We asked our team of instructors  — ‘If we only had 10 minutes to exercise every day, what exercises should we do that’ll give us the biggest bang for our time buck?’

If you, like many of us, are time-poor but understand the importance of regular exercise, then read on to find out the 5 exercises that will allow you to do-more-with-less.

How to exercise EFFECTIVELY?

Before we get into the details of the 5 exercises, it’s crucial to explain that the most effective exercises are the ones you actually do!

You may have the ‘textbook’ exercise routine, but if you’re inconsistent with it, you won’t reap the benefits these exercises promise you.  When it comes to exercise, consistency + regularity is key.  If you’re new to exercising, check out our article “Starting a new exercise program? Here’s how you can succeed” to get some starter tips.

Your personal goals must be considered when it comes to finding the most effective exercise.  The most effective exercises for training for a marathon will look very different to the most effective exercises for gaining muscle mass.  So keep that in mind when putting together your exercise routine.

The 5 exercises we shortlisted are based on these key factors:

1. Functional movement – we want to keep our members moving well, pain and injury-free for as long as they can (our oldest member is in her 90’s!).  So when it comes to choosing exercises for that goal, we favour compound movements that require multiple joints, muscle groups, and planes of motion (extending, rotating, lateral bends etc).

Why is that effective?  Because that is how our human bodies move in everyday life.  We don’t just sit on a leg press machine to move our legs, we’d be bending, lifting, twisting all at the same time.  So the most effective exercises are the ones that replicate our everyday movements and condition our bodies to better perform those movements.

Additionally, functional movements are also time-efficient because by using a large group of muscles in the one movement, you’re doing more with less time.

2. Lifestyle need – our lifestyle sees us adopt a set way of using our bodies, which often leads to the over-use of some muscles and joints, while under-using the others.  For example, if your job requires you to be seated for hours each day, then you’re likely to have a tight lower back, under-active glutes and core, tight hamstrings, and a tense upper back.  The most effective exercise should address this and counter the posture-induced muscular imbalance.

3. Injury-prevention – we want to prepare the body to move, the right way and safely.  Moving right prevents injuries becoming a setback from your goals.

4. Beginner-friendly – after years of working with exercise beginners, we understand how to make exercise safe and effective as you start your exercise journey.  The 5 exercises below are foundational movements – if you master these, you can easily master other exercises.

What are the 5 most effective exercises, in our team’s opinion?

1. Squat to overhead press

When it comes to functional movements, you can’t get better than squat to overhead press.  It recruits almost all of the major joints and muscles in our body, and mimics movements we use every day, such as lifting up your child, picking up a heavy box, or reaching overhead for something.

2. Deadlift

We often see members with back injuries caused by lifting and moving a heavy item, because the body wasn’t conditioned to doing that.  A deadlift addresses this movement pattern and strengthens the muscles that are required to work e.g. your glutes.

It also teaches the body how to hip-hinge i.e. folding the body from the hip joint.  We can become very stiff at the hips due to long periods of sitting, and often this movement doesn’t come naturally, and as such makes our lower back vulnerable and other joints e.g. knees prone to injury.

For our exercise beginners, be sure to start with no weight or low weight until you are familiar with the hip-hinge movement before increasing weight to a deadlift.

3. Seated Row

An important posture-correction exercise.  This exercise wakes up our mid-back muscles and pulls our shoulders back and down into their neutral position.  This is often the go-to exercise for those that have a hunched back or forward-head posture.  It resets the shoulders, opens up the chest, and strengthens the mid-back.

To make this movement more time-efficient, try doing it in a low squat or low lunge position once you master the upper body movement, so your legs work at the same time.

4. Deadbug

Have you been told by the doctor and physio to strengthen your core?  Do you know what the core is and how to get it to wake up?  Perhaps crunches? Contrary to popular opinion, ab crunches do little for your core, which is a deeper set of muscles that sit beneath your six-pack muscles.  See our article on “Your Core: More than just a sexy six-pack” to get to know your core muscles.

Deadbug is a safe exercise we often do in warm-up to activate the deeper layers of the core muscles.  It can be more effective and more targeted on the core than the plank!  Although it has to be said that the plank is a fabulous core exercise but many exercise beginners struggle to do it right, thus putting the body under risk for injury.  Deadbug, on the other hand, is suitable for most people, even those with movement restrictions or injuries.

Once you master the basic level of Deadbug, you can then progress to double leg extensions or the Jackknife (see video) to make it harder.

5. Burpees!

The burpee is probably one of the most brutal exercises…for a good reason!  This jump, squat, plank, push hybrid from hell is a full body exercise, that gets your heart rate up and burns many calories.

Being such a high intensity exercise, burpees have been proven to be effective in improving cardiovascular fitness (do you huff and puff walking up the stairs?), muscle strength, explosivity, and blood sugar regulation.

There’re many different variations to the Burpee.  If you’re new to it, then definitely opt for the low-impact version which takes out the jumps.  Once you build up your endurance and strength, add in the jumps, and even a push-up to recruit more of your upper body.

Final thoughts…

Join a guided class with an experienced instructor who looks out for you in class! – If you’re new to exercise and doing it on your own feels too hard, try a Leap Functional Training class at our studio where you’ll be guided through dozens of exercises (including the 5 above) in each class.

Our class programs target multiple muscle groups and movements; we also incorporate a mix of strength and cardio exercises so there’s a lot of variety.  The classes are guided by an experienced instructor who keeps an eye on your technique to ensure your safety, and that you’re challenging your body within your healthy limits.  Check out our article on “What to Expect at my First Functional Training Class for more information.

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