If You Could Only Do One Total Body Exercise...What Would You Do?

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Vernon-Thompson executes a perfect plank.

What if you could only do one exercise? I asked personal trainers and fitness professionals from all over the country to name their favorite total body exercise. Check out this line up of all-star moves!

1. Burpee
The burpee is the winner by a landslide. This infamous exercise is a great total body shredder that I'm all too familiar with. Here are the some variations that have these trainers feeling the burn.

  • Classic BurpeeAllison Vernon-Thompson (pictured above), creator of OurNakedLife.com, and personal trainer in New York City explains that "Burpees require flexion and extension at all major joints, including ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders. Additionally, a well-executed burpee will tone the arms, chest, core, gluteus muscles, quadriceps, hamstrings, and promote cardiovascular conditioning and coordination. That's a lot of muscle mileage for one exercise!"
  • Competition BurpeesWith this modification, you bring your chest to the floor and forgo the push-up. David King, CPT, NASM. and owner of David King Fitness in Austin, TX, says, "Although the Burpee is universally loathed as a near-death experience, in one movement it works every part of the body that clients say they would like to improve (thighs, buttocks, core, back, chest, shoulders, and arms) while skyrocketing the heart rate to condition the cardiovascular system and ultimately burn more body fat."
  • Deadman BurpeesTry bringing your body completely to rest on the floor and adding a tap with your arms to the side. Jennifer Trimmier, personal trainer and owner of Strong Body San Antonio says, "It's the perfect combination of moves that work the upper body, the lower body, and the cardiovascular system."
  • Superman Burpee Paisley Meekin, CPT and owner of Honest Training in Portland, OR, says, "The cool thing about burpees is that there are LOTS of variations. A basic variation is to start standing, squat down to put your hands on the ground, then hop your feet to a plank position, then lower all the way to the ground. I like to add in a superman lift here (bring your arms straight out in front of you and extend, lifting your both your arms and legs up). This incorporates your back muscles! Fun right?"

2. Dolphin Push-Ups

This is one I wasn't familiar with, but after trying this challenging upper body exercise, I'm sold. Jordan Taradash, MPH, CPT and president of Innovative Wellness Solutions in Pittsburgh, PA says, Although a burpee, jump squat, or plank might seem like an obvious answer, the dolphin push up will tone and strengthen your shoulders, arms, and core while lengthening your spine and stretching the muscles of the backside of your body."

3. Turkish Get-Up

I've been seeing this total body exercise crop up all over the place lately. Perry O'Hearn, CPT and owner of Philly Phitness says, "The Turkish Get-Up is one of the most comprehensive movements that requires a great deal of joint movement and mobility while needing minimal equipment." This is a great exercise if you want to avoid high impact, and it can be done with a weight or a kettle bell.

4. Standing Balance and Reach

With this exercise, you'll need to access that quiet space inside yourself where balance lives. Kate Matarese, personal trainer and owner of Train and Relax LA says, "The Standing Balance and Reach is a functional, three-dimensional core exercise that strengthens deeper abdominal muscles and cultivates smooth movement patterns. And it's really simple! Stand on one foot, reach for the ground, reach to the sides, reach out three feet straight in front of you, then reach up. Grab a coconut, and now you have a loaded movement exercise!"

5. Corpse Pose

It's so important to remember that fitness isn't just about pain. Julika Lomas, a yoga teacher relocating from Pittsburgh to San Diego says, "If I had to pick one pose, it'd be 'Savasana' (corpse pose) during which you rest after exercise. You're still on the floor and you use the deep breath, using deergha (long) pranayama. Why? you may ask. Why not something that builds muscles like 'Goddess pose' (Utkata Konasana)? Yes, I was tempted. But for me, a very active person (think Asterix who fell into the empowering elixir, mom of two) completing my yoga practice and then practicing what's most challenging for me - to rest - is the ultimate challenge. I believe in holistic exercise, a workout that doesn't push through pain but stays in the realm of self-care."

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Image: Allison Vernon-Thompson

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