If you want to keep seeing results from the time you spend at the gym, it’s always a good idea to keep that fitness routine fresh. But there’s also something great about going back to the same moves over and over again. Maybe it’s a movement that just feels great on your body, like a fantastic thread the needle stretch. Or maybe it’s a challenging exercise like the burpee, and repeating it regularly lets you gauge your progress over time.
No doubt, trainers have their must-do moves in their personal routines, too. Here, four fitness pros let us in on the not-so-secret exercises that always make the cut in their own workouts—often as part of their warmup. Since they do this for a living, trainers’ favorite exercises can clue you in to moves that you might want to add to your own arsenal.
Charlee Atkins, founder of Le Sweat TV
Go-to moves: Isometric split squat and isometric tripod side plank
Charlee Atkins, CPT, the founder of Le Sweat TV, likes to incorporate the isometric split squat and isometric tripod side plank back-to-back as part of her warmup before any workout.
“I taught indoor cycling for a decade, which wrecked my hips,” she says. “Combined, these two exercises open up my hips and have also made me stronger. I do them pretty much every single day.”
Atkins holds each position for 30 seconds on each side of her body for two rounds to strengthen her hips, knees, lower back, and abs. “Isometrics are also low-impact and strengthening, so you can add them to any workout as a warmup or part of the workout,” she says.
Unsurprisingly, Atkins featured these moves in one of her videos for Well+Good’s Trainer of the Month series, a 17-Minute Lower Body and Core HIIT Workout. Check it out to get her step-by-step instructions on how to do them effectively.
Roxie Jones, fitness coach
Go-to moves: Arm bar and cat-cow
Fitness coach Roxie Jones, CPT, makes sure to always warm up with the arm bar exercise thanks to its versatility and focus on shoulder mobility and strength. Not only does this movement (which involves holding a kettlebell straight up while laying on the floor and rolling over) keep her shoulders healthy, she says, “it can also allow for additional movements like hip bridges or single leg raises that can provide more warming up pre-workout.” Jones adds that arm bars help build more stability in the shoulder for more secure overhead movements like Turkish get-ups or strict presses.
When it comes to stretching, Jones is all about the cat-cow. “It’s integral in maintaining spinal mobility, the root of movement,” she says. “Mobilizing the spine can prevent injury in the future.” Count us in!
Michelle Parolini, master coach for Row House
Go-to moves: Squats and deadlifts
Squats and deadlifts have stood the fitness test of time for good reason, says Michelle Parolini, CPT, of Row House. “I love squats because they are one of the most complete exercises you can do,” she says. “Not only are you working the quads and glutes, you’ll also work core stability, calves, hamstrings, abductors and adductors.”
A bonus? Changing the depth of the bend and the width of your foot placement can mix up exactly what you can get out of the movement. Parolini says she always throws a few rounds of squats into her warmup to open up her hip, knee, and ankle joints.
Meanwhile, Parolini says, deadlifts can be used to strengthen the hamstrings and lower back. “Deadlifts are great for increasing functional strength for activities of daily living,” she says.
For her, these two moves are all about strengthening her legs for the long-haul. “Having strong legs is imperative to moving well,” she says. “Doing squats and deadlifts will work the legs from all angles.”
Erin Beck, director of training and experience for STRIDE Fitness
Go-to move: The runner’s lunge
When warming up, Erin Beck, CPT, of STRIDE Fitness says there are no exceptions to her go-to move: the runner’s lunge. “Appropriately named, a runner’s lunge gets me ready to run. It’s a three-in-one movement: It opens up my hips, stretches out my calves, and activates my glutes,” she says.
“We spend so much time sitting with our hips taking the heat: We sit in traffic, we sit at work, and we sit on the couch scrolling through Instagram. A runner’s lunge helps to elongate the muscles in the front of our hips, and it feels incredible to loosen all that tension that we build up throughout the day.”
For this move, stand with your feet hip-distance apart and parallel to each other. Then take a huge step back with your right leg, landing on the toe of your right foot with most of your weight in your left heel. “Depending on how your mobility feels today, you can keep your torso more upright, and rest your hands on your knee, or put one hand on each side of your left foot, resting your chest on your left thigh,” she says. Once your front hip feels stretched out, repeat this on the opposite leg.
“You’ll also catch me throwing walking lunges (a moving version of runner’s lunges) into the warmups I coach at STRIDE Fitness,” Beck adds. “Pro tip: They are also great for a cooldown.”
What makes these an especially useful move is the glute activation that’s involved. “Our glutes are lazy!” says Beck. “If left to themselves, they don’t ‘turn on’ as often as they should, which means our quads and hamstrings can end up taking the brunt of our running or workout.” By engaging the glutes with a runner’s lunge, you can make sure that backside is firing.