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The Bare Bones Workout

Your exercise routine doesn’t need to be glamorous or complicated to get great results. Sometimes simple and straightforward is the best way to go.

January 18th, 2013

I admit that I make my living off making the simple seem complex. You want to be fit? Well, I’m happy to discuss the ins and outs of muscle development, weight loss, aerobic capacity, metabolism, aspects of human performance… you get it. Just mention a fitness or performance goal, and we’ll talk about what specific exercises, how many reps and sets, how much resistance, how many times per week, the length of rest between sets and what speeds are optimal to achieve the goal.

MORE: We Bust Common Workout Excuses

But truth be told, unless you’re training for the Olympics or you’re a professional athlete, it really doesn’t matter if you do three sets of 12 or four sets of 10. It doesn’t matter if you pedal at 55 rpms with a resistance of five or at 70 rpms with a resistance of three. It doesn’t matter if you rest 30 or 45 seconds between sets. For 95 percent of the population, the differences in the results just aren’t big enough to justify the time and effort spent in learning, planning and executing rather than in moving or participating in other productive endeavors.

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Like so many other things in life, the best exercise routines are often the most simple. They may seem rather bland in today’s glamorous era of aerial yoga, extreme sports, high-intensity training and touch screen cardio equipment, but retro is still “in” when it comes to staying fit. 

For 95 percent of you, the following bare bones workout will keep you fit and strong: push exercises, pull exercises, a squat or lunge sequence and walking or running for at least 15 to 30 minutes (15 minutes if you’re running, 30 minutes if you’re walking).

That’s it. Add to this a basically active lifestyle, such as recreational sports, house or yard work and running around with the kids, and you’re in good shape.

MORE: The Least Amount of Exercise You Can Do and Still Be Healthy

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Push Exercises

Push Exercises

These condition and strengthen the entire front of the body including chest, shoulders, abdominals and quads, as well as the triceps in the arms.

The most basic and simple push exercise is the push-up. You can use any number of variations on the push-up. From very easy to gradually more difficult, here are some options: the wall push-up, counter-top push-up, push-up with knees on the floor, standard push-up, push-up with one leg elevated off the floor, plyometric push-up (push up quickly enough that hands briefly lift off the floor) and one-arm push-up. 

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