Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on August 11, 2021

Getting fit has a lot of benefits. You may find that an exercise routine makes you feel more self-confident about how you look. Exercise also increases energy and endurance, which may help you feel better overall. Exercise can also reduce your risk of certain health issues, such as heart disease and stroke.

Why Build Muscle?

If you want to make the most of your time working out, you can choose moves that work many muscles at once. These exercises often mimic the kinds of movements you do every day. They help build functional fitness, which can help make everyday tasks and activities easier.

Lunges, squats, and bridges all work the muscles in your legs and core. Core strength is important for general well-being. It can help prevent lower back pain, build endurance, and improve balance.

How to Do Lunges

Lunges work all the muscles in your thighs, so many people think of them as a lower-body exercise. They also work your core muscles. Adding lunges to your workout will strengthen your lower abdominal muscles. It will also help strengthen your lower back muscles and your legs.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Place your hands on your hips and engage the muscles in your torso
  3. Take a big step forward with one leg.
  4. Lower your other leg down by bending your knee. Your thigh should be parallel to the ground. Your front knee should not move in front of your front foot. Don’t touch your back knee to the ground.
  5. Hold for a count of 3.
  6. Slowly step into your heel to spring back to the starting position.
  7. Repeat with the other side.

Do 8 to 10 lunges on each leg.

You can also try these variations on lunges:

  • Reverse lunge. Instead of stepping forward and lowering yourself down, step backward into the lunge position.
  • Lateral lunge. Keeping your body square, step out to one side and sink into a bent knee. Let your other leg stretch without bending that knee.
  • Walking lunge. Do a forward lunge, but bring your back foot forward to meet your front foot as you rise — like you have taken a giant step. Repeat on the other side.
  • Lunge with weight. You can increase the difficulty of lunges by holding a weight. You can hold dumbbells down by your sides, extend dumbbells or a barbell out in front of you, or hold a weight above your head. ‌

How to Do Squats

Squats target the major muscles in your upper legs, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles. They increase hip strength for better balance. By keeping your core engaged and your spine straight during a squat, you will tone the muscles in your abdomen, sides, and lower back, as well.

  1. Stand facing forward with your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider.
  2. Extend your hands in front of you, or place them behind your head.
  3. Bend at your knees and hips as if you are lowering your body into a chair.
  4. Keep your spine straight, and don’t curve it forward. Keep your chin up.
  5. Squat down as low as you can, pushing your weight back into your heels.
  6. Slowly rise up to return to the start.

‌Repeat 12 to 15 times.

You can also try these variations on squats:

  • Squats with weights. You can hold a dumbbell in each hand while you do squats. Allow your arms to stay down by your sides as you lower and raise your body.
  • Squats with resistance. Hold a resistance band in each hand and stand on the center of it. Keep your hands at your sides as you lower and raise your body. You’ll feel the tension in the band as you come back up from the squatting position.
  • Chair squats. Place a chair behind you and lower yourself to the edge of the seat. This is helpful if you are concerned about falling during a workout.
  • One legged squats. Try doing squats with one leg raised. This increases the intensity of the exercise.

How to Do Hip Bridges

The bridge exercise works the muscles in your backside and lower back. This can help reduce back pain caused by muscle fatigue. Strengthening these muscles can also improve balance and posture.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent. ‌
  2. Engage your abdominal muscles and slowly raise your hips off the floor.
  3. Bring your hips up, so they are aligned with your knees and shoulders. ‌
  4. Hold for three deep breaths.
  5. Return to the start position.

Repeat 5 to 10 times.

You can try these variations on hip bridges:

  • Bridge with fitness ball. Lie on your back with your legs resting on a fitness ball. Raise your hips to form a line from feet to knees to hips to shoulders.
  • Walking feet out. While in a typical bridge position, walk your feet away from your body. Then bring them back to the starting position.
  • Foot raises. While in the bridge position, slowly raise your foot to straighten the leg. Lower it back down and repeat with the other leg.

Talk to your doctor if you’re not sure if you’re healthy enough to do squats, lunges, or bridges. They can help you plan a fitness routine that will work for you.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Harvard Health Publishing: "Strengthening your core: Right and wrong ways to do lunges, squats, and planks."

Mayo Clinic: "Bridge pose," "Bridge with fitness ball," "Core Strength Exercises," "Functional fitness training: Is it right for you?" "Lunge exercise," "Squat exercise," "Squat with dumbbell," "Squat with resistance tubing."

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