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Creating a Fitness Foundation: 4 Basic Exercises to Begin Your Fitness Journey

woman doing sit ups with a trainer
Mastering a few basic exercises can help you build strength at your own pace and feel more confident in the gym!

by Lindsay Tigar


Starting out on your fitness journey might seem difficult or overwhelming at first, but learning some basic exercises is a great way to prepare yourself for the road ahead! Mastering a few movements can help you build strength at your own pace and feel more confident about tackling your regular routine (as well as more advanced workouts).

The following exercises represent the core of most fitness programs and are excellent additions to many routines. Consider trying a few of these classic moves next time you hit the gym!


This all-star exercise engages your chest, triceps, shoulders, and abdominals. Because push-ups are an appropriate move for every fitness level from beginner gym-goer to professional athlete, they're a great addition to many routines. Be sure to master proper form to reduce your risk of injury.

How to do it:

First, lay down on your stomach (with your feet together) and position your hands directly below your shoulders and next to your chest, with your palms on the floor. When ready, lift yourself up with your arms while maintaining a straight back. Try not to hunch your shoulders or hang your head too far down. You can perform this on your knees if needed.

Start by trying to complete around 10 reps, three times a week. As you get more comfortable, you can add another set to your daily routine.


Looking to strengthen and tone your butt and legs? Try some squats! Squats are a great movement to master, as the associated muscle groups are used in many different daily activities.

How to do it:

To begin, stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. If you feel discomfort or tightness, separate your feet a bit more. Angle your toes slightly outward to aid with flexibility. Now lower yourself down into a sitting position. Go slowly and get used to the movement. Try not to lean forward, but squat down until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Keep your chest and head up and make sure your knees stay in line with your toes. Hold this pose for a moment, then slowly rise back to your starting position and repeat.

When starting out, attempt to perform around 10 reps, three times a week. As you get comfortable, add an additional 5 reps.


Pull-ups are another basic exercise that will engage your biceps, back and shoulders all at once.

How to do it:

Once you're ready, reach up and grip the pull-up bar. Your palms can face toward you or away from you, but facing your palms towards you will target the biceps more, and you might find this method easier. Now pull your body up as high as you can. Try to get your chin above the bar. To keep yourself centered, cross your feet and resist kicking. Once you've reached the top of the movement, lower your body back down until your arms are completely extended and then repeat.

It's a good idea to start with just 1 to 5 reps, twice a week, until you get comfortable with the exercise. If you need to, ask for a chair or an elastic band to help get you going.


If you want to target those hard-to-reach upper and lower abs, sit-ups are a classic choice.

How to do it:

First, lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the ground. Try to maintain a 90-degree angle with your legs. Next, place your hands at the sides of your head with your elbows bent and pointed out to the sides. If you prefer, you can cross your arms over your chest. Now lift your torso as close to your thighs as you can (in a slow and controlled manner). Your entire lower back should leave the ground. Gradually lower yourself back to the ground and repeat.

Try to complete around 15 sit-ups before adding more reps — and sets — to your regimen. This exercise is so popular because it can be done anywhere, anytime!

As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.