Get in Shape: The Only 6 Exercises You’re Ever Going to Need

Trimming the fat — that’s what fitness is all about. But taking the very notion of slimming things down and applying it to all aspects of your life can be equally as difficult, and equally as satisfying, as becoming more fit and muscular. Imagine if you could trim the proverbial fat from your workday, commute, or any other number of responsibilities? Chances are, you’d reclaim a good amount of time, and be a lot happier.

For the uninitiated, playing the architect and devising a fitness routine can be difficult — so difficult that we’ve trimmed things down to six simple exercises that can get you started on the path to success.

1. Squats

man performing bodyweight squats on a track

Squats will always be a workout staple. | iStock.com

We discuss squats a lot — and for a good reason. Squats are basically the founding lift or exercise that everything else builds on top of. Squats not only help you build a powerful lower body, but also work your abs, back, and really to some extent, your entire body. You’ll become stronger, faster, improve your range of motion, and your balance as well. There are many, many reasons why squats are integral to a balanced workout, so be sure to get them in.

This is why they tell you not to skip leg day.

2. Pull-ups

man doing pull-ups

Chin-ups and pull-ups are the ultimate display of strength. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Think of pull-ups as the squat of the upper-body. It’s an exercise that incorporates nearly every muscle in your personal northern hemisphere, and forces everything to work in conjunction: your back, chest, abs, and arms. Hell, you’ll even get a little cardio going. Of course, there’s a steep curve for pull-ups, as a lot of people can’t even do one. But that shouldn’t deter you — do what you can, focusing on form. Before you know it, you’ll be busting several out over a few sets.

3. Power cleans

bodybuilder power cleans

This lift works your entire body. | Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

The clean is an excellent lift, with the only potential downside being they require access to barbells and gym space. Even so, this is one of those lifts that, similar to squats, will get your whole body into action. Not only will you be using your lower body to get a powerful lift off, but you’ll need your back and core, and finally your arms to handle the weight once you get it above your waist. You’ll develop explosiveness and definitely build a lot of muscle by incorporating cleans into your workout. There are substitutes, like rows, but if you can, get your hands on a barbell and some plates for the full experience.

4. Planks

man doing planks while a woman times him

Planks will give you the abs of your dreams. | iStock.com

Here’s an exercise that can be done in a barren fitness center, devoid of any equipment, or even in a hotel room or airport. Planking is so much more than just a passing internet video fad — it’s one of the better exercises that can be adopted into your regimen. Planks will give your core and upper legs a real workout and even help sculpt your abs. And there are a ton of variations you can throw into the mix as well to ensure you don’t get bored.

5. Lunges

man doing a dumbbell lunge

Lunges are great for your booty. | iStock.com

As if we haven’t given your lower body enough of a run-through, we’re going to add lunges to the list. Lunges, like planks, can be done in a much more convenient setting, and only require a set of barbells — or anything weighty that can be carried, really. Lunges will train your glutes and quads, helping you build explosive muscle that will also help with cleans, squats, and deadlifts. Use them in addition to your other lifts, or if you can’t do anything else, use the simplicity of lunges to your advantage.

6. Burpees

man in the bottom phase of a push-up in an empty room

Burpees are tough, but they’re seriously effective. | iStock.com

Yes, the exercise you probably hate the most is, indeed, one of the most effective. Burpees are the whole package — they raise your heart rate with the jumping movement and offer strength gains with the squat, plank, and push-up positions. If you’re unfamiliar with how a burpee works, you begin by jumping up and then immediately lowering to the ground to perform a push-up. Once the push-up is complete, hop your feet back in, and jump skyward once more. This is just one rep — do as many as you can in a minute to complete a set, or try out one of these difficult variations.

Additional reporting by Lauren Weiler