If you’re just starting an exercise routine for the first time, you’re probably feeling a mix of emotions. It’s always exciting to try something new, but it can also be equal parts confusing and daunting. But the thing is, when it comes to working out, the best place to start really is at the beginning, with simple and effective exercises that’ll let you build a sturdy base you can use as a jumping off point as you get stronger and stronger.
Below are eight basic exercises that are great for many beginners to start with. Of course, exercise is not one size fits all, and you should absolutely speak with your doctor or another health-care professional you trust before starting a new exercise regimen, especially if you’re unsure whether it’s safe for you. And as you’re working on these exercises, if you’re having trouble maintaining proper form or feel any sort of pain (other than a little post-workout soreness a day or two after), stop and check in with a doctor or physical therapist. A base level of body control, stability, and mobility is needed for these exercises, so you may need to start by taking a closer look at those things.
When you're first learning the following moves, use just your body weight. (There are two you'll need resistance bands for—more on that below.) Adding resistance in the form of free weights, like dumbbells or kettlebells, will make them more challenging and it's best to wait to do that until you've fully mastered each movement. You should be able to do 10 to 15 reps comfortably with great form before even thinking about adding weights, says Jacque Crockford, M.S., C.S.C.S., certified personal trainer and exercise physiology content manager at American Council on Exercise (ACE).
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes slightly turned out, arms at your sides, palms in.
- Engage your core and keep your chest lifted and back flat as you shift your weight into your heels, push your hips back, and bend your knees to lower into a squat. Bend your elbows and bring your palms together in front of your chest. (You can also just hold your hands in front of your chest the entire time.)
- Drive through your heels to stand and squeeze your glutes at the top for 1 rep.
2. Romanian Deadlift
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, arms relaxed by the front of your quads. This is the starting position.
- Hinge forward at your hips and bend your knees slightly as you push your butt way back. Keep your back flat and shoulders engaged as you slowly lower your arms along your shins toward the floor until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings.
- Keeping your core tight, push through your heels to stand up straight and return to the starting position. Keep your arms close to your shins as you pull. Pause at the top and squeeze your butt. That's 1 rep.
3. Reverse Lunge
- Stand with your feet together with your arms by your sides (or pictured) or hands on your hips. This is the starting position.
- Step back (about 2 feet) with your right foot, landing on the ball of your foot and keeping your heel off the floor.
- Bend both knees until your left quad and right shin are parallel to the floor, your torso leaning slightly forward so your back is flat. Your left knee should be above your left foot and your butt and core should be engaged.
- Push through the heel of your left foot to return to the starting position. This is 1 rep.
You can either alternate legs each time, or do all your reps on one side before switching to the other side.
4. Bent-over row
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a weight in each hand with your arms at your sides.
- With your core engaged, hinge forward at the hips, push your butt back, and bend your knees slightly, so that your back is no lower than parallel to the floor. (Depending on your hamstring flexibility, you may not be able to bend so far over.) Gaze at the ground a few inches in front of your feet to keep your neck in a comfortable position.
- Do a row by pulling the weights up toward your chest, keeping your elbows hugged close to your body, and squeezing your shoulder blades for two seconds at the top of the movement. Your elbows should go past your back as you bring the weight toward your chest
Slowly lower the weights by extending your arms toward the floor. This is 1 rep.
A plank is a great exercise for working on total-body stability as it engages your entire core, plus your shoulders and upper back. Crockford notes that it also helps you get in the right position for a push-up (more on that next). She recommends doing a high plank, with your arms straight and palms flat on the floor, as this will help you get used to engaging your upper back and pulling your shoulder blades back and in a stable position.
- Place your palms flat on the floor, hands shoulder-width apart, shoulders stacked directly above your wrists.
- Extend your legs behind you, feet hip-width apart.
- Tuck your tailbone and engage your core, butt, and quads.
- Hold here for a set amount of time. Try starting with 10 seconds and working your way up to 30 seconds as you get stronger.
- Start in a high plank, shoulders directly above your wrists, hands shoulder-width apart, palms flat, legs extended behind you, core and glutes engaged.
- Bend your elbows and lower your body to the floor. Drop to your knees if needed (keep your core engaged even in the modified position).
- Push through the palms of your hands to straighten your arms. This is 1 rep.
7. Glute Bridge
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Extend your arms on the floor beside you. This is the starting position.
- Squeeze your glutes and abs and push through your heels to lift your hips a few inches off the floor until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
- Hold for a second and then slowly lower your hips to return to the starting position. This is 1 rep.
- Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart, core engaged, hands clasped together or holding a small towel by your right leg.
- Raise your arms diagonally in front of your body to the upper left of your reach, allowing your torso and toes to naturally rotate to the left as you twist.
- Now “chop” the weight down to the right, bringing it across the front of your body and aiming for your right ankle, allowing your torso and toes to naturally rotate in that direction. Focus on keeping your lower body stable and rotating from your core. This is 1 rep.
- Do a few reps on one side, and then switch sides and repeat.
Check out EQ Benefits, Singapore's preferred healthcare privilege card. Get member's rates when visiting medical, dental or wellness service partners and enjoy exclusive deals on the EQ Benefits & Rewards App e-mall. Click Here to find out more!