In an ideal world you’re logging at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity (or 75 minutes of vigorous) exercise per week. However, the reality is that it’s not always possible to fit in a full workout because let’s face it, some days are just busier than others. But if you only have time for one exercise, what would it be? We asked 11 top trainers exactly that. Here are the moves they swear (and sweat) by. Their answers may surprise you.
Tricep Dip with Leg Circle
“Triceps dips are very effective and they only require my own body weight. I like to add the lower body [movement] to challenge my coordination and sculpt my lower abs as well.”
—Andrea Rogers, founder and creator of Xtend Barre
Try it: Come into tabletop position. Bend elbows an inch to dip body down while lifting right foot off ground towards ceiling (as shown) and draw a circle with foot. Return right foot to floor and straighten arms. Do 8 reps on each leg.
“I love pass-throughs because a lot of my workouts require shoulder mobility and this helps them get super warm. It also gives me a good stretch.”
—Maddy Curley, coach at Brick CrossFit in Los Angeles
Try it: Grab a band (or towel) and hold it taut with both hands overhead (as shown). Keeping band pulled tight, lower it behind body without bending arms. Then reverse movement and bring it back above head. Now lower band in front of body. Be sure to keep band and abs tight throughout the entire exercise. Adjust width of grip as needed.
Ab Wheel Roll
“Every day I make time to work my core and I don’t do anything very complicated or fancy. I use an old-school ab wheel because if you want rock-solid abs, it makes you work for them. If you don’t have stability in your abs, you’re not going to perform when trying to complete many other exercises, including trying to squat heavy.”
—Lisa Niren, head coach at Peloton Cycle
Try it: Kneel on the edge of a mat. Holding handles of ab roller, place it on floor in front of you, this is the starting position. Keeping back straight, slowly roll ab wheel forward, stretching your body into a straight position. Go down as far as you can without touching allowing torso to touch the floor (as shown). Pause, then pull it back to starting position. Be sure to keep abs tight at all times and do not allow the low back to drop.
“Push-ups can be done anywhere, which is why they are great. They are also easily scalable by dropping to the knees, or can be made harder by choosing a narrower grip, elevating the feet or adding a clap to make them plyometric. They strengthen the chest muscles and triceps, as well as work your core.”
—Julia Avery, instructor at The Fhitting Room
Try it: Begin in plank position with wrists directly under shoulders. Bend elbows keeping them close to torso, and lower body toward ground until chest just touches ground (as shown). Push through palms to straight arms, keeping body in a straight line from head to toe.
“A day doesn’t go by that I do not perform a isometric core exercise.”
Try it: Lie face up with knees bent, feet on the ground and torso propped up on elbows which are placed directly under shoulders. Tuck tailbone and draw navel toward your. Maintaining this exact height and release elbows. Extend arms parallel to the floor (as shown). Hold or begin to pulse up and down one inch.
“This bad boy has a slew of nicknames. A few of my favorites are lightning bolt pose or fierce pose, respectively for the visual and the intense characteristics they bring. Utkatasana is the very definition of a full-bodied pose, it is impossible to hang out here, and therefore it is my favorite way to re-activate. It will help you gain strength in your legs, core and ankles while reminding you to be relaxed where you can be.”
—Kristen Nichols, yoga instructor at Y7 studio
Try it: Bring legs together and firmly plant all four corners of feet into ground. Inhale and bring arms overheard. Exhale and hinge at waist, bending knees as close to 90 degrees as possible (as shown). Keep abs tight and spine long and hold for at least 30 seconds.
“I am a huge proponent of functional exercises, meaning exercises that help you live your everyday life. The plank is one of the most functional full-body exercises a person can do to improve strength, alignments and stability. In its essence, this exercise, engages the core to resist the spine from moving.”
—Amanda Murdock, instructor at SLT studio
Try it: Start in the top of a push-up position with wrists directly below shoulders (as shown). Keep abs engaged and spine and neck long (avoid hunching shoulders to ears). Gaze should be slightly forward, be careful not to let your hips sag.
Push-Up Into Donkey Kick
“This move is great for the cardiovascular system but also fires up my upper body—arms, back and abdominals. I love making a loud exhale when my feet hit the floor and envision the sound unpacking tension and stress that has been accumulating in my body.”
—Taryn Toomey, creator of the class
Try it: Come into a plank position. Bend elbows and lower chest to floor. Push through palms to straighten arms. Then bend knees deeply, keep hands on floor and kick bent legs into the air (as shown). As feet hit the floor make some sound and release tension from your body and mind. Walk feet back out to plank position.
Attitude Ab Curl
“As a former dancer, maintaining and working on my core strength is an integral part in maintaining my strength, posture and alignment, and it also keeps me connected to my body and center of balance. I like doing this move daily because it can be done anywhere.”
—Rachel Piskin, co-founder of Chaise Fitness
Try it: Lie faceup and place hands behind head. Lift right leg up towards the ceiling with a slight bend in the knee, toes pointed. Left leg is bent with knee off ground, facing outward, toes pointed and barely touching mat (as shown). Slowly lift torso raising shoulder blades off floor, and simultaneously bringing left leg up to meet right. Do 20 per side.
“I jump rope every day as my workout or part of it. I find even if I only have 15 minutes, I can get so much out of it.”
—Leila Fazel, co-owner of Aerospace
Try it: Grab a handle in each hand and step on the middle of rope. The bottom of the handles should come up to your armpits—that’s how you know the rope is the right length. Now start jumping!
“Squatting is one of the best exercises for your body. When done properly, it targets your glutes, hamstrings, quads and core muscles all at once while also helping to improve mobility in the hips and ankles and your overall posture.”
—Alex Silver-Fagan, instructor at Cityrow
Try it: Stand with feet hip-width apart and toes slightly pointing outward. Bend knees and hinge at hips, lowering into a deep squat. Keep chest lifted and aim to get thighs slightly lower than parallel to ground. Push through heels to stand and squeeze butt at top. For an added challenge, hold a medicine ball, kettlebell or dumbbell in front of chest (as shown).
Photos courtesy of SELF.