26 Essential Exercises From A to Z (2024)

26 Essential Exercises From A to Z (1)

by Paul L. Underwood

September 24, 2018

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26 Essential Exercises From A to Z (2)

It’s easy to get bored with your workouts. Easy to get lost in all the information (and misinformation) about what exercises to do or not do. We thought we’d make it simple by putting together a compendium of exercises in alphabetical order. Scroll through, note what you might find useful or not — and, who knows, you might end up with a whole new routine.

Note that we’ve included a range of exercises that work a wide assortment of muscles and a variety of skill levels. So if you’re feeling good on arm day, but wondering what else you can do on leg day, we’ve got you covered. Or if you’re seeking something more (or less) challenging, you’ll find what you’re looking for, too.

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This move challenges the core by forcing the abs to resist arching the lower back. Rollouts give you immediate feedback on proper technique because if you do it wrong, you’ll feel tension in your lower back right away.

The move: Take a plank position with your forearms resting on a foam roller (you can also use a stability ball), then extend your arms and roll the foam roller away from you as you hold your hips up (avoid straining on your lower back), then pull it back and repeat.

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A hybrid squat-pushup that’s as challenging as it is good for you because you’re working nearly every muscle in your body, using a move that’s been around since its namesake invented it back in the 1930s.

The move: Start in a squat. Put your palms on the floor. Shift quickly into a pushup position. Do a pushup (optional). Jump back into squatting position. Do an explosive jump, hands in the air, and land in a standing position. Repeat.

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It’s like a regular curtsy, but harder and with optional weights —and it works the glutes. Big time.

The move: Stand straight, feet shoulder-width apart, holding a kettlebell. Shift your weight to one side as you move the foot from your other side behind you, sweeping it out to the opposite side, while kneeling with your front leg. Get your front leg into a 90-degree bend, then push off your front heel into a standing position, while moving your back leg out. Repeat with the same legs for 10 reps, then switch legs and do 10 more. (Kettlebell optional, we should add.)

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This move builds strength in your hamstrings, glutes, lats, core — essentially, a deadlift is a total-body workout. That said: Be careful with this one. If your form is off, you can seriously hurt yourself. Work with a trainer or start very slowly.

The move: Stand over a barbell, feet at hip width. Bend at the knees, keeping your back straight and your weight back. Using an overhand grip, grab the barbell with your hands just outside your knees. Push up from the hips, lifting the weight to hip height. Repeat.

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It’s a regular pushup, done with plyometrics and builds the chest a little more powerfully than your standard pushup.

The move: Assume the basic pushup position, but instead of just pushing yourself back up, you’ll push forcefully so your hands come off the ground. Repeat as you would with non-explosive pushups.

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This move works the upper-body muscles, especially the chest.

The move: For a chest fly, lie flat on a weight bench. Take two dumbbells, and hold them with your arms back and bent at the elbows. Lift them together above your chest, keeping your elbows bent at a slight angle, and being careful not to clank the dumbbells together at the top of your lift. All variations use roughly this same movement, but you’ll start from a different position.

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It’s basically a regular squat, but you’ll be holding some weight to amplify your workout. It improves posture and hip mobility.

The move: Start from a standing position with your feet wide and pointed out, holding the head of the dumbbell or a kettlebell with both hands at chest level. Keep your back straight and push down with your butt until your hips are below your knees. Extend your hips and knees and return to the standing position.

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This is a movement-based core exercise, leveraging weight such as a kettlebell or a medicine ball.

The move: From a standing position, move one foot slightly forward, then position the weight in front of the back leg’s hip. Keeping your arms straight, lift the weight to your opposite shoulder, twisting through the chest and shoulder. Return to the starting position, then repeat. Complete reps, then switch sides.

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The combination of movements works your core, biceps, forearms, shoulders and pecs. Keeping your torso straight also helps with balance.

The move: Start from a standing position, then put your hands to the floor, being careful not to bend your legs. From there, “walk” forward using your hands until you are fully stretched out. Then, walk using your feet until you’re back into the starting position. (Now you understand how it got its name.)

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Boost the intensity of standard bodyweight exercises like squats by turning them into plyometric or explosive exercises.

The move: Stand tall. Push your hips back and bend at the knees to lower into a squat. Once your thighs are parallel to the floor, push through your feet to explode upward, driving your arms overhead. Land softly and repeat.

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This move isolates the glutes.

The move: Get into a kneeling position. Keeping both legs bent at the knee, raise one of your legs until your calf is perpendicular to the ground. Hold the position for a moment, then lower your leg and lift the other one. Alternate and repeat.

The lunge is a pillar move that works all kinds of critical muscles for strength and stability.

The move: From a standing position, move one foot forward, then drop your body straight down until your front knee is at a 90-degree angle directly above your ankle.

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These raise your heart rate and also work just about everything else: shoulders, chest, abs, upper legs and hips. No mountain required.

The move: Assume a pushup or plank position. Step forward with one foot, pulling your knee toward your chest. Alternate legs. Do a desired number of reps or do AMRAP for a desired amount of time. Keep your back straight to maximize effectiveness and avoid injury.

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Also known as an eccentric exercise. The eccentric (or negative) part of weightlifting breaks down the muscles in different ways by focusing on the lowering part of the movement.

The move: Perform a standard exercise (like a bicep curl or deadlift) to the raised position, but then lower the weight slowly.

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This shoulder capsule mobility drill increases the function of your shoulders, scapulas and arms in an overhead position.

The move: Begin with your feet hip-width apart and your arms locked out overhead. Pull your shoulders down into your shoulder capsule (the opposite of shrugging your shoulders up). Then begin making small circles with your arms, trying to keep a soft bend in your knees while your rib cage and belly button stay on a tight, compressed line. Make sure to circle in both directions.

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A great workout for your upper body from your chest, biceps and traps to your abs and lower back. Maybe best of all, it requires no equipment and is a move almost everybody knows how to do.

The move: With hands slightly wider than your shoulders, lower your body until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle, then push up.

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Exactly what it sounds like … Look, Q was hard, so we’re cheating a pinch here. But still: A quick run is a useful way to exercise.

The move: We’ll define this two ways: 1. Your classic interval training, where you alternate all-out running for, say, one lap, with a more paced jog. Or 2. Another term for a sprint.

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A great basic move that works your entire body and especially your glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves and core.

The move: Begin with your feet about hip-width apart. Step back into a reverse lunge with your front foot staying flat under your bent front knee and your back foot supported by your toes. Then return your back foot to the normal lunge position

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While it’s best known as a glute exercise, it also builds leg strength and your core.

The move: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Lower your body, keeping your upper body up and bending at the hips and the knees, until you’re in a squat, with your knees over your ankles and your thighs parallel to the floor. Raise yourself up, pushing through your heels.

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A way to tone your shoulders and triceps.

The move: Sit in a chair or something sturdy (like a box) and put your hands beside you, roughly shoulder-width apart, fingers facing forward. Then, slide your body forward, off of the support. Steady yourself, using your arms for support. Dip down, bending your arms, touching your bottom to the ground, then raise yourself back up again. It’s sort of like a seated pushup.

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A somewhat controversial lift move, these are great for building shoulders, but can also be great for harming your shoulders. Use in moderation.

The move: Start with the barbell at waist height. Use an overhand grip, slightly less than shoulder width. Keep your back straight and lift the bar to your chin, keeping the bar as close to your body as possible. Keep your elbows above your forearms the entire time. Hold for a moment, then slowly lower the bell. Repeat as desired. (Note: This can also be done with a cable or dumbbells.)

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This crunch alternative will have you forming, yep, a V on the floor, with your body to target your abs.

The move: Sit on the floor, bending your knees and keeping your arms straight ahead for balance. Then, relax your body until it’s almost flat, but keep your head, shoulders and feet a few inches off the floor. Then raise yourself back up into that V position. Repeat until you hit your goal for reps or duration. (Some people do a variation where they start in the lie-down position, with hands above their head, then fold into the V/crunch. Try both ways and see what suits you better.)

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Walking + lunge = a walking lunge. It’s just math, really. It’s also a great move for your quads, and, as with a lunge, helps improve core strength.

The move: Take your standard lunge, where you put one foot in front, one foot behind, and dip your body while holding your back straight up, perpendicular to the ground. When you come back set, pull your back foot forward until it’s even with the front foot. Then lunge with your opposite foot forward.

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Another crunch alternative, this move gives your hips a good workout, too, generating improved balance and stability..

The move: Lie on the ground, with your arms pointing straight up, and with your feet a few inches off the ground. Then, raising your chin and shoulders slightly, bring your legs toward your shoulders while lowering your arms toward your hips. Hold, lower, repeat.

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A weighted raise, this will have you covering the first move in the famous “YMCA” dance.

The move: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your feet flat, and using your arms only (don’t cheat and swing your whole body into it), raise each arm until you’re making a “Y” with your body. Slowly lower and repeat as desired.

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A fairly old-school workout that will have you zigging and zagging through roughly five cones (or whatever marker you choose).

The move: Set those cones roughly 5-feet apart (enough for two strides), then run in a zigzag pattern until you reach the end. Then run backward, straight (no zigzag) until you’re at the start. Run through the cones the opposite way, then straight back again. That’s one rep. Repeat as desired. It works the calves, and improves the ankles’ overall mobility. It’s a simple exercise runners — or anyone who plays a speed-based, stop-start sport like tennis or basketball — will appreciate.

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26 Essential Exercises From A to Z (2024)


What is 20 20 20 exercises? ›

The 20/20/20 class is designed to give you the ultimate challenge and total body workout. Sweat through 20 minutes of cardio, 20 minutes of strength training, and 20 minutes of stretching and core work.

What are the 3 most important workouts? ›

Exercises differ in quality. Some are superior to others. A chosen few are also known as the "big three." The bench press, squat, and deadlift are the "big three." These are the three lifts that powerlifters utilize to compare their strength to that of the competition using the combined total.

What is the best exercise for everything? ›

Why these 10 exercises will rock your body
  1. Lunges. Challenging your balance is an essential part of a well-rounded exercise routine. ...
  2. Pushups. Drop and give me 20! ...
  3. Squats. ...
  4. Standing overhead dumbbell presses. ...
  5. Dumbbell rows. ...
  6. Single-leg deadlifts. ...
  7. Burpees. ...
  8. Side planks.

What are the 4 most important workouts? ›

Research has shown that it's important to get all four types of exercise: endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. Each one has different benefits. Doing one kind also can improve your ability to do the others, and variety helps reduce boredom and risk of injury.

What is the exercise 100? ›

The hundred is a classic Pilates mat exercise. You will be asked to perform it during the beginning of almost any Pilates class you take. The exercise is named after the 100 beats of your arms made while holding your legs extended and your head and shoulders off the mat.

What is the number 1 best exercise? ›

Walking. Walking is simple, yet powerful. It can help you stay trim, improve cholesterol levels, strengthen bones, keep blood pressure in check, lift your mood, and lower your risk for a number of diseases (diabetes and heart disease, for example).

What is the single most effective exercise? ›

7 Most Effective Exercises
  • Walking.
  • Interval training.
  • Squats.
  • Lunges.
  • Push-ups.
  • Abdominal Crunches.
  • Bent-over Row.
  • Technique.
Jan 9, 2024

What exercise burns the most belly fat? ›

Aerobic exercise includes any activity that raises your heart rate such as walking, dancing, running or swimming. This can also include doing housework, gardening and playing with your children. Other types of exercise such as strength training, Pilates and yoga can also help you lose belly fat.

Which exercise is king of all exercise? ›


What exercise is OK to do every day? ›

You can do strength training by using weight machines or weights, your own body weight, heavy bags or resistance bands. You also can use resistance paddles in the water or do activities such as rock climbing. As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day.

Are there exercises you can do everyday? ›

There are some exercises that you just can't get enough of. Three such examples: wall slides, thoracic rotations, and single-leg hip raises. Unusual names, yes. But while you may not be familiar with these moves, chances are, you should be doing them every day.

What exercise works all muscles? ›

List of the best full-body exercises
  • Doing full-body exercises.
  • Pushups.
  • Squats.
  • Burpees.
  • Lunges.
  • Running and cycling.
  • Stair climbing.
  • Things to remember.
Apr 5, 2019

What is the best time to exercise? ›

Most people experience these physiological adaptations throughout the day, which makes the afternoon and evening the best time to exercise for many reasons. Your physical performance might improve: Research shows that most people function better, physically speaking, later in the day.

What happens when we take morning walks everyday? ›

Going on morning walks can help you tone your leg and abdominal muscles. Stronger muscles give you a wider range of motion and improve your overall strength and health. The pressure of moving is also shifted from your joints to your muscles. Clears your mind.

What is a 20 20 fitness class? ›

The class combines 20 minutes of cardio step, 20 minutes strength training and 20 minutes of aerobic activity, for a full body workout. Each session focuses on building up core fitness, toning legs, arms, buttocks and abs, and generally improving well-being. There'll be plenty of calories burned along the way too!

How do you do 20 20 vision eye exercises? ›

How to Exercise Your Eyes
  • The 20-20-20 rule. When you're focused on a task, pause every 20 minutes to focus on something that's 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
  • Blink break. You blink less when you're focused on a TV or computer screen. ...
  • Palms for relaxation. ...
  • Figure eight. ...
  • Roll your eyes. ...
  • Near and far.
Nov 9, 2022

What does 20 20 mean in gym? ›

It's called the 20:20 as the workout contains 20 exercises, each of which has 20 repetitions. That may sound a lot, but it should take less than 20 minutes – another reason to call it 20:20.

Why 20 plus 20 is 60 in gym? ›

For a gym-goer, 20 plus 20 does not mean 40 but 60, since the bar is automatically counted. With this outfit you will certainly be addressed by some pumps. You're the hero in the gym. Mister Olympia already knew how to count the bars in the fitness studio.


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