If You Hate Working Out, Just Remember These 8 Exercises

Going into the gym without a plan is like deciding to bake a cake without a recipe: kind of a waste of time and probably not going to end well. Sure, you might have a memorized cardio workout that you know and can tolerate, but when it comes to the other stuff — like strength-training and lifting weights — your "routine" might consist of strolling around the weight room and fiddling with your water bottle.

Luckily, there's an easy and digestible place to start, according to Shelley Traa, ACE-certified personal trainer and fitness manager at 24 Hour Fitness in Carlsbad, CA. "Whatever your daily life entails, none of it is possible without adequate core, back, and arm strength," Traa says. Ahead, Traa shared eight exercises using minimal equipment and mostly body weight that are meant to strengthen these areas.

If you can remember these moves, then you can accomplish a well-rounded workout each time you go to the gym. But this is just a starting "recipe" for a workout, so to speak, and you might not have all the ingredients just yet. So, we've included a few substitutes to make the moves easier, and helpful video tutorials to show you exactly how they're done.


How to: Place your forearms on the ground, with the elbows aligned below the shoulders, and arms parallel to each other, about shoulder-width apart. Place feet hip-width apart or closer together to challenge your stability and make this exercise more difficult. Ground your toes into the floor and squeeze your glutes to stabilize your body. Keep your head in a neutral position by looking at a spot on the floor a few inches in front of you.

Make it easier: If you're having trouble with a forearm plank, try one with the palms of your hands on the floor instead.

How to: Start in a plank position with both hands placed on the floor, shoulder-width apart, and feet placed hip-width apart. Keep your head in a neutral position, meaning you're looking at the floor and your ears are positioned over your shoulders. The rest of your body should be in a straight line from the crown of your head to your heels.

Brace your core, then bend your arms, lowering your body until your arms are at approximately a 90-degree angle and then return to start position with arms fully extended. To make this more challenging, you can place your feet closer together to narrow your base of support.

Make it easier: Can't do a full pushup? Start with one of the modifications in this video.

How to: When learning the mechanics of a pull-up, it can be beneficial to use an assisted pull-up machine, and most gyms have at least one on the floor. To get started, select the pin placement, which determines the amount of weight you will use as support when performing the exercise. Next, pick your grip, which can be wide set, underhand, overhand, or an inside grip (this video demonstrates a few different grips and explains the muscles they target) based on the machine. If it's your first time using this machine, start with the inside or "close" grip, where your palms are facing each other.

As the support arm sinks, the platform will move with you. Allow the platform to drop until your arms are fully extended and begin the pull-up from a dead hang. Keep your core engaged and your glutes tight, exhale as you pull your body up — this will help to avoid any swinging or momentum, and make the exercise more effective.

Make it easier: The somewhat misleading thing about this machine is that when you set the weight, you're actually setting a "counterweight," which works against your bodyweight to support you throughout the entire range of motion. So, it'll be easier if the weight is higher.

How to: Stand with your feet just wider than your hips, toes pointed slightly outward. Find a spot on the wall in front of you that is eye-level, to avoid looking down at the floor or up at the ceiling. Keep your chest up and shoulders back and down to avoid rounding your back. Be careful not to over accentuate the natural arch of your back as you drop down into squat position.

Your feet should remain flat on the floor, with your weight evenly distributed, as you descend and ascend through the movement. Make sure the movement starts at the hips by pushing them back as if you were going to sit on a chair. Keep knees in line with your toes during the movement.

Make it easier: Figuring out how to squat can be challenging, even if it is just "like sitting in a chair." The ideal depth involves having your hips lower than your knees, but it's totally cool to work your way up to that.
Forward Lunge

How to: Stand upright with your legs approximately hip-width apart and your arms to your sides or on your hips. Keep your chest up, shoulders back and down. Take one step forward with your right leg, dropping your hips toward the floor so both knees are at about 90-degree angles. Squeeze your glutes as you push up to your starting position through the front heel. Repeat with your left leg.

Make it easier: Try not to look at the floor or the ceiling, and instead focus on a point in front of you to steady yourself. If you still feel wobbly, start with one foot in front (legs straight) of the other and lower into a lunge from that position. (This video also breaks down some reasons why you might not be able to lower down into the full lunge.) When you're ready, you can add the step forward.
Glute Bridge

How to: Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Place your arms flat on the floor, with palms down to help with stability. Your feet should be hip-width apart, and placed where your fingertips can just barely brush your heels, with your toes pointed straight forward. Squeeze your glutes and lift your hips off the ground, pushing your weight through your heels. Your body should create a diagonal line from your knees to your chest. Hold at the top for a couple seconds, then return to the floor.

Make it easier: Before you raise your hips, think about engaging your abdominal muscles by flattening your lower back into the mat or floor. This will make it slightly easier to rise up, and ensures that you won't overextend your back. Once you have that down, there are dozens of ways to make this glute bridge harder, as demonstrated in the video.
Conventional Barbell Deadlift

How to: Stand behind a barbell, so that your shins nearly touch it and your shoelaces are directly under the bar. Your feet should be hip-width apart, and your toes should be pointed outward slightly. Engage your back and core while you're standing, and glue your shoulder blades down to your back. Then, grab the barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. You can keep both palms facing your shins, or use a "mixed grip," meaning one hand is facing away from you. Lift the weight up to stand, keeping the bar in contact with your shins.

Push your hips back, keeping a slight bend in your knees and your back straight, and lower the bar to the top of the feet. Then, lift the bar by squeezing your glutes and pressing your hips forward until you're standing upright. If your upper body starts to round, pull your shoulders back and repeat.

Make it easier: Deadlift form can be really tricky at first, so start with a light weight. You should feel this exercise in your glutes and hamstrings — not your back. If you notice your upper body rounding slightly, pull your shoulders back and start over.
Bench Tricep Dip

How to: Sit on a bench or chair with your palms placed down on the edge of the seat. Carefully move your butt off the seat by walking your feet out away from the seat; you should feel your weight mostly in your arms. Lower your body down until your arms are at approximately 90-degree angles. Press back to your starting position, keeping your shoulders back, chest up, and butt close to the chair.

Make it easier: Because of the way your shoulders are positioned in this exercise, it can be uncomfortable for people with weak or injured shoulders. (For this reason, some trainers say that it's more effective to do dumbbell tricep extensions.) Proceed with caution, and stop if you feel any tightness or discomfort in your shoulders.
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