Whether you want to build muscle, feel better about your body, lose weight or just challenge yourself, those just starting out often have a particular, sometimes intimidating exercise or move that serves as their personal benchmark for success. Do this once seemingly unachievable thing, and you're well on your way to health and happiness, baby. The process of working towards one achievable goal, accomplishing it and seeing the changes in your mindset and overall confidence level lays the groundwork for a lifetime of pursuing and realizing increasingly more challenging goals.
Step up to the starting line today and unlock the secrets to effectively hitting 10 of the most common beginner fitness goals with expert advice from Jenn Mathis, regional director of fitness at Gold's Gym. Learn how each move works specific muscles, the benefits you'll reap and how to work your way toward success!
Run One Mile Without Stopping
- Benefits: Consider running the MVP of cardio workouts: It builds endurance and strength, keeps the heart healthy and helps you burn calories and body fat, Mathis says. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health also found running can even help improve your sleep.
- Muscles Worked: A laundry list of muscles (yes, it's that good for you!), including quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves and your core.
- Achieve This Goal: Don't be embarrassed to start slowly. "Work on interval training first," Mathis suggests. Jog from one stop sign to the next, and then walk for a minute to recover. "Run for 10 seconds, walk for 50 seconds, then keep increasing the running time and decreasing the amount of time you're walking," Mathis says. You'll be at one mile before you know it!
Complete Five Proper Pushups
- Benefits: Pushups build upper-body strength and endurance, which will make it easier to complete everyday tasks like yard work or hauling in the week's groceries in one trip.
- Muscles Worked: "The main muscles that a pushup
works areyour chest muscles, your arm muscles and your shoulders," Mathis says. Proper form is key here—sagging your hips or arching your back will actually make the move harder.
- Achieve This Goal: First, make sure you can do a plank with proper form. Then, move on to pushups on your knees. Once that feels comfortable, you're ready for your toes, Mathis says. "Do one, do two and keep working your way up slowly so you don't ruin your form," she says.
Climb Five Flights of Stairs Without Getting Winded
- Benefits: Feel less exhausted when you climb stairs at your house or at work—less huffing and puffing is always a good thing!
- Muscles Worked: Of course, your leg muscles—quads, hamstrings and calves—are working, but so are your
glutes. "Some people forget their backside is what actually pushes them up," Mathis says.
- Achieve This Goal: Add squats and lunges to your routine to strengthen the muscles you'll need to climb the stairs. Then, start on a step mill at your local gym, and gradually increase the number of flights you're able to walk up. "That will get you stronger and more conditioned to climbing those stairs without getting sore, without getting winded," Mathis says
Hold a Plank for One Minute
- Benefits: Planks help you achieve several other fitness goals on this list, from
pushupsto burpees, Mathis says. A 2014 study published in Gait & Posture found a strong trunk also helps prevent injuries among new runners. Plus, the plank teaches proper posture, a perk we could all benefit from in these days filled with sitting at a desk and hunching over the phone.
- Muscles Worked: Your core, back, hamstrings, glutes, lower back and upper body all are at work here, Mathis says.
- Achieve This Goal: If you've ever had any lower back pain or shoulder injuries, start on your knees before adding more body weight, Mathis says. Injury free? Start with a 15-second hold, stopping if you start to drop your hips or sag your shoulders. Add five seconds each time you work out, working up to a minute.
Finish a Set of 10
- Benefits: "The benefit is not only to make your total body strong, but [
burpees] burn a ton of calories when you do them correctly, which helps with fat loss," Mathis says. Burpees, the exercise everyone loves to hate, can also help in your day-to-day by making it easier to stand up or get out of bed.
- Muscles Worked: You'll work your core, heart, legs, chest, back and arms. "
Burpeesare one of the hardest exercises because they incorporate just about every muscle of your body," Mathis says.
- Achieve This Goal: Cardio plays a big role here, so work on your cardio first. Spending some time on an elliptical or walking at a brisk pace will help get your heart in fighting form. Mastering squats, pushups and planks will also help you successfully finish 10
burpees. Start with one, and then do two and when you reach 10, celebrate!
Touch Your Toes
- Benefits: "In today's society, where a lot of people sit all day long for their jobs, their backside stays lengthened and their hip flexors stay tight, so when you stand up, you're already in a forward tilt," Mathis says. Fight against the negative effects of sitting by working on your flexibility. As a result, you'll limit pain and injury down the road, Mathis says.
- Muscles Worked: This move isn't as much about the muscles being worked as it is about loosening up the hamstring muscles and hip flexors, Mathis says.
- Achieve This Goal: Sign up for yoga, Pilates and core classes at your local gym or try an at-home workout, Mathis suggests. Be sure to stretch before and after exercising
Master Chaturanga Dandasana Pose
- Benefits: This
poseis essential to every yoga practice, so feelingcomfortable with it is your first step to finding more Zen. By adding yoga to your fitness routine, you'll also boost your flexibility and your balance, according to a 2016 study published in the International Journal of Yoga.
- Muscles Worked: This works the same muscles as a plank with a little more focus on the arms and forearms, Mathis says.
- Achieve This Goal: Master the plank first to teach your body how to stay in a straight line, Mathis suggests. Then, perform the
chaturangaon your knees. Once you can do that for 20 to 30 seconds, move up to your toes.
Do 15 Kettlebell Swings with a 10-Pound Weight
- Benefits: Good news: "Everyone can do this if they do it right," Mathis says. In a 2012 study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, participants who did 12 rounds of 30 seconds of swings followed by 30 seconds of rest improved their strength by nearly 10 percent!
- Muscles Worked: It's a total-body move that works your legs and hips as you throw the
kettlebell, your lower back and glutes as you hinge forward and your upper back, shoulders and arms as you lift the kettlebellup.
- Achieve This Goal: Start without the
kettlebellto get the motion down, Mathis says. Stand straight up and keep your hands together. Drop your knees down and hinge at your waist. Use your hips to come forward to standing, and then lift your arms. Practicethat hinging motion, and then adda five-pound dumbbell or kettlebell. Then, increase to the 10-pound weight for 15 swings .
Jump Rope for One Minute Without Stopping
- Benefits: The playground activity is actually a great exercise and works your cardiovascular system as well as your coordination, Mathis says.
- Muscles Worked: "You're using a lot of your legs and your calves since you're jumping off your toes," Mathis says.
- Achieve This Goal: Work on your cardio first by running, doing the elliptical or walking outside. Then, add the jump rope motion without the rope. Hold your hands at your sides and do 50, 60, up to 70 jumps to make sure your cardiovascular system is ready. "Then, add the jump rope and go for 30 seconds, then 40 seconds, all the way up to a minute," Mathis says.
Complete a Pilates Teaser
- Benefits: This tough move works your core as well as your flexibility. Plus, it can protect you against back pain that tends to creep in later in the day, Mathis says.
- Muscles Worked: The exercise works your legs as well as every part of your core—your lower
abs, middle abs, upper absand obliques.
- Achieve This Goal: Start working on your
plankto strengthen the backside of your abs, which are necessary to perform this move. Practice toe touches, too, until you're able to hold your legs at the 45-degree angle. Progress to practicing by lying flat and lifting just your legs up to the right angle, then back down. Then, when your legs and abdominals feel strong, you're ready to progress to the full teaser.