The Best All-Around Exercises
Exercises that engage multiple joints, move through a large range of motion and are moderately to vigorously intense are the best exercises to do for maximal caloric burn and enhanced physical conditioning. Such exercises may be aerobic in nature in that your muscle cells require oxygen to produce the energy you need for the exercise. Or, the exercise might be anaerobic in nature in which your muscle cells do not require oxygen to produce energy.
Pushups may be done whether you are at the gym, at home, in a hotel room or on a running track. This exercise primarily engages your pectoral, triceps and deltoid muscles. However, your core and lower body muscles must work to keep your pelvis aligned with your head and feet, maintaining a straight line throughout your body as you perform the exercise. Pushups are done by placing your toes on the floor with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders. Bend your arms to lower your body until your nose is about 2 inches from the floor, then push back up. You may enhance the intensity of pushups by increasing your speed, changing the distance between your hands or raising your feet higher than the level of your hands.
Lunges may also be done in multiple places, helping you keep your legs in shape. Though this exercise focuses on your glutes, it also engages your inner thigh, quadricep and the gluteal end of your hamstring muscles. Furthermore, you must maintain the contraction of your core muscles to keep your balance. Perform this exercise by stepping one leg forward, bending your hips and knees to lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the floor and stepping up to bring the opposite leg forward. The intensity of this exercise may be increased by holding a heavy dumbbell or a small suitcase against your chest, working your upper body muscles. Consider jumping up as you switch the leading leg when you are not holding additional weight, increasing the intensity of the lunge.
Sprint intervals are very intense, but they work almost all the muscles on your body. To run as fast as you possibly can, the muscles of your arms and legs must rapidly and forcefully contract. Your core muscles must work hard to keep your trunk stable so your limbs can move quickly and efficiently. The physiques of sprinters compared to marathon runners are a telltale sign of the muscle-building and muscle-defining capacities of sprint or anaerobic workouts versus endurance or aerobic workouts. High-intensity sprint intervals burn more calories after the sprint session, stimulate a greater production of fat-burning enzymes and elicit a greater production of growth hormone. Sprinting is one of the best all-around exercises for muscular development, improved fitness and accelerated fat loss, especially when you are short on time. It may be done on a treadmill, on a field or on blacktop. Sprinting for 30 seconds, then walking for 90 seconds -- totaling 20 minutes -- is one type of sprint interval.
A burpie is a combined, anaerobic exercise incorporating squats, pushups and planks. The exercise is performed by first standing in place with your feet together and arms by your sides. Then, you bend down to place your palms flat on the ground as you push your legs out behind you so your body is straight, in a plank position. Next, lower and raise your body to do a pushup and then immediately jump up to do a squat jump. When you land back on your feet, place your hands on the floor again to repeat the exercise. Perform 10 repetitions per set. This is one of the best all-around exercises, engaging almost all the muscles of your body to burn plenty of calories and increase your muscular fitness.
- Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning; Thomas R. Baechle, et al.
- Exercise Physiology, Energy, Nutrition & Human Performance; William McArdle, et al.
- Strength and Conditioning Journal; High-Intensity Interval Training: Applications for General Fitness Training; Brad Schoenfeld and Jay Dawes
Paula Quinene is an Expert/Talent, Writer and Content Evaluator for Demand Media, with more than 1,500 articles published primarily in health, fitness and nutrition. She has been an avid weight trainer and runner since 1988. She has worked in the fitness industry since 1990. She graduated with a Bachelor's in exercise science from the University of Oregon and continues to train clients as an ACSM-Certified Health Fitness Specialist.