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Is There a Single Best Exercise?

April 20, 2011

When pressed for time, what is the single best exercise to perform? A recent article by Gretchen Reynolds in the New York Times Magazine posed the question. In other words, if you could only do one exercise, which one would provide the most benefits to you as an athlete? Studies show that high-intensity interval training is the best way to improve cardiovascular endurance, but how does one simultaneously improve his or her strength?

The Burpee
Martin Gibala, chairman of kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, proposes “the Burpee”—one of the foundations of old-fashioned calisthenics [dynamic exercises or movements designed to increase strength and flexibility using only bodyweight for resistance].

A burpee [performed by NHL star Shawn Horcroff in the video below] consists of dropping to the ground from a standing position, kicking your feet out behind you, then pulling them back in and jumping as high as you can. “It builds muscle, it builds endurance,” states Gibala.

The Squat
Stuart Phillips, Ph.D., an expert on the effects of resistance training on the body, nominates “the Squat.” “[The Squat] activates the body’s biggest muscles, those in the buttocks, back and legs,” says Phillips, who recommends beginning with 25 reps with just your bodyweight. You can perform exercise after exercise, but none is more comprehensive than the Squat—developing every leg muscle in one movement while also engaging the core [abs and back]. Also, there are many varieties of the Squat [check out the five most effective Squat exercises].

For all of you ace squatters, it can be beneficial to perform a quick set of bodyweight Squats upfront—moving your hips back as if you’re sitting down—so that you can gauge your body’s range of motion before loading up with weight. In the video below, NFL return specialist Josh Cribbs explains the importance of form when performing a basic Squat.

The Stairs
Climbing stairs, particularly running up stairs in intervals, might be the single best exercise of all. Sprinting up stairs is not only an efficient cardiovascular workout—it will send your heart rate skyrocketing—it’s also a power workout to build lower body strength. Bonus: it also assists balance and muscle elasticity.

For a killer “stadium” stair routine—click here.

Source:  NY Times

Maddy Lucier
- As an associate editor for STACK, Maddy creates lifestyle, social media, gear and nutrition content for our audience of athletes. She played volleyball and basketball...
Maddy Lucier
- As an associate editor for STACK, Maddy creates lifestyle, social media, gear and nutrition content for our audience of athletes. She played volleyball and basketball...
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