Ever find yourself sitting on the gym floor, 18 swipes deep into Instagram, hunting for workout inspiration? Yeah, us too. But while there’s an infinite amount of fancy footwork you can find on the internet, sometimes the best moves are the ones that are overlooked and underrated.
So before you attempt to rig the nearby squat rack into a TRX using old resistance bands (don’t try this at home, kids), check out these seven trainers’ favorite functional movements—they might just be what your workout is missing.
Cary Williams, an Olympic-level female boxing coach and trainer on the Lifetime TV show Fit2Fat2Fit, says that one of the biggest fears for older people is to live out the infamous Life Alert commercial—to fall and not be able to get up. As a result, the No. 1 most underrated move she does with her clients of any age utilizes the very muscles that will pick them up when they’re down.”Stand-ups are executed by lying on your back with knees bent in a sit-up position, then swinging your arms forward with enough momentum to stand up,” Williams says. “Some folks will need to use their hands to help them, but the idea is to work toward doing it hands-free.” And if you’re just getting started, go ahead and swing your legs overhead to get a really rockin’ start.
2. Bench Squats With a Medicine Ball
Bryant Johnson, personal trainer to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (!!!), says his No. 1 go-to move is a bench squat with a medicine ball.”The Justice essentially squats low into a sit on the bench, then stands and tosses the medicine ball to me,” Johnson says. “I always end our session with multiple reps because it’s a functional movement that can help maintain independence. Think about the movements you need to use a toilet—without being able to do this on your own, you would need the attention of a caregiver or help from others daily.” Honestly, if it’s good enough for RBG, it’s good enough for us.
Alright—so this is easier said than done, we know. But celebrity trainer Donovan Green says that because pull-ups hit so many upper-body muscles through different variations, they’re important to incorporate into your routine—even if you have to modify.If you’re new to pull-ups, stand or kneel on a resistance band. Or start with a jump, so you can give yourself a head start momentum-wise, Green says. And if you want to level up your pull-ups, add another bodyweight movement post-pull. “When you lower your body, release your hands then drop into a burpee,” Green says. “Then jump back up for another pull. Kick up your heart rate by repeating as many times as possible in two minutes, rest for two minutes, then repeat.”
4. Kettlebell Swings
“Kettlebell workouts as a whole are underrated,” says Nick Rizzo, training and fitness director at RunRepeat. “Studies have shown that kettlebell exercises not only increase strength and muscle but also act as an intense form of cardio that improves aerobic conditioning and helps burn fat.”
5. Forearm Planks
Although there are a bunch of fun and challenging variations you can use to build upon the OG plank, you might not need to go any further than your forearms to reap some core-strengthening benefits.”A forearm plank is an underrated way to increase core strength and stability—and it doesn’t require much to learn and implement,” says Armen Ghazarians, the CEO of Finish Fit. Remember: With planks, think quality over quantity. A few sets of ten second holds, or a sixty second plank with good form will do the trick.
Bad news for burpee-haters: Jackie Wilson, the CEO and Founder of NYC-based NOVA Fitness Innovation, says that people generally avoid burpees for the exact reasons that you should be doing them.Sure, throwing your body onto the ground and bouncing back up again is no easy feat, but Wilson says that activating so many muscle groups with one movement is the epitome of workout efficiency. “Burpees target the entire body and combine elements of strength and cardio into a single exercise! As a result, they provide arguably the best bang for your buck for any exercise movement.”
7. Ab Circles
Charlee Atkins, a movement and mobility specialist, has a pretty unassuming go-to for core strengthening. She recommends ab circles, which look like the laziest move ever—but have a big impact.”Start by lying on your back with legs straight in the air. Press your low back into the floor while moving your legs in a circular motion—this forces the core into a ‘hollow body’ hold,” she says. “Stabilizing your torso while moving your legs in a continuous circle is a sneak attack on every aspect of the abdominals: upper, lower, transverse, and obliques.”