Of course, in the shortest amount of time doesn’t mean those exercises work like a magic pill. Or, they kind of do, but only when we actually do them–and do them often. Focus on the basics, put in the work, perform he movements with proper technique instead of rushing, and you see results pretty quickly.
Here they are, three (+1 bonus) exercises that everyone who wants to get strong quickly, should be doing:
Squats are, of course, first and foremost, a leg exercise. Anyone who wants to build strong legs knows it. And of course those too whose focus is to build a nicer booty.
However, squats are also a great core exercise. When we do squats with weights, may it be kettlebells, barbell or even by just just holding a medicine in our hands against the chest, if we could put our one hand on our belly, we'd literally feel our ab muscles working during squatting. (but we can't, because we have that kettlebell to hold with both hands, so don't try it but take my ford for it.)
One thing that often gets forgotten when doing squats is to engage the core before starting the movement. By engaging the core, we build a much stronger foundation for the squat and are able to actually squat with heavier weights. Engaging the also helps to protect our lower back.
How to engage the core? Think that someone’s about to punch you in your stomach. I hope it never happens to you but it’s a good way to visualize what your abs should be doing. To get yourself “punch-ready”, you don’t suck your belly in so hard that you can’t breathe. You just tighten the abs to be ready to take the punch.
There are many variations of squats, and it’s literally impossible to get bored with them. If our time is limited or if we don't have the time to figure out all variations, regular squats are the best bet. By adding some weights to our squats, we make them squats even more useful and efficient.
When done properly, push ups work everything, from our arms to our heels. Honestly, I think that everyone should be able to do at least some push ups.
Push ups are also very simple to do–all we need is a little bit of room. No equipment, no excuses!
There are people who can bust out high numbers of push ups. But there's nothing to brag about if those push ups are wonky or aren't low enough (the goal should be to get the chest as close to the ground as possible), or they’re done with hips high up in the air…
It’s much smarter to really focus on technique instead of the number of reps, at least at first, even if it means less push ups (and it probably does). Don’t worry about it, you get much more out of push ups that are slow and controlled than than fast and wonky.
To do push ups properly, engage the core, keep the elbows at about 45 degrees from the body, keep the head neutral, shoulderblades together and lift the hips just very slightly. Engaging the core and glutes makes push ups so much more than just upper body exercise.
Remember that essentially, push ups are a moving plank. Elbows are the body part that create that movement, the rest of the body should form a nice long line and stay like this through the movement. No lifting or sagging hips or wiggling butt.
One tip that helps you realize if you’re doing your push ups (or any exercise, for that matter) correctly is to film yourself! Seeing myself in videos a made me realize that my push up form was far from good. My head used to be dropped between the shoulders, I was shrugging my shoulders and my shoulderblades were not contracted at all.
Check out some ways to make your push ups easier or harder, according to your needs.
Pull Ups / Chin Ups
I guess what you may be thinking…. I can’t do them.
Not too many people can at first, but with time and practice, they get there.
For the longest time, I really thought there’s something wrong with me so I can’t do pull ups and chin ups. Like physically wrong. I just never seemed to be able to get over from the bottom part of the movement, where the arms are fully extended.
Nothing was wrong. I practiced a lot with the resistance band to learn the solid beginning for my chin ups (arms fully extended at the beginning of the movement) and how to contract the shoulder blades, and one day I could do a chin up.
I got a little too excited about my chin up goals though, so I started practicing them 4x a week. I should’ve taken it a bit slower, because I developed a wrist injury that still causes me some pain at times and doesn’t let me practice pull ups, I can only do chin ups.
So practice often, but don’t start out super fast, by going from practicing zero to 4x / week. Wrists are pretty fragile part of our bodies (especially for those who work a lot on their computers like I do) so be careful and take a good care of them before and after the practice.
And why are pull ups so awesome?
Of course, they’re the best upper body exercise, but not only. Every time I pull myself up over the bar I can literally feel my abs working, and when I just got started with chin ups, my abs were sore every time after the workout. Even my butt was sore! That’s how great full body exercise pull ups and chin ups are ☺
Add a Some Intense Cardio
Don’t run away just because I said the word cardio. It’s not as bad as someone may have told you it is, and it's not necessarily synonymous with running.
If your goal is to lose some fat, then I suggest you add some short and intense cardio to your training to speed up the process. You don’t need a treadmill for that. Any bodyweight exercise that elevates your heart rate is a good to throw in between the strength exercises. Squat jumps, jumping jacks, sprints, burpees or mountain climbers are all good options.
I personally have to avoid anything too intense at the moment, so I leave that part out from my workouts and focus on slow bodyweight (or some weight) training for now. I’m still doing squats, push ups and chin ups, and I do them really slowly. But if you don’t have any limitations and restrictions and especially of you’re interested in fat loss, short bouts of high intensity cardio will help you progress faster.
An Example Workout
To wrap it up, here’s a simple example workout, if your goal is to get stronger and burn some fat as fast as possible. It includes all the most important movements listed above. If you have to avoid the intense cardio part, just leave it out:
- 10-12 squats, preferably with some sort of weights (I love to use 35-50 lbs kettlebells or a sandbag)
- 8-12 push ups, done with full focus (use modifications if necessary–do them on the knees or hands on an elevated surface)
- 4-8 chin ups or pull ups, assisted if needed (use resistance band for that)
- 30 seconds of Squat Jumps, Jumping Jacks, sprints, burpees or Mountain Climbers
These are my go-to exercises, because this basic stuff really works. When done with full attention, good technique and often enough, you get stronger pretty quickly. Working out is actually pretty simple and the basics go a long way.
What are your go-to exercises?
PS – Before you go, take a minute to check out my Holiday Travel Workout Guide, where you find 5 quick and simple, bodyweight only workouts that you can do anywhere and any time, also now, during the busiest time of the year! Read more about this guide here.