You probably already know why you want to work out, whether it's to lose weight, build muscle or live a longer, healthier life. But the how might be a little harder to pinpoint. If you're not sure where to start, or if you've stalled at a fitness plateau, an extra dose of motivation could give you the nudge you need.
Ever wondered how the best of the best got to where they are? We asked 30 fitness trainers and experts to share their top exercise tips. Read on and get inspired to reach your goals!
1. Kat Haselkorn, Total Body Conditioning and Spin Instructor - Washington, DC
Workout tip: Sweat once a day.
"I think sometimes people overthink exercise and feel like they need a complicated routine to get fit. Or they're gung-ho about one form of exercise and rarely stray from it. In my experience, it's best to make a commitment to get your heart rate up and sweat a bit every single day, whether it's by going for a walk, taking a yoga class, dancing around your living room or heading to CrossFit."
2. Beth Weinstein, Ultramarathoner and Founder of OnlyAtoms.com - New York, NY
Workout tip: Set a big goal.
"Set a BIG goal to motivate and inspire you—sign up for a running race, a 5K, 10K or half marathon. Then you can stick to a plan and follow it. Also consider joining a running group or getting a running partner. There are many group workouts everywhere, and most running clubs are free. Setting up times to workout and run with others will keep you committed and having fun!"
3. Sarah Bright, NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor - Chicago, IL
Workout tip: Embrace exercise as self-love.
"While aesthetic goals like weight loss and toning up are fun and healthy, we need to remember to approach exercise as something to do because we LOVE our bodies, not because we hate them. This can be tough—maybe you don't love the way your body looks or feels right now, but remind yourself that loving and caring for your body is the way to make it feel better. Despite what my junior high PE teacher taught me, exercise is not a punishment!"
4. Sarah Anne Kelly, Fitness Professional and Owner of MomTrainer.com - San Francisco, CA
Workout tip: Don't bash the burpee.
"I love the burpee. When you don't have time or equipment, this exercise will challenge your entire body and burn calories like no other!"
5. Ashley Pitt, Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor - San Francisco, CA
Workout tip: Mix it up.
"A great workout program is a diverse one. Think about 2-3 days of cardio training, 2-3 days of resistance training and a good, long stretching session, like yoga, every single week. The key to getting fit is always changing the way you're working your body. And when you're always changing the focus of your workout, you won't get bored."
6. Shane McLean, ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Group Exercise Instructor - Dallas, TX
Workout tip: Double up.
"Combine your cardio and weights together. Do any upper body exercise for 8-12 reps followed by any lower body exercise for 12-15 reps and then 30 seconds of intense cardio of your choosing. Repeat this sequence 4-6 times for a fat-burning, sweat-inducing good time."
7. Treva Brandon Scharf, Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor - Los Angeles, CA
Workout tip: Play at the park.
"My favorite workout is cheap and easy: a public park circuit. It's like having a free gym at your disposal. There are benches for push-ups, ledges and steps for legs, grassy surfaces for sit-ups, and other features to use creatively. It's great for circuit and interval training when you add cardio in between stations."
8. Cheryl Russo, Personal Trainer & Group Fitness Instructor - New York, NY
Workout tip: Learn to love lunges.
"I love doing lunges. Every form. The move incorporates quads, hamstrings, glutes, balance and core strength, and there are several variations of this move to keep you motivated."
9. Minna Herskowitz, Owner of Sandbox Fitness - Los Angeles, CA
Workout tip: Get serious about squats.
"If I had to choose one exercise to do for the rest of my life, it would probably be jump squats. The glutes and quads are the biggest muscle groups in your body. If you work those, then you will constantly burn calories throughout the day. Because this is a plyometric move, you are not only working your legs, but also your abs and arms. This move is great for cardio, strength and speed.
10. Stephen Box, Certified Fitness Trainer and Owner of Stephen Box Fitness & Nutrition - Suwanee, GA
Workout tip: Break the cardio cycle.
"My exercise tip, especially for those looking to lose weight, is to cut back on the cardio and focus on weight training. With cardio, there is a very small amount of post workout calorie burn vs. strength training, which can increase calorie burn for up to 48 hours."
11. Kyle Kranz, Running Coach - Rapid City, SD
Workout tip: Get outside.
"Don't let bad weather be an excuse to skip a run, bike ride, hike or any outdoor activity. The weather always looks worse from indoors, and you'll always be glad you exercised once you get started (which is the hardest part!)."
12. Catherine Basu, ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Owner of Fit Armadillo® - Houston, TX
Workout tip: Do what you love.
"My #1 tip for staying motivated is to find a form of fitness you enjoy. That was what got me from hating gym class to loving running and other forms of fitness. When you find exercise you enjoy, your workouts won't feel like work and you'll be a whole lot more likely to stick to them!"
13. Anthony Ussery, Fitness Instructor - San Diego, CA
Workout tip: Go for time, not volume.
"Time your exercises instead of doing a certain amount. People will find that they will do more reps this way. Also, the muscle gets a harder workout. I start my clients at a minute of exercise followed by a minute of rest and then adjust the time from there."
14. Denton Coleman, Certified Exercise Physiologist and Founder of Satori Institute - Ogden, UT
Workout tip: Start with the right mindset.
"My top motivation tip for my clients is to have them gain the understanding that the body reflects the mind. I don't want to get too esoteric here, but try not to get caught up in always looking for changes or results in the mirror. Instead, look to change your mindset into one of health and appreciation for your body. This will make it much easier for your body to begin reflecting the healthy and functional physique you want to achieve."
15. Francis Ramsden, Personal Trainer and Owner of Ramsden Elite Fitness - Pittsburgh, PA
Workout tip: Track your workouts.
"My biggest tip for progress is tracking your workouts. You must track your history in order to gauge progress. This is easily the biggest mistake I see in the gym: Individuals doing the same exercises and the same schemes. You should be able to see what you performed last time and seek to beat it."
16. Alissa Rumsey, Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Owner of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition & Wellness - New York, NY
Workout tip: Lift more weights.
"If you want to change the shape of your body, you have to lift weights. Lift a weight heavy enough that you can't do more than 10-12 repetitions, and perform multi-joint exercises like squats and lunges. This goes for women just as much men. If you want to look slimmer, more toned and lose belly fat, the best thing you can do is a combination of short, high-intensity cardio sessions and strength training."
17. Josh Biard, Athletic Performance Coordinator at Well & Being at the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas - Dallas, TX
Workout tip: Embrace shorter workouts.
"Fitness experts are turning to high intensity interval training movements that will increase the amount of fat you burn during your exercise session. You'll take your fitness and fat loss to the next level, while spending less time in the gym.”
18. Lizette Perez, Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor at Core Candy Fitness - Winnetka, IL
Workout tip: Just move it.
"If you attend a new class and can't keep up or simply don't like a move, do your own thing. As long as you're moving, you are burning calories and having fun. If you find yourself in a new job with less time to make it to the gym, take the stairs a few times a day. Be creative—the key is to just move it!"
19. Desima Dawdy, Certified Pilates instructor and Owner of Pilates Performance & Rehab - Topeka, KS
Workout tip: Exercise as smart as you do hard.
"Exercising out of alignment can be a slippery slope to aches, pain and dysfunction. You don’t drive your car when it's out of alignment—the same holds true for your body. Alignment and stabilization should be top priority. If you exercise and your daily resting posture is bad, you may be choosing the wrong exercises to align your frame. Fitness is not one-size-fits-all.”
20. Mandy Enright, MS, RDN, RYT, Owner of Nutrition Nuptials - Red Bank, NJ
Workout tip: Be creative with your environment.
"Fitness doesn't have to mean going to a facility and paying money. Simple items in your home can become your own personal training station. A chair can become a dip station. The couch can be used for various abdominal exercises. A duffle bag filled with dried beans becomes a sandbag. Water bottles can become free weights."
21. Clark Shao, Sports Nutrition Specialist for SixPackShortcuts.com - Austin, TX
Workout tip: Get the hard part done early.
"Do your high-intensity workout in the morning before breakfast. This ensures that you will continue to burn calories hours after you've stopped your workout. Your body will burn straight fat during the workout, because the body is depleted of sugar/energy from not eating during sleep. When you do eat, it will simply refill the depleted energy source, which prevents fat storage. Work out first thing in the morning for higher metabolism and all-day fat burning."
22. Kate Hanley, Personal Trainer for Acacia - Brooklyn, NY
Workout tip: Use the carrot, not the stick.
"For motivation, think about how good you're going to feel when your yoga, stretching, meditation or workout session is through. People get too hung up on how much they don't want to do the actual work, and never let themselves anticipate how great that work is going to make them feel. I like to think about how serene I'll feel walking back out to my car after class is over, or how much more I'll enjoy being with my kids if I take the 15 minutes before they wake up to roll out of bed and meditate."
23. Kristin McGee, Personal Trainer for Acacia - Brooklyn, NY
Workout tip: Put your mind in your muscle.
"No matter what you’re doing, make sure you're not just going through the motions. Visualize your abs engaged. Feel your legs working. Pay attention to your breath."
24. Wes Ferguson, Celebrity Trainer - Los Angeles, CA
Workout tip: Mix, match and maximize!
Don't work one muscle at a time. That's boring and takes forever! Combine moves with a single exercise, such as the squat-curl-press (SCP). Perform this move by standing with feet hip distance apart, holding medium weights at the side. Squat, then as you raise back up to a standing position, perform a bicep curl straight into an overhead press. It works the legs, arms and shoulders all at the same time. You'll get more done in less time, too."
25. Lindsey from the Bravo Show "Work Out New York" and the Brave Body Project - New York, NY
Workout tip: Don't overdo it.
"If you’re performing your 'workout du jour' at your max capacity, that should be all you need to do. Tacking on multiple hours of training is going to have adverse affects on your body and could lead to some serious problems and injuries. We’re talking muscle imbalances, dehydration, exhaustion, mood swings, central nervous system problems, missed periods, dry skin, brittle hair and nails, dizzy spells and even strokes. Bottom line: Use fitness as a tool to make you your most powerful self. Don’t ruin your body by overdoing it."
26. Jeff Watters, Owner of Fitness Studio - Detroit, MI
Workout tip: Focus on large muscle groups.
Your large muscle groups—your legs, back and chest—recover quicker, so you can train them more often. When you train your large muscle groups, you burn up to 50% more calories due to the volume of the muscle being contracted and released. Also, when you train large muscle groups, the smaller support muscles get worked at the same time, so you don't have to isolate them. Every time you do any type of back exercise, you use your biceps as well. The chest uses your triceps. The legs use everything from the core to the shoulders. Always select your large muscle groups and train them often."
27. Dempsey Marks, Fitness Expert and Competitor for PreGame Fit - Los Angeles, CA
Workout tip: Set goals and rewards.
"Fitness is my job, and even I have trouble sometimes motivating myself to workout. That's why I love setting goals and rewards. For example, if I work out five times this week, I'll treat myself to a mani/pedi this weekend, or if I try one new group exercise class a week, at the end of the month I'll buy those new workout shoes I've been wanting. It helps give me incentive to work out on days when I'm feeling lazy or sluggish."
28. Amanda Dale, Certified Personal Trainer, Group Exercise Instructor and Sports Nutritionist - Los Angeles, CA
Workout tip: Make exercise part of your life.
"Clients are always asking me what time of day is best to work out, and my answer is this: work out when you absolutely can't skip it. If your only guaranteed free time is when your kids are napping, that's your workout. If you can only do it after work because you need that extra hour of sleep, say goodbye to happy hour. If you know your days get away from you, set your alarm a half hour early and get your butt out the door. The only way to guarantee a consistent workout schedule is to make sure it fits in with your real life."
29. Liz Barnet, Fitness and Food Coach - New York, NY
Workout tip: HIIT it.
"If you're short on time, that's no excuse to skip a workout. High intensity interval training, or HIIT, not only saves time, but can actually be more effective than a longer workout. Using timed intervals, you work hard for a period of time and then rest and recover. The beauty of HIIT training is that depending on your fitness level, you can modify or challenge yourself. For example, try to choose five movements and do five one-minute intervals of 30-45 seconds of work and 15-30 seconds of rest. Over time, increase the amount of time you are working (and decrease your rest time), or simply try to increase the number of repetitions in a given period of time. Because you do more work in less time, you can expect more results!"
30. Blair Wilson, Personal Trainer for MedX Precision Fitness - Toronto, ON
Workout tip: Train progressively.
"Our bodies are adaptable organisms, and as we work out we need to make sure we are challenging them to progress toward our goals. As we get stronger and better conditioned, the demands of our workouts must increase to continue stimulating the adaptive response relationship we have with exercise as a whole. We should constantly be looking to improve on our form, the amount of weight we lift, the number of repetitions we do or the pace of the workout in general. Every time you go to the gym, you should be better than the last time. Otherwise, what's the point?"
What are your favorite motivational tips, techniques or mantras to help you stay on track?