As a fitness professional I am asked all the time “What is the best exercise for _______”. Whether you are trying to lose weight, gain strength or simply tone your body for the coming summer, there are a few exercises that are a MUST in any exercise program. Starting with the basics is always the way to go when you are talking about strength training and fat loss. These exercises can be modified and used for beginner, intermediate and advanced level training. You can even get your kids involved and workout as a family!

Sumo Squat:
Stand with feet wider than hip-width apart and your toes pointed slightly outward. Lower hips and butt toward the ground as you keep your spine straight. Press through the heels as you return to a standing position.

Beginner: Use body weight only
Intermediate: Hold 10-20lb dumbbells at chest level (or hold small child securely :-) for added weight).
Advanced: Place barbell across shoulders and add plates to the bar for added weight. Use a spotter or partner for safety.

Push up:
This standard move can be performed against a wall, on bench or on the floor based on fitness level and strength.

Beginner: place hands on the wall wider than shoulder width apart and at chest level. Place feet 12-18 inches away from the wall and lower chest toward the wall as you bend your elbows then and press away and return to starting position.
Intermediate: Place hands on a bench or the back of a secure couch. Perform exercise as indicated above. If you do not have a bench (or couch) you can move to the floor and perform the exercise on your knees.
Advanced: Place hands and toes on the floor so that your body is parallel to the ground. With a straight spine, lower your body toward the ground as you bend your elbows. Return to start.

Pull up / Chin up:
This exercise can be difficult for most people, but with practice, one can master the pull up. If you cannot do a full pull up unassisted, begin by just holding yourself at the bar and lowering your body down slowly.

Beginner: Use a step to get yourself up to the bar and hold until failure. Challenge yourself to go longer each time.
Intermediate: Use assisted pull up machine, or get assistance from an exercise partner to guide you as you pull your body up to the bar. Lower yourself gradually and get assistance on the way up again.
Advanced: Perform a full body pull up to the bar maintaining good stability and without swinging your body. Add weight if strong enough.

Prone Hover ~ Plank
This core exercise is ideal for anyone who wants to gain strength in their core and provide stability for more challenging exercises.
Beginner: Begin on elbows and knees with a straight spine. Lift hips from the ground and hold until failure.
Intermediate: Begin on elbows and toes with a straight spine. Lift hips from the ground while maintaining a straight line from your ear-shoulder-hips-knees-ankles.
Advanced: Same exercise as intermediate, but lift a heel toward the sky while maintaining hip stability. Lift 5-10x and repeat on the other side.

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