7 Most Effective Exercises
Experts offer their favorite moves for making the most of your workout time.
3. Squats continued...
"What makes an exercise functional is how you perform
the exercise," he says. "If you have bad technique, it's no longer
For perfect form, keep feet shoulder-width apart and
back straight. Bend knees and lower your rear, says Cotton: "The knee should
remain over the ankle as much as possible."
"Think of how you sit down in a chair, only the chair's
not there," suggests Gotlin.
Physical therapist Adam Rufa, of Cicero, N.Y., says
practicing with a real chair can help.
"Start by working on getting in and out of a real chair
properly," he says. Once you've mastered that, try just tapping the chair with
your bottom, then coming back up. Then do the same motion without the
Gotlin sees lots of patients with knee pain, and says quadriceps
weakness is the cause much of the time. If you feel pain going down stairs, he says,
strengthening your quads with squats may very well help.
Like squats, lunges work all the major muscles of the
lower body: gluteals, quadriceps, and hamstrings.
A lunge is a great exercise because it mimics life, it
mimics walking," only exaggerated, says Petersen.
Lunges are a bit more advanced than squats, says
Cotton, helping to improve your balance as well.
Here's how to do them right: Take a big step forward,
keeping your spine in a neutral position. Bend your front knee to approximately
90 degrees, focusing on keeping weight on the back toes and dropping the knee
of your back leg toward the floor.
Petersen suggests that you imagine sitting on your back
foot. "The trailing leg is the one you need to sit down on," he
To make a lunge even more functional, says Rufa, try
stepping not just forward, but back and out to each side.
"Life is not linear, it's multiplanar," says Rufa. And
the better they prepare you for the various positions you'll move in during the
course of a day, the more useful exercises are.
If done correctly, the push-up can strengthen the
chest, shoulders, triceps, and even the core trunk muscles, all at one time.
"I'm very much into planking exercises, almost yoga-type moves," says
Petersen. "Anytime you have the pelvis and the core [abdominals and back] in a
suspended position, you have to rely on your own adherent strength to stabilize
Push-ups can be done at any level of fitness, says
Cotton: "For someone who is at a more beginning level, start by pushing from
the kitchen-counter height. Then work your way to a desk, a chair, the floor
with bent knees, and, finally, the floor on your toes."
Here's how to do a perfect push-up: From a face-down
position, place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Place your
toes or knees on the floor, and try to create a perfect diagonal with your
body, from the shoulders to the knees or feet. Keep the glutes [rear-end
muscles] and abdominals engaged. Then lower and lift your body by bending and
straightening your elbows, keeping your torso stable throughout.
There are always ways to make it harder, says Rufa.
Once your form is perfect, try what he calls the "T-stabilization" push-up: Get
into push-up position, then do your push-ups with one arm raised out to the
side, balancing on the remaining three limbs without rotating your