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...

Featured Videos

Path to the Pros 2015: Marcus Mariota Path to the Pros 2015: Marcus Mariota Views: 1,267,361
Eastbay Path to the Pros Episode 2: Laying the Groundwork Eastbay Path to the Pros Episode 2: Laying the Groundwork Views: 197,143
Eastbay Path to the Pros Episode 4: Skill Training Eastbay Path to the Pros Episode 4: Skill Training Views: 396,957
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill
Views: 6,866,189
Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds
Views: 43,450,145
Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill Ohio State Football Open Field Plyo Drill
Views: 9,501,255
Dustin Pedroia on Training Dustin Pedroia on Training
Views: 10,920,916
Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 6,134,125

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like
Are You Using the Right Weight for Every Exercise?

Are You Using the Right Weight for Every Exercise?

2015 Summer Training Guide: Wrestling

2015 Summer Training Guide: Wrestling

2015 Summer Training Guide: Lacrosse

2015 Summer Training Guide: Lacrosse

The 10-Minute Grip Strengthening Workout

The 10-Minute Grip Strengthening Workout

Why You Should Add Depth Jumps to Your Workouts

Why You Should Add Depth Jumps to Your Workouts

2015 Summer Training Guide: Soccer

2015 Summer Training Guide: Soccer

Building Functional Balance for Figure Skaters

Building Functional Balance for Figure Skaters

Full-Body Training: 4 Dumbbell Ring Training Exercises

Full-Body Training: 4 Dumbbell Ring Training Exercises

Olympian Carrie Tollefson's Core Workout

Olympian Carrie Tollefson's Core Workout

2015 Summer Training Guide: Track

2015 Summer Training Guide: Track

Use Single-Leg Strength to Enhance Soccer Performance

Use Single-Leg Strength to Enhance Soccer Performance

2015 Summer Training Guide: Football

2015 Summer Training Guide: Football

The Squat Variation That Torches Your Core

The Squat Variation That Torches Your Core

Bulletproof Shoulders: A Shoulder Training Guide

Bulletproof Shoulders: A Shoulder Training Guide

9 Ways to Improve Your Squat Technique

9 Ways to Improve Your Squat Technique

Troubleshooting the Lunge: How to Fix Your Form

Troubleshooting the Lunge: How to Fix Your Form

10-Minute Dynamic Warm-Up for Any Workout

10-Minute Dynamic Warm-Up for Any Workout

Go Against Traditional Workout Order for Bigger Gains

Go Against Traditional Workout Order for Bigger Gains

2015 Summer Training Guide: Basketball

2015 Summer Training Guide: Basketball

2015 Summer Training Guide: Softball

2015 Summer Training Guide: Softball

A Modern Twist to the Original Burpee

A Modern Twist to the Original Burpee

5 Things to Remember When You Wing Your Workout

5 Things to Remember When You Wing Your Workout

Why Single-Arm and Single-Leg Training is Better for Athletes

Why Single-Arm and Single-Leg Training is Better for Athletes

3 Simple Tips to Gain Muscle Mass

3 Simple Tips to Gain Muscle Mass

How to Build Strong Neck Muscles

How to Build Strong Neck Muscles

Marcus Mariota's Speed and Strength Workout

Marcus Mariota's Speed and Strength Workout

There Might Be a Good Reason Tim Tebow Looks This Ridiculous

There Might Be a Good Reason Tim Tebow Looks This Ridiculous

Build Elite Strength With This Training System

Build Elite Strength With This Training System

Build Powerful Muscles With Velocity-Based Training

Build Powerful Muscles With Velocity-Based Training

Strength Isn’t Just How Much You Can Lift on a Barbell

Strength Isn't Just How Much You Can Lift on a Barbell

Building Brakes for More Speed

Building Brakes for More Speed

3 Bear Crawl Variations for Better Core Strength

3 Bear Crawl Variations for Better Core Strength

Mix Up Your Workout With Unique Partner Exercises

Mix Up Your Workout With Unique Partner Exercises

Build Lower-Body Power with This Squat Workout

Build Lower-Body Power with This Squat Workout

Fix 7 Common Problem Areas with Exercises From Todd Durkin

Fix 7 Common Problem Areas with Exercises From Todd Durkin

What Sport Coaches Need to Know About Strength and Conditioning

What Sport Coaches Need to Know About Strength and Conditioning

2015 Summer Training Guide: Baseball

2015 Summer Training Guide: Baseball

Why Reverse Lunges Are Better Than Forward Lunges

Why Reverse Lunges Are Better Than Forward Lunges

2015 Summer Training Guide: Volleyball

2015 Summer Training Guide: Volleyball

YardBarker