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Gym Exercises That Work

Even if your work and home responsibilities are time-consuming, it’s important to exercise most days of the week.

“The key is to make exercise a priority and make it happen,” says Joni Hyde, president of Workouts for Women Inc. in Seminole, Fla., and author of Workouts for Women: Weight Training.

Following is a total wellness workout with five core exercises Hyde recommends for her busiest clients. It can be done at home or at the gym, using your own body weight as resistance, or with weights. For best results, Hyde recommends doing this routine three times a week.

Warm up with cardio

To prep your muscles so they’re less prone to injury, start by exercising on a treadmill or elliptical trainer, or walking or jogging for 30 minutes at a level at which you feel challenged but not winded.

After that, work through the following exercises. If you’re a beginner, start with just your body weight. As you get stronger, add weight, such as a 10-, 12-, or 18-pound body bar.

Lower body

Squats: With your feet shoulder-width apart, squat down like you’re going to sit on a chair, then stand up again. That’s one repetition. To avoid knee injury, don’t let your knees pass over your toes. Aim for one or two sets with 10 to 12 reps each.

Stationary lunges: To find your correct position for this exercise, get down on your knee like you’re going to propose, then stand up. Your front knee should be above your ankle. With your shoulders back, front foot pointing forward, and back foot toes bent, lower yourself straight down, almost touching the floor, then stand up. That’s one rep. Do 10 on each leg.

Chest and biceps

Push-ups: Men should do traditional push-ups, with straight legs, bringing their nose to the floor or as close as they can, then pushing up. Women should place their hands just outside their shoulders and use bent knees. In either case, go to exhaustion.

Back of the arms

Triceps dips: Sit on the end of a bench or chair with your legs extended so that your bottom hangs off the edge. Bend at the elbows, lower your weight down, and push back up. That’s one rep. Do this exercise to exhaustion.

Abdominals

Stomach crunches: Lying flat on the floor with bent knees, lift your chin off your chest with your elbows back. Focus on a spot on the ceiling and exhale as you lift your rib cage toward your navel. Then lower your body to the ground, but don’t let your head rest on the floor. Do one set to exhaustion, adding a few more crunches each time.

The home stretch

Cap off your workout with a minimum of five minutes of stretching, which helps keep your joints and muscles limber.

Start with stretching your calf by leaning against a wall and straightening your leg, then switching to the other leg. Then, stretch your quads by bringing the heel of one leg up to your butt, then do the same with the other leg. To stretch your back, lie flat on your back on the floor and bring your knees to your chest.

“Just breathe in and out,” says Hyde. “Then roll your knees gently to one side.”

You should feel relaxed, refreshed, and, in time, stronger and more fit.