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Fitness

Six Go-To Exercises You Should be Doing

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By Kristin Hedstrom

Designing workouts is one of my favorite topics, because it’s something I do every single week - for myself, for my personal training clients, and my monthly membership team.

It might seem like building a workout is a fairly straightforward endeavor; you just pick a few and roll, right? But if you want to have an effective workout that gets you results, there’s actually much more to it than that. 

Let’s say I’m designing a workout routine for my membership. I sit down, take a look at how the classes have been progressing, assess the areas I want the women to move forward in, look at their past few workouts (gotta keep the routines fresh, which is great for both body + mind!), and start writing out exercises. 

I typically put down the most important exercises first and build from there, making sure I incorporate one thing:

 

Variety.

 

Variety is an essential component to any workout because the body responds really well to new stimuli. If you’re still doing the one routine a trainer taught you 15 years ago or turning on the same PopSugar YouTube workout every week, your body will stop making changes. It will have adapted to doing those same exercises week in and week out rather than making continual improvements and building strength.

In order to make real gains, you need to mix it up.

 

What does that look like in a workout?

  • Your workout uses your full body: arms, back, core, and legs
  • It contains static and dynamic movements
  • The exercises use multiple planes of motion (front to back, side to side, and twisting) 
  • It incorporates both faster jumping (plyometric) motions and slower strength exercises
  • It includes balance exercises 

Without signing up for personal training or a workout class, you might be unsure what exercises are the ones you should be focusing on - and how to do them correctly.

Today, I want to share with you the six exercises you should be incorporating into your workouts. 

Out of the hundreds of different exercises and variations I use with my clients or do in my own workouts, these are six of the all-time best ones. 

Each of these movements will challenge you in different ways, making your body stronger, faster, and more fit. 

Here are the six exercises you should start incorporating into your workout routine:

 

01. SQUATS  

#1 reason why they’re good for you: 

Functional fitness. Squats are a movement you do every day, whether it’s getting up from a chair, getting out of the car, picking up a bag of groceries off the ground, or grabbing your purse off the ground as you head out the door. 

Doing squats in your workout not only strengthens the muscles you’re using on a daily basis, but by doing them correctly, you reinforce good posture and body movement. This will make it so much easier to perform these everyday activities. 

 

How to do them correctly: 

  • Stand with your feet at hip width. This means that your feet should be directly under your hip joints. 
  • Point your toes forward. There are variations to this where you’d point them slightly out, but start with them forward. 
  • Shift your body weight into your heels and squat down by moving your butt back behind you
  • Keep your upper body posture as you squat down. If you’re looking at yourself in the mirror, make sure you can see the logo on your shirt as you do these. This will make sure your back stays flat and engaged. 
  • Make sure your legs stay parallel as you squat down and up. Don’t let your knees wobble or collapse in towards each other. Focus on squeezing your butt to make this happen. 

 

For an extra challenge: 

Hold a weight at your chest. Make sure you keep the weight close to you rather than holding it far away. (psst! This goes for normal life, too. If you’re picking up a heavy bag of groceries, stand right over it rather than reaching forward and putting extra strain on your low back.)

 

02. SQUAT JUMPS

 #1 reason why they’re good for you: 

In addition to building crazy strength and boosting your metabolism, impact exercises like this (also called plyometric exercises) build bone density. 

 

How to do them correctly: 

  • Similar to squats, stand with your feet at hip width. Squat down, making sure you keep your back flat and your knees don’t cave in towards each other 
  • After you squat down, jump up as high as you can. Use your arms to help you. 
  • Land softly. As soon as you land, bend your knees and get your butt back behind you again. 

 

For an extra challenge: 

Add in another plane of motion, like side jumps or burpees 

 

03. SIDE SHUFFLE 

Side shuffle is an agility exercise where you squat down and shuffle sideways across the room. It builds hip and inner thigh strength, as well as your calves, abs, and upper back. It also works your balance! 

 

#1 reason why it’s good for you: 

Lateral stability. Think about it: so much of the movement we do as humans is in one plane of motion - forward. Any time we walk, jog, bike, or elliptical, we’re moving forward. 

Doing side to side motions strengthens the muscles that control our bodies in a different plane of motion. This can be incredibly powerful for developing stability and balance. 

 

How to do it correctly: 

  • Squat down about halfway so you engage your leg muscles. 
  • Keep your back flat. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and flex your abs. 
  • Shuffle to the left, jumping as you do it so one foot lands in the same spot the previous foot was. When you get to the end of the room, shuffle back, continuing to go back and forth. 
  • Make sure you keep your toes pointed mostly forward. 

 

For an extra challenge: 

Hold a 10 - 15 pound weight at your chest. Hold it close! 

04. PLANK

#1 reason why it’s good for you: 

Core strength. Planks are one of the best exercises you can do to build core strength, and with endless variations, you’ll never get bored of doing them. Core strength helps improve your posture and makes you stronger and more stable when doing other exercises - or just in everyday life. 

 

How to do it correctly: 

  • Keep your elbows right under your shoulders. 
  • Keep your butt low. You’re looking to create a straight line from your heels to the top of your head. Use a mirror to make sure you’re doing this. 
  • Don't let your low back arch. If you’re doing it correctly, it should feel like you’re drawing your belly button up towards your spine rather than letting it fall towards the ground. You should also feel like you’re tucking your tailbone under rather than letting it point up. 

 

For an extra challenge:

  • Extend one arm straight out in front of you without letting your hips twist. Alternate arms, going back and forth. 

 

05. BENT OVER FLYS

#1 reason why they’re good for you: 

I call this the “anti desk-sitting exercise.” By building the muscles in your upper back and on the back side of your shoulders, you’ll seriously improve your posture.

 

How to do them correctly: 

Hold 5 - 8 lb dumbbells in front of you with your palms facing each other. First, set your posture. Standing with your feet at hip width, roll your shoulders back. Bend over at your hips, keeping a little bend in your knees and keeping your back flat. Your chest should be facing the ground with your hands under your shoulders. Powerfully bring your arms straight out to the sides, then back to where you started, like a bird flapping its wings. Keep a little bend in your arms and get your hands up past your back at the top. 

Think: powerful on the way up, controlled on the way down. 

 

For an extra challenge: 

Add in a touch more weight, but only if you can isolate your arms and not use your back or hips to get the weight up. 

 

06. STANDING ON ONE FOOT 

#1 reason why it’s good for you: 

Balance builds proprioception, which is a fancy word for the body’s ability to know where it is in space. Having this self-awareness builds confidence in your ability to move and prevents falls (which prevents broken bones!). 

 

How to do it correctly: 

  • Stand up tall with good posture 
  • Holding your abs strong, and staring at one spot on the ground, lift one foot off the ground. 
  • Avoid letting one leg “hug” the other one, or push right up onto it

 

For an extra challenge: 

Close your eyes. So much harder, but well worth it! 

That’s it! Those are the six exercises to start incorporating into your workout routine. Remember: variety is important here so make sure you include different planes of motion, muscle groups, plyometrics, and balance, regardless of what workout you do. 

I hope this gives you a framework as you head into your next workout. And as always, if you need more ideas, reach out over email or Instagram

Now get to it! Your next workout might just be your best yet.

a personal trainer, wellness expert, and an Olympic athlete. When I’m not dreaming up a big weekend brunch, you’ll find me helping women live healthier, more balanced lives. 

tell me more...

you'll love

3 easy weekday lunches

free at-home workout

3 secrets i've learned after helping hundreds of women lose weight

I'm Kristin

freebies

categories

top

weight loss

fitness

nutrition

wellness

olympics

personal

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I’m an east coaster turned Californian, personal trainer, and wellness expert who went from being the worst kid on every middle school team sport to representing Team USA at the Olympic Games (yup, ya read that right). 

My process has helped hundreds of women get fit and finally find sustainable health instead of yo-yo dieting, and it’ll do the same for you. I know you want to feel confident and in control, like, yesterday. I’ll teach you the tried and true techniques to ditching the all-or-nothing diet mentality and building balanced habits that ACTUALLY fit into your life. 

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