I have come across many studies touting different ways to top fitness work out. There is no common fitness workout plan, which can work for everyone. It all depends a lot on one’s goal – someone training to build muscle mass may hit the gym differently than someone looking for weight loss. Some definite trends have emanated of late in regard to working out for general fitness, and especially regarding how to bring out the peak metabolic response—that “afterburn” impact of continued calorie consumption for up to 48 hours after a workout session. What the studies have in common: resistance training, using heavy-but-manageable loads, alternately working out multiple muscle groups, doing by turns rotating through the exercises with little or no rest in between.
After reviewing many studies and science based research papers, we have compiled a list of 10 top fitness exercises that you can include in your fitness plan.
1. Dumbbell Front Squats:
(i) Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, holding a pair of light dumbbells down by your sides. Raise the dumbbells up to your shoulders so that one end of each dumbbell rests on top of each shoulder. Balance the dumbbells on your shoulder by holding on to dumbbells with elbows facing forward. This will be your starting position.
(ii) Keeping your head facing forward, your back straight, and your chest high, squat down by bending your hips back while allowing knees to come forward slightly, keeping your back straight and knees pointed in the same direction as your feet. Descend until your thighs are at parallel, or just past parallel to floor.
(iii) To return to the starting position, extend your knees and hips until your legs are straight. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
2. Dumbbell Shoulder Presses:
(i) While holding a dumbbell in each hand, sit on a military press bench or utility bench that has back support. Place the dumbbells upright on top of your thighs.
(ii) Now raise the dumbbells to shoulder height one at a time using your thighs to help propel them up into position.
(iii) Make sure to rotate your wrists so that the palms of your hands are facing forward. This is your starting position.
(iv) Now, exhale and push the dumbbells upward until they touch at the top.
(v) Then, after a brief pause at the top contracted position, slowly lower the weights back down to the starting position while inhaling.
(vi) Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Total Fitness Tips:
(i) You can perform this exercise standing or sitting on a regular flat bench. For people with lower back problems, the version described is the recommended one.
(ii) You can also perform the exercise as Arnold Schwarzenegger used to do it, which is to start holding the dumbbells with a supinated grip (palms facing you) in front of your shoulders and then, as you start pushing up, you align the dumbbells in the starting position described on step 3 by rotating your wrists and touch the dumbbells at the top. As you come down, then you would go back to the starting position by rotating the wrist throughout the lowering portion until the palms of your hands are facing you. This variation is called the Arnold Press. However, it is not recommended if you have rotator cuff problems.
3. Barbell Bentover Rows:
(i) Holding a barbell with a pronated grip (palms facing down), bend your knees slightly and bring your torso forward, by bending at the waist, while keeping the back straight until it is almost parallel to the floor. Tip: Make sure that you keep the head up. The barbell should hang directly in front of you as your arms hang perpendicular to the floor and your torso. This is your starting position.
(ii) Now, while keeping the torso stationary, breathe out and lift the barbell to you. Keep the elbows close to the body and only use the forearms to hold the weight. At the top contracted position, squeeze the back muscles and hold for a brief pause.
(iii) Then inhale and slowly lower the barbell back to the starting position.
(iv) Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Total Fitness Tip: You can perform the same exercise using a supinated (palms facing you) grip.
(i) This exercise is not recommended for people with back problems. A Low Pulley Row is a better choice for people with back issues.
(ii) Also, just like with the bent knee dead-lift do it if you have a healthy back, and ensure perfect form and never slouch the back forward as this can cause back injury.
(iii) Take care with the weight used; in case of doubt, use less weight rather than more.
4. Dumbbell Split Squats (each side):
(i) Position yourself into a staggered stance with the rear foot elevated and front foot forward.
(ii) Hold a dumbbell in each hand, letting them hang at the sides. This will be your starting position.
(iii) Begin by descending, flexing your knee and hip to lower your body down. Maintain good posture through out the movement. Keep the front knee in line with the foot as you perform the exercise.
(iv) At the bottom of the movement, drive through the heel to extend the knee and hip to return to the starting position.
5. Dumbbell Chest Presses on Swiss Ball: For an exercise that strengthens both your chest and core muscles, turn to the chest press. While it’s a move commonly done on a weight bench, adding a stability ball not only engages your upper body but your butt and hamstrings, too. Here’s how it’s done:
(i) Grab a pair of dumbbells, sit on a Swiss ball, and then walk your feet out until your upper back is supported by the ball ((positioning the ball underneath your mid to upper back). Hold the dumbbells over your chest with your arms, palms facing forward. With your hips lifted, exhale as you press the weights toward the ceiling. Hold this position for a second.
(ii) Slowly lower the weights back to the starting position, and repeat — use your abs to keep your body still.
Total Fitness Tips:
(i) Keep your feet flat on the floor with your ankles directly under your knees.
(ii) Make sure to only use your chest and arm muscles to lift the weight, not momentum.
6. Wide-Grip Pullups:
(i) Take a wide grip on a pull-up bar with fingers facing away from you, hanging freely with your arms extended. This will be your starting position.
(ii) Pull yourself up by flexing the elbows and adducting the glenohumeral joint. Do not swing or use momentum to complete the movement. Attempt to get your chin above your hands.
(iii) Pause at the top of the motion before lowering yourself to the starting position.
7. Dumbbell Step-Ups:
(i) Stand up straight while holding a dumbbell on each hand (palms facing the side of your legs).
(ii) Place the right foot on the elevated platform. Step on the platform by extending the hip and the knee of your right leg. Use the heel mainly to lift the rest of your body up and place the foot of the left leg on the platform as well. Breathe out as you execute the force required to come up.
(iii) Step down with the left leg by flexing the hip and knee of the right leg as you inhale. Return to the original standing position by placing the right foot of to next to the left foot on the initial position.
(iv) Repeat with the right leg for the desired amount of repetitions and then perform with the left leg.
Just Fitness Tips:
(i) This is a great exercise for people with lower back problems that are unable to do stiff legged deadlifts.
(ii) Beginners can start with only the bodyweight, especially if they have balance issues.
(iii) Just like lunges, this exercise can also be performed by alternating between the right and the left leg every time until all repetitions have been performed for both legs.
(i) Grab the pull-up bar with the palms facing your torso and a grip closer than the shoulder width.
(ii) As you have both arms extended in front of you holding the bar at the chosen grip width, keep your torso as straight as possible while creating a curvature on your lower back and sticking your chest out. This is your starting position.
Tip: Keeping the torso as straight as possible maximizes biceps stimulation while minimizing back involvement.
(iii) As you breathe out, pull your torso up until your head is around the level of the pull-up bar. Concentrate on using the biceps muscles in order to perform the movement. Keep the elbows close to your body.
Tip: The upper torso should remain stationary as it moves through space and only the arms should move. The forearms should do no other work other than hold the bar.
(iv) After a second of squeezing the biceps in the contracted position, slowly lower your torso back to the starting position; when your arms are fully extended. Breathe in as you perform this portion of the movement.
(v) Repeat this motion for the desired number of repetitions.
9. Barbell Hip Thrusts:
(i) Sit on the floor with your back perpendicular to a weight bench positioned directly behind you. Have a loaded barbell over your legs. Using a fat bar or having a pad on the bar can greatly reduce the discomfort caused by this exercise.
(ii) Roll the bar so that it is directly above your hips. Lean back & rest your shoulders against the bench and bend your knees so your feet are on the floor.
(iii) With your hands holding the barbell in place, press your hips toward the ceiling, extending your hips vertically through the bar as far as possible with your feet remaining flat on the ground directly below your knees. Your weight should be supported by your shoulder blades and your feet. Reverse the motion to return to the starting position.
10. Decline Pushups:
(i) Lie on the floor face down and place your hands about 36 inches apart while holding your torso up at arms length. Move your feet up to a box or bench. This will be your starting position.
(ii) Next, lower yourself downward until your chest almost touches the floor as you inhale.
(iii) Now breathe out and press your upper body back up to the starting position while squeezing your chest.
(iv) After a brief pause at the top contracted position, you can begin to lower yourself downward again and then your upper body back up. Repeat it for as many repetitions as needed.