4 Workout Moves Top Trainers Swear By

They say strength comes from within, but when it comes to lugging groceries, opening sticky windows, and pulling down heavy boxes from the tippy-top shelf, it sure helps if your muscles have gotten a little action from some well-chosen exercises.

The best ones get at your more neglected muscles while also forcing your body to work in synergy, meaning you’ll get stronger in a way that’s useful to your daily life. And the four moves ahead, each endorsed by a top trainer, do just that. In fact, several showed up on more than one list, with multiple experts assuring us they rely on these exercises themselves.

For a full workout, slip on some of our favorite pieces of Old Navy activewear — made with summer-ready Go-Dry technology — and complete the moves as a circuit, moving from one to the next with little rest in between. Following a full round, take a one-minute breather; then repeat from the top, aiming for three to four sets.

Need even more incentive? This routine requires no pricey gear, class, or gym membership — just a few props you likely already have laying around and your incredibly capable self.
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Photographed by Maciek Jasik.
Lying YTA Raise
“This exercise is all about posture,” says Kendra Coppey Fitzgerald, ACE-certified personal trainer, yoga instructor, and founder and director of Barefoot Tiger, an in-home fitness concierge company. “Oftentimes, we focus on strengthening the muscles we can see (i.e., the muscles of the chest) and neglect the ones we can’t (like the back), which creates major imbalances and a forward slouch.” The lying YTA raise combats that by strengthening the upper back, stabilizing the shoulder joints, and helping to relieve upper-back pain.

How to do it:
Lie flat on your stomach on a mat or carpet. Keeping your toes down, extend your arms overhead into a Y shape. Engaging through your shoulders and core, lift your arms and upper body off the floor, taking care to keep your toes firmly pressed into the ground. Lower down. Now, send arms out to the sides in a T shape. Raise your arms and upper body again in the same manner. Lower down. Finally, slide your arms back along your sides in an A shape. Raise your arms and upper body once more. This sequence is one rep. Do 10 total.
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Photographed by Maciek Jasik.
Single-Leg Deadlift
One word: glutes. For most people, this muscle group is, thanks to sitting a whole lot, weak. “The single-leg deadlift fires up the entire posterior chain while targeting your glutes,” says Greg Justice, MA, owner of AYC Health & Fitness in Kansas City, KS. “Doing one leg at a time forces you to use much more balance and coordination, and your stabilizing muscles have to work that much harder.”

How to do it:
Stand tall with feet hips-width apart. Shift your weight to one foot, putting a micro-bend in that knee. Slowly hinge forward at your hips while sending your non-weight-bearing leg back behind you, so that your back and leg form a single plane. You’ll need to squeeze your glutes, legs, and abs to keep your back flat and moving leg extended straight. Only lower your chest to the point that you can keep your leg in the same plane — you may not end up at 90 degrees, and that’s totally okay. Then, slowly and with control, use the power of your standing leg to bring yourself back to your starting position. Do 10 reps on one side before switching to the other.
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Photographed by Maciek Jasik.
Incline Push-Up
“Push-ups are one of the best exercises to build overall strength,” says Jaime Morocco, NASM-certified personal trainer and owner and founder of Jaime Morocco Fitness, an online personal-training and nutrition-coaching company. “They engage your core, shoulders, arms, back, and chest.” Doing the move on an incline allows you to keep your body in one continuous line, bringing a greater focus to core strength as well as synchronicity among all of your muscles. The added height also takes some of the onus off your arms, so you can do a deeper, full-range movement with your upper body.

How to do it:
Place your hands on a sturdy, elevated surface, such as a countertop or bench. The higher the object, the easier this move is. Set your body in a tight plank position; the trick is to squeeze your glutes, thus letting the core and hamstrings do all the stabilizing work. As you inhale, bend your arms back and send your chest slightly forward and down. Your elbows should form an A shape with your head at the top point. Exhale as you press up. If it’s too much of a struggle to get that full range of movement, place your hands on a higher object (or even a wall) until you can comfortably do 10 push-ups with good form.
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Photographed by Maciek Jasik.
V-Up
It’s tough to find a perfect anything exercise, and that’s especially true for the abs and core, given that these muscles are responsible for stabilizing basically every move you make. The V-Up is the closest you can get. “You’ll feel your rectus abdominus [six-pack muscle], external obliques [side-waist muscles], and even your quads,” says Ciara Delgado, ACE-certified personal trainer and personal training coordinator at Charlotte Athletic Club in Charlotte, NC. Plus, because you’re not crunching up as you do in, well, crunches, your posture stays intact and those back muscles serve to stabilize, rather than collapse.

How to do it:
Lie flat on your back on a mat or carpet. Holding a body bar, broomstick, or nothing at all (don’t worry, you’ll still feel it!), fully extend your body, arms overhead in a Y shape. Using your abs, simultaneously lift your upper body and lower body, hinging at the hips, so your hands and feet meet in the air and you end up in a tight V shape. Slowly lower back down — this is actually the most important part — and the key word is “slowly.” Do 10 reps.
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