Feared by beginners, dreaded by intermediates, and embraced as the "King
of Exercises" by bodybuilders, the squat is one of the best exercises
you can do to shape up your hips, thighs and buttocks. The squat improves
overall strength, speed, and power, and is an excellent exercise for
anyone attempting to increase their overall level of fitness.
Beginners should not use weights until they are comfortable performing
the exercise with correct form and balance. Add weight gradually as you
To do the exercise, place a loaded a barbell on the trapezius just above
the scapula, creating a platform for the bar. Stand upright, with shoulders
back, feet about shoulder's width apart, and head neutral. This is the
From the starting position, look strait ahead, and slowly lower by bending
your knees and lowering your buttocks. Keep the weight on your heels,
as if you are sitting on an imaginary chair. Lower only to the point
where your thighs are parallel to the floor. Do not let your knees go
forward of your toes. (see image). Briefly hold this position, then slowly
raise back to the starting position, pushing with your heels.
Increase the weight gradually, making sure you are in balance and
are using correct form at all times
Inhale as you lower and exhale as you raise back to the starting
Elevate your elbows to raise the scapula, creating a larger "platform" for
the bar to rest upon
The Lunge (works the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals)
The lunge is a terrific exercise for firming the lower body, but it
must be done with slow, controlled movements to avoid injury. Beginners
should not use weights until they have gained strength and have mastered
To perform the lunge, stand with your feet together. Take a long
step forward with one foot, bending the rear leg, lowering the front
thigh parallel to the floor. Do not let your knee move forward
of your toe line. Push back with the forward heel to the starting position. Repeat
with the other leg.
Leg extensions tone the quadriceps (the fronts of the thighs), and are
an excellent shaping exercise for the legs. While squats and lunges
are excellent exercises for the lower body, they are often difficult
for beginners to do because they require balance along with strength. Because
leg extensions are performed on a machine, the exercise is inherently
more "stable", and therefore are a safe way for beginners to
develop leg strength.
To perform leg extensions, sit comfortably holding the handles of the
machine. Place the tops your feet (at the ankle-flexion point)
under the pad. Using both legs, slowly lift the pad to 90°,
hold briefly, then slowly lower to the starting position.
Straiten legs at the top of the movement, but do not lock out the
Hold briefly at the top of the movement.
Lower your legs through a full range of motion
Keep your upper body stationary while raising or lowering the legs
The basic abdominal crunch is one of the best exercises you can do to
tighten your midsection. While no exercise alone will spot-reduce fat,
the crunch will strengthen your abdominals and will help to support your
lower back. To get those "washboard abs", you'll need to make
sure you're eating a low-fat, reduced-sodium, balanced diet to eliminate
the fat lying atop the muscle.
To perform the exercise, lie down on a mat or a towel on the floor with
your feet flat on the floor about 12 inches from your buttocks. Press
your lower back toward the floor and place your hands at the back of
your head. This is the starting position.
From the starting position, look straight up at the ceiling, tighten
your abdominals and raise your upper body from the floor while keeping
your lower back pressed against the floor. Slowly raise your shoulders
and head up about 3-6", hold briefly, then slowly lower back to
the starting position.
Variation: Bench Crunch
Performed the same way as a regular crunch, but with lower legs placed on
a bench. As with the regular crunch, keep the lower back pressed
against the floor throughout the movement.
Keep your lower back pressed on the floor throughout the entire movement
Look straight up at the ceiling through the entire movement
Use slow, controlled movements
Pull on your head or neck with your hands
Use jerky, quick movements - this is a very small movement -- at
the beginning, your shoulders may raise only an inch or two off the
Arch your back--keep your lower back pressed against the floor.
Lat pulldowns are a terrific exercise for the overall back and upper
body. However, this exercise is not recommended for individuals that
are predisposed to shoulder pain.
To perform the exercise, sit with both feet on the floor, shoulders-width
apart, the knees bent (held down with the machine's knee pad, if applicable). Using
a pronated (hands over) grip, pull the bar behind the head, leaning slightly
forward, while contracting the abdominals, and maintaining a neutral
spine. Hold briefly, then slowly return to the starting position.
Variation: Pulldown to Front
Begin in the same position as with the Pulldown to the Rear. Lean
slightly backward (approximately 30°) and pull the bar downward toward
the chest. Hold briefly, then slowly return to the starting position.
Keep wrists neutral throughout the movement.
Contract the abdominals and maintain a neutral spine alignment throughout
Lean forward (or backward for the Front Pulldown) from the hips.
Hold briefly at the bottom of the movement.
Use slow, controlled movements
Arch your lower back at any time during the movement.
Use body momentum to pull the bar down
Let the bar "pull you". Slowly return the bar to
the starting position.
Hyperextensions strengthen the lower erector spinae muscles of the lower
back. If you do not have access to the hyperextension apparatus, they
may also be performed on a high bench or table (have a partner hold your
legs down to prevent falls!)
To perform the exercise, position your body with your hips on the hip
pad, and your heels underneath the heel pad. With your hands behind
your head, slowly raise your upper body to a parallel position, hold
briefly, then slowly lower to the starting position.
To tone the backs of the arms and build shapely curves, try the
triceps kickback. Place one hand on a bench, leaning forward
with a flat back. Hold the dumbbell in your
other hand, elbow flexed and held close to your
body. Slowly extend the arm behind until
the arm is parallel with the floor, palm facing
your torso. Hold briefly, then slowly return
to starting position.
Keep your head in line with your spine, and the spine neutral
Pushups are a terrific overall upper-body strengthening exercise
that requires no equipment, and can be performed anywhere. They
strengthen not only your chest, but your triceps, deltoids, biceps,
back and abdominals as well. In fact, if you're short on time,
two exercises that would give you the most "bang for your
buck" are squats and pushups.
To perform the exercise, position your body with your hands on the
floor, thumbs under chest, shoulders width apart. Knees should be
approximately hip-width apart, and the body aligned strait from the
head, to neck, to spine, to toes. Slowly lower your chest to
the floor, then slowly raise back to starting position.