeat twenty times. Another version, in case you get bored: bend your knees and raise your legs off of the ground, so your calves are parallel to the ground.

4. Leg Lifts

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Targets: Abs and core
How to: Lie flat on your back. Intertwine the fingers of both hands and place them under your tailbone. Keeping your back straight and your shoulders flat, raise both legs about six to ten inches off of the ground. Hold for fifteen to thirty second, then slowly lower them again. Repeat ten to fifteen times. To change it up, you may also kick your legs while they’re in the air. Or, for another variation, combine this with a crunch, and allow your abdominal muscles to “crunch,” raising your back off of the ground slightly. Feel the burn!

5. Back Extensions

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Targets: Lower back and core
How to: This is very similar to the Leg Lifts. Lie flat on your stomach with your arms crossed under your chin. Raise your legs off of the ground behind you, and either kick them, or just leave them fixed, for fifteen seconds. Slowly lower them to the ground. Repeat for a set of fifteen to twenty. The trick is to make sure your abdomen remains flat on the ground the entire time. You can also try this variation: raise your arms and chest off of the ground, too, but be sure to bend up at your waist, and keep your back straight.

6. Push-ups

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Targets: Core muscles, triceps, and chest
How to: This is what most personal trainers consider to be the “perfect” exercise, because when done correctly, it works so many muscle groups, and because it uses your own body weight as resistance. The trickiest part of doing a push-up is maintaining a straight body line during the entire exercise. To execute a perfect push-up, also make sure your chest doesn’t actually touch the ground — you should lower yourself about two inches from the ground and then come back up.

7. Windmills

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Targets: Core
How to: Stand with your feet a little more than shoulder’s width apart, hands on your hips. Bending at the waist, but keeping your back straight, touch your left fingers to your right toe, return to your original position, then touch your right fingers to your left toe. Repeat twenty times for each right/left combo. You can also try this variation: using a kettlebell (weight), raise your left arm with one weight, while touching your right fingers to your right toes. Repeat the right/left combo. Fun!

8. Lateral Shoulder Raise

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Targets: Shoulders
How to: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with your knees loose. Choose a set of dumbbells in a weight that’s comfortable for you (you can add more later), and hold one dumbbell in each hand at your sides. Slowly raise your arms, straight out, to just below your shoulders. Hold for three seconds, and slowly lower your arms. Do not lock your elbows, or “bounce” on the way up or on the way down. Repeat for a set of ten or fifteen, then pause and do another one or two sets. This will tone and define your shoulders, and for increased results, simply gradually increase the weight of the dumbbells you’re using.

9. Canoe Twist

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Targets: Abs and core
How to: Stand with your feet slightly apart with your hands clasped together in front of you at waist level. Exhale, then twist your arms, shoulders, and torso to your right (as if rowing a canoe), while raising your right leg, bent at the knee. Repeat for twenty reps, switching “rowing” sides. It sounds odd, but believe me, you’ll feel the burn.

10. Cat Kick

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Targets: Abs and core
How to: Stand with your feel slightly apart, with your arms outstretched at your sides, like an “airplane.” While raising your right leg straight out (don’t bend your knee!), stretch your arms out together in front of you, and round your back like a cat. Inhale, then return to your original position. Alternate to the left leg, and repeat for twenty repetitions. According to WebMD, when you’re in the back-arch position, you ought to feel like your navel is pressing back on your spine. It doesn’t really feel that way to me, but then again, I’m just focused on finishing my set! These are hard!

This set of exercises won’t take long to do, and is also a fantastic cardio workout! Be sure to pause for fifteen seconds between sets, and keep hydrated! You’ll see results quickly, within two weeks, but be prepared to be a bit sore after the first few days. Do you have an exercise you think is perfect? What muscle groups does it target? Please let me know!

Top Photo Credit: Method Fitness

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