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7 Most Effective Exercises

Experts offer their favorite moves for making the most of your workout time.
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3. Squats

Strength training is essential, the experts say. "The more muscular fitness you have," says Cotton, "the greater the capacity you have to burn calories."
And our experts tended to favor strength-training exercises that target multiple muscle groups. Squats, which work the quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteals, are an excellent example.

"They give you the best bang for the buck because they use the most muscle groups at once," says Oldsmar, Fla., trainer David Petersen.
Form is key, though, warns Petersen.

"What makes an exercise functional is how you perform the exercise," he says. "If you have bad technique, it's no longer functional."

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 chair.

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.

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