No matter where you’re at in your fitness journey, you don’t need fancy equipment to get a great workout. Certain foundational, need-them-in-every-program exercises set the stage for a highly effective and beginner-friendly bodyweight workout. But, if you’re more advanced, don’t write off these moves as too simple! With a few modifications, you can easily make these tougher, so you feel the burn.
Ahead, easy exercises that you need in your routine!
The 5 Best Exercises Everyone Needs (& How To Do Them)
When people talk about “functional” exercise, a squat is right at the top. You’ll use a squat to bend down to pick something up, lift a heavy box, or when helping your friend move their couch. But the squat motion is also used to go up and down stairs, as well as sit down and stand up, according to research. Squats effectively strengthen your lower body. And, because they’re a compound exercise (meaning they work multiple muscle groups at the same time), they’re great for increasing your overall body strength.
- Spread feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart
- Keep feet flat on the ground with toes pointing forward or slightly outward
- Squat down so that your knees reach a 90-degree angle, keeping your knees over your toes
- Press up to straighten your legs and squeeze your glutes at the top.
Make it harder: Pick up dumbbells or use a resistance band around your thighs.
RELATED: A 30-Day Beginner Squat Challenge
What appears as a core exercise is actually a full bodyweight exercise that activates muscles in your arms, shoulders, chest, legs, and of course, your core, according to the International Sports Sciences Association. Plus, planks can be done anywhere (without any equipment), making them a convenient exercise to add to your routine!
Here’s how to get into plank position:
- Place your forearms and palms flat on the floor. Elbows should be under your shoulders.
- Your legs should be extended behind you with your toes on the ground. (Similar to a pushup position.) Beginners can also drop down to their knees.
- Engage your core and squeeze your glutes. Your butt should be in line with the rest of your body, not pointed up toward the ceiling or dropping down to create sagging in the middle.
- Look down at the floor. Hold for a designated time. (First try 15, then 30 seconds and work up.)
Make it harder: Elevate your feet on a step, rock back and forth on your forearms, or extend your arms straight and alternate tapping each shoulder with the opposite hand.
The step-up, a move where you step onto a higher surface, such as a stair, step, or box, targets your butt, hips, and thighs, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Research shows that the step-up is the best exercise to activate the glutes, far more than lunges, squats, and deadlifts. (Though those are all top-notch lower-body strength-builders, too.) Not to mention, they’re a highly effective exercise for building leg strength, improving balance and stability, and enhancing overall fitness and athletic performance.
How to do it:
- Stand with feet hip-width apart in front of a higher but sturdy surface, such as a stair.
- Place one foot on the stair and press up to raise your body up so that both feet are on the stair.
- Step backward down the stairs. Repeat on the opposite side.
To make it harder: Hold a weight in each hand or step onto a higher surface (as long as you can do so safely).
Lunges are popular for a reason — they rather effectively strengthen your glutes and hamstrings, according to ACE. Keeping these muscles strong is key to healthy aging, as they’re vital for balance. And if you think that they’re, eh, slightly boring, there are a ton of variations to make a workout more interesting.
How to do it:
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
- Step forward with your right leg, bend knees so that both knees form 90-degree angles. (Your knee should not hit the ground.)
- Push with your right foot and step back to the starting position.
- Repeat with your left leg.
Make it harder: After you have the basic lunge down, try variations, such as backward lunges (step backward), lateral lunge (step out to the side), walking lunge (perform lunges right after the other while moving forward), elevate your rear foot, or perform jumping lunges.
Pushups are tough for many people, but they’re aces at targeting chest and shoulder muscles, as well as triceps to build upper body muscle and strength. Even better: The pushup position is similar to an extended plank position (a plank with arms straight) and relies on your core muscles for stabilization, making them another way to target your abdominals. What’s key here is that beginners can make pushups more accessible by dropping down their knees to the ground. No shade here: This still supplies a killer upper-body workout.
How to do it:
- Get into a pushup position. Arms should be straight with shoulders over your wrists; engage your core and squeeze through your glutes. To modify a pushup for beginners, drop your knees to the floor.
- Bend elbows and lower down so that your chest hovers over the floor.
- Push back up to the start position.
Make it harder: There are so many variations to the pushup that you can try, including bringing your hands closer together or wider apart to perform the pushup, lowering all the way to the ground and picking up your hands for a second, and then pushing back up, or keeping elbows closer to your body to activate more of the triceps. Playing with the speed that you lower and push back up can also enhance the difficulty.
Build Your Routine With the Basics
No matter if you’re a beginner or more advanced, adding these moves into your workout routine can do your body some good! If you’re just getting started, try these bodyweight exercises, modifying as needed. Need to spice it up? Make it harder with the addition of weights, bands, or more advanced variations!
So, if you’re ready to build a well-rounded routine, these five exercises are a perfect place to start. For more inspiration or trainer-guided workouts, head to the FitOn app! With strength, beginner, and no-equipment workouts, there’s something for everyone.