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Classic exercises are classic for a reason. They’re effective, and usually incredibly versatile, lending themselves to loads of fresh, challenging variations.
The best abs exercises are ones that work more than just one part of your abdominal muscles. Yes, there are multiple layers of muscles (plus soft tissue, nerves, and blood vessels) that make up the full abdominal wall. And even though you can’t see or really feel them all, they’re really important for keeping your entire body strong and stable.

When you’re doing exercises to strengthen these muscles, think of the abs and core as one unit. Even when you do exercises that recruit more of one muscle than the others (for example, side planks that really fire up the obliques), you’ll notice that you still have to engage your entire midsection to do them right, which is proof that these muscles are never working completely alone. It’s important to show equal love to all of the muscles of the core so that this unit can power itself properly from all angles.

By doing the squat-to-lunge movement on repeat, you’ll work your glutes, the front and back of your legs, and your core. It really targets the legs in particular, Oprea says, as you are keeping constant tension and essentially your entire body weight on one leg for 20 seconds at a time as the other leg moves forward and backward.

While your bodyweight is one hell of an exercise tool, there are some upper-body muscles that are best challenged with external resistance, like dumbbells. For example, you can totally work your triceps and chest by doing “push” movements sans weights, like push-ups and triceps dips. You can challenge your shoulders with pretty much any plank move. But your biceps and back muscles respond best to “pull” movements, for which you need something to work against (basically, something to pull against gravity).

The exercises in this workout are simple and effective. Many more complex exercises are based off these basic movement patterns, so mastering them will help you build a strong foundation so that you can tackle more unique and involved workouts later. This combination of exercises will hit your triceps, biceps, pectoralis muscles, and muscles in the shoulders and upper back, including the rhomboids, deltoids, rhomboids, traps, and lats. Basically, it works your entire upper body.

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