Our 5 Best Exercises for A Great Body (No Ab Workout Required!)
What if we told you that you could achieve a bangin’ body with just 5 simple exercises? With no ab crunches, donkey kicks, treadmills….none, zero, nada!
It may be hard to believe – after all, could it really be that simple? Um, Yep!
We want you to know that it can for sure be that simple, and that complicated workouts aren’t necessarily effective. In fact, we’ve noticed that as workouts get more and more complicated (hello instagram!), the simple truth about what it takes to build a great body has become a bit of a mystery.
So today we want to help shed some light on the power of functional exercise + share our 5 best exercises for building a great body. These are our go-to, “desert island”, top 5 exercises that we wouldn’t be without!
Bonus: We also put together a printable lower body workout (think legs, butt and core!) incorporating some of our best exercises + more, so be sure to download a copy for your next gym session!
The Power of Functional Exercise
Before we dive in to our 5 best exercises, we want to spend a moment to chat about the power of functional exercise. Because making this simple mindset shift is huge.
Functional exercise simply means using compound, functional movements which recruit a whole group (or multiple groups) of muscles in a way which our bodies were designed. Think: picking up something heavy from the ground! Functional exercises are an efficient use of your time at the gym, and differ from isolation exercises, which target just one specific muscle or small set of muscles. Think: sit-ups or bicep curls!
Now there’s nothing wrong with doing isolation exercises, in fact many of them are a heap of fun! 🙂 But without a solid base of functional exercises, you may be slow to see results from your workouts.
For example, you may have tried exercise routines centred on specific ab exercises that didn’t produce a marked difference. But with functional exercises forming the foundation of your gym routine (coupled with great diet) it’s completely possible to create tight, toned abs without doing a single crunch or situp. This is the power of functional exercise!
So let’s get into the exercises. Across these 5 functional movements, we’ve got you covered for all of your major muscle groups. In fact, if these were the only five movements you ever did at the gym, you’d be building a great body!
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#1 – Squats
They may seem like a tricky move requiring great hip mobility, but did you know squats are actually one of our most primal movements? Before sitting in chairs, the squatting position was our go-to rest position!
Squats are great for training and strengthening the entire lower body. A solid set of squats will work your glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves.
Squats also demand your core stabilising muscles to work, so they’re a great way to strengthen the obliques and abdominals as well. A nice side effect, don’t you think!
Intensify the exercise by adding free weights or a kettle bell. Once you’re more advanced, you can try back and / or front squats at your gym’s squat rack. This will really help to stimulate your central nervous system to build strength and definition in your legs.
#2 – Lunges
Another humble exercise, lunges are core to building strong glutes and of course, a great booty!
Lunges really work to strengthen the glutes, hamstrings and quads in a functional way – as opposed to targeting each of these muscle groups separately using special gym equipment.
You wouldn’t think it, but performing this simple exercise can help to improve posture, too. This is because our glutes and hamstrings have become weak from sitting in chairs, which can contribute to poor posture and back pain. So keeping your glutes and hamstrings strong is super important!
Once you’ve mastered correct lunges at your own body weight, we recommend adding some free weights or kettle bells to increase the resistance. Make sure to focus on the movement out of the lunge, pushing up with your glutes. You should really feel the burn!
#3 – Push-ups
Push-ups are a great body weight exercise that you can do, well…just about anywhere! Push-ups are an effective exercise for creating toned arms and a strong upper body.
In particular, push-ups target the chest, triceps and delts. Performing good push-ups also demands core strength, so you’ll get a workout there too!
Now, we will say that push-ups can be tough to master at first…especially for women! However, you may be surprised at how quickly you can build the strength to bust out sets of 10-12 push-ups. Starting with knees on the floor, and slowly building up with daily practice is the key to mastering this move.
#4 – Pull-ups
In the world of fitness and workouts, abs, biceps and glutes tend to take centre stage. Other important muscle groups (like the back) tend to get less attention, especially for women. Well, let’s bring sexy…back 😛
Strong back muscles are crucial for a great physique. These muscles hold us upright, keep our shoulders back and help us present with a confident posture. Given all the time we spend hunched over our computers and iPhones, this is so important!
Pull-ups are a great way to target the muscles of the back, in particular the lats and middle back. They also give your arms a good workout too (biceps or triceps, depending on your grip), so expect to be creating some sculpted arms in the process! #bonus
Like push-ups, performing an unassisted pull-up requires a certain level of upper body strength. So don’t worry if you can’t perform a pull-up right off the bat! This is totally normal and, depending on your body type, you may always need some form of assistance (e.g. a pull-up band) to perform this movement. You can even start with using your gym’s lat pulldown machine to build up some foundational strength and go from there.
#5 – Deadlifts
Finally, no list of best exercises is complete without the deadlift. Like squats, deadlifts are one of the most effective functional movements you can perform.
Many people are afraid of deadlifts, or consider them to be dangerous. Indeed, for many of us with back or postural issues, this is a movement to approach with care. But the truth is, deadlifts are simply the act of picking up something heavy off the ground – something our bodies were designed to do!
When performed correctly, deadlifts seriously have the power to transform your body. They recruit the glutes, hamstrings and quads, as well as the core, posterior chain, upper back and forearms. They are truly a total body movement!
The full-body nature of deadlifts is what makes correct form super important. So we’d recommend working with a trainer or an experienced gym-goer to nail down your form before adding any challenging amount of weight to the bar. You may even find that there are areas of your body that need work (e.g. weak back muscles) before you can really get into deadlifts.
And there you have it!
Those are our 5 best exercises for creating a strong, great looking body! While it really is that simple, mastering each move and performing them with great form (deadlifts in particular) is a process that takes time and commitment.
If you’re curious to know how you can go about incorporating some of these moves into your next workout, simply download our printable lower body workout designed to strengthen and define your legs, butt and core! You’ll also get access to our healthy resource library complete with recipes, food guides and other workouts (like our recent HIIT workout!).
Download our printable lower body (a.k.a. legs day) workout!