If you want to get in shape, you don’t need to know every workout in the book.
Only a few people strive to become a champion bodybuilder, compete for Miss World, or perform at the Commonwealth Games.
Most of us want to look and feel fit. And that’s that.
If you’re with me, then the workouts listed below might be all you ever need …
You know when you see action heroes suspending themselves above the bad guys by pressing against two opposing walls? That takes an enormous amount of core strength.
The plank is the type of workout that can unlock that power for you.
Yes, it’s probably the simplest and dumbest looking exercise you can do. A game of Twister seems more challenging on the surface. And it’s easy to understand why most gym-goers overlook it.
But here are four reasons to go against the grain, and install the plank into your schedule next week:
- It strengthens your entire body
- It makes you more supple
- It gives you better posture
- It even relieves mental and physical stress
You can use variations of the plank to enhance results. Still, even the basic form (when executed properly) will compliment any workout routine.
I use it to finish every gym session. I love how it wrings out those last dregs of energy, but calms me down at the same time. And your ability to maintain the plank is an ideal test of your progression as the weeks go by.
2. Farmer’s Walk
You’ve been using the farmer’s walk your whole life.
Every time you carry a bag (or anything) in each hand, for any distance, you’ve done a farmer’s walk.
You feel the burn in your grip, your triceps and your traps (just at the back of your shoulders).
With the shopping, you can carry both bags in your right hand while you give your left arm a rest. Then switch when the strain gets too much.
But when you intentionally enter a farmer’s walk at the gym, the only way to get some rest is to give up. Not sure how to do a farmers walk – just see our guide How To Do A Farmer’s Walk
- Plan a safe walking route in a gym with loads of space (best choosing a looped route that allows for multiple ‘laps’)
- Pick up a weight in each hand
- Walk for as long as you can
- Repeat for 2-4 sets
Do this once a week and you’ll get stronger overall. Your shoulders will be able to carry heavier objects in everyday life. Your grip will get tighter. Your abs will tone-up. Your legs will get sturdier. Your metabolism will ramp-up. You’ll burn more fat. You’ll get gritty. You’ll get fit. And you’ll feel more powerful in every other physical activity you perform.
— If you play any kind of sport, then you’ll notice the benefits of the farmer’s walk very early on. Same goes for any new parents who need to carry an insane amount of things at once (car seat, bags, pram, phone, keys, baby, and so on) —
Forget kettlebells, just walking is a great exercise (probably the most underrated of the lot). No weights. Just one foot in front of the other, plain as you like, walking.
- Burn fat on your way to work (or anywhere)
- Improve your immune system
- Improve your flexibility (reducing chance of painful arthritis)
- Reduce the chance of developing dementia
- Decrease the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes
- Lessen the chances of developing heart disease
- Feel happier thanks to the endorphins released by moving your body
That last one applies to every single exercise you could ever do.
Get your blood pumping (even just a little) and you’re bound to feel happier about yourself. After all, you are designed to move.
There’s a nice NHS guide on Walking for Health that includes some helpful tips on how to do more walking, get the most from every walk, and make sure you stay on the right path (so to speak).
It sounds complex, but the multidirectional lunge is another simple workout – available to anybody of any fitness level.
Once you’ve mastered the lunging form, you can add a weight into the equation and really develop what is known as ‘functional strength’. Unsure as to how to do a multi-directional lunge? Check out our guide How To Do A Multi-directional Lunge
Basically, that means you work all the muscles that contribute to the strength needed to rearrange the furniture in your house, lift a suitcase up some stairs, or flip your mattress.
If you want to learn more about how to get stronger in this way, then here’s some further reading:
3 Functional Strength Workouts that’ll Get You Motivated for the Gym (Long-term)
Functional Strength Explained
Anyway, back to the multidirectional lunge …
This workout HURTS (in a good way).
The majority of gym goers ignore ‘leg day’, especially males.
And so when we start performing lunge-like exercises, we’re using muscles that have been virtually asleep for months, maybe years.
So, if you’re new to this, you’re going to feel the effects a few days after the workout.
It wears off after a while – around the same time you start noticing the extra sturdiness in your legs and lower body.
Finally, while we’re on the subject of lower body workouts, we need to spare a thought for the body squat.
There isn’t a more powerful and neglected exercise in the gym.
I’m a mega-fan.
- It tests your full range of motion (in theory, we should all be able to sit on our heels)
- It’s a natural movement (we were doing this back when we lived in the jungle)
- It strengthens your knees (but avoid it if you have trouble with your knees)
- It strengthens your ankles (again, avoid it if you have problems there)
- It challenges your breathing focus (so you’re working cardio, while building strength)
- It can be practiced almost anywhere (not recommended on the bus or train)
- It prepares you for the weighted back squat (when you want to move up a level)
You can get sweaty with the body squat (sometimes referred to as the ‘Hindu squat’). And you can base an entire session on it.
Personally, I use it to warm-up on leg days.
It gets me focused on my breath, stretches out all my major muscles and, because it requires perfect squatting technique, it sets me up to nail the form in all my other workouts that day.
What about you?
I have started to see more of these five workouts in practice at my gym, probably because the open nature of gyms these days – offer more functional training.
But what’s your favourite workout that hardly anybody else is using? I’d love to find out.
Share your best in the comments and maybe we’ll turn this post into a ‘Top 10’.
As always, thanks for checking in.