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The Best Exercises of All Time

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    Squats

    Your lower body—and we mean your entire lower body—loves squats. "They work all of the larger muscles in the lower half of the body, making them incredibly efficient and effective at both building muscle and burning calories," says Jacquelyn Brennan, CSCS, a personal trainer and co-founder of Mindfuel Wellness in Chicago. Plus, since we all squat when we're picking something up off of the floor, playing with nieces and nephews, or lowering ourselves into a midair hover over a public toilet seat, they are incredibly functional.

    How to do it: Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower your body as far as you can toward the floor, keeping your chest up, a slight curve in your low back, and your knees behind your toes. Pause, then slowly push back up through your heels to return to start.

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    Burpees

    Burpees are just as much a cardio exercise as they are a strength-training one. "When you burpee, you move through a plank, a push-up, a squat, and a jump," Brennan says. "All of which require a lot of strength, and if you're moving with much speed, they'll push your heart rate through the roof."

    How to do it: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and place your hands on the floor in front right in front of and inside of your feet. Then, jump your feet back into a plank position, keeping your body in a straight line from head to ankles. Immediately lower your torso down into a push-up. When you get back to the top of the push-up, jump your feet to your hands, and jump up as high as you can.

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    Deadlifts

    "Deadlifts are great for working the back of your body, including your glutes, hamstrings, and back," Brennan says. (Basically, everything people will see when you leave them in the dust during your next race.) Plus, since deadlifts work so many muscles at once, they save you a whole lot of time performing single isolation moves.

    How to do it: Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, and step up to a loaded barbell, so that your shins are just touching the bar. (Or you can use two dumbbells.) Push your hips back, bend your knees slightly, and grab the bar so that your hands are just outside of your legs and your palms are facing your body. Keeping your back straight and chest up, push through your feet to stand up with the weight, your hips forward and your shoulder blades pulled back.

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    Skull Crushers

    Don't let the name scare you away. Skull crushers are great for zoning in on the traps, which many women overlook, Brennan says. And apart from balancing out your biceps and keeping your arms strong, fit traps look amazing in a strapless dress.

    How to do it: Lie on your back on a bench holding two dumbbells or a short weighted barbell straight up in the air, your hands directly above your shoulders. Keeping your upper arms completely stable, bend your elbows to lower the weights near your head. Pause, then straighten your elbows, again keeping your upper arms still, to return to start.

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    Pull-Ups

    This is one move every woman should aspire to conquer. "Pull-ups are fantastic," Brennan says. "They work so many muscles in the back, chest, and biceps, making them very effective and efficient." Not to mention, you'll feel like a rock star when you master your first one.

    How to do it: Grab an overhead pull-up bar, so that your palms are facing away from your body, and let your body hang. Then, squeeze your shoulders to pull your elbows down along the sides of your torso until your collarbones reach the bar. If you're new to the move, you'll probably need to use an assisted pull-up machine to work up to the full move. All you do is set the weight with a pin, and then place your shins on a movable bench before trying to pull yourself up. The bench will help carry some of the weight until you can master the move solo.

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    Planks

    Planks work your deep inner core muscles, including your transverse abdominis, to help stabilize your spine, power your workouts, and carve your core, Brennan says.

    How to do it: Get into a push-up position, then lower your upper body so that your weight is resting on your forearms and your elbows are on the floor directly beneath your shoulders. Your body should form a straight line from your head to ankles. Brace your core, like you're about to be punched in the stomach, and hold.

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    Bent-Over Rows

    After sitting hunched in front of a computer all day, you need to make sure your back stays strong, Brennan says. As if working your lats and middle back isn't enough, this move also hits your shoulders and biceps for total upper-body sculpting.

    How to do it: Standing with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing your torso, bend your knees slightly and bend at the waist so that your back is straight and nearly parallel to the floor. The weights should hang directly in front of your body. Then, squeeze your back muscles and lift the dumbbells to your sides. Pause, then slowly lower to start. You can also use a bench and row one arm at a time.

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    Bench Presses

    Apart from the aesthetic benefits of benching, this exercise trains your body in a functional movement pattern, helping improve your performance in other exercises at the gym as well as in daily life.

    How to do it: Lie on your back on the bench of a bench-press station and grab a loaded barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart. Straighten your arms and lift the weight so it is right over your chest. Bend your elbows to lower the weight until it nearly touches your chest, then press back up to return to start.

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    Walking Lunges

    This über-functional exercise strengthens your quads, hamstrings, and glutes all in one move, Brennan says. With all of those muscles working at once, expect a big calorie burn.

    How to do it: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Step forward with one foot, then bend both knees to lower your hips toward the floor. Stop when your back knee nearly touches the floor and your front knee is directly over your ankle. Press through your front heel to step your back foot forward as if you're walking. Sink into another lunge.