6 Crucial Exercises You’re Forgetting To Do At The Gym

Habits can be incredibly helpful, getting you into the routine of positive actions like going to the gym every day. But once you get there, we encourage variety in your activities; it’s your shortest route to the best results! Here’s a list of the top six crucial exercises that often get overlooked, and why they’re so valuable.


1. Rowing

Most people assume this is an upper body workout, but it’s not. Rowing actually works 9 major muscle groups: quads, hamstrings, glutes, lats, core, shoulders, triceps, back, and biceps. Now that’s efficiency! Because legs are so primary in the technique, it’s easy to get the heart rate up quickly, making it a fantastic cardio option. Plus, the activity is low impact, so you can work hard yet avoid over-stressing your joints. The best part about rowing is it works the very muscles that help with good posture, and utilizes a large range of motion (compared to most cardio activities) that helps to open the chest and strengthen the back. Rowing is beneficial even if you just add it as your warm-up for strength training workouts.

Watch a primer on rowing to ensure you have proper form.

2. Deadlifts

Deadlifts are an amazing strength exercise that is vital to avoiding common injuries associated with everyday lifting (ie. picking anything, including children, up and off the floor!). Deadlifts target the hamstring, glutes and lower back, and can be performed with a variety of equipment, including hand weights, barbells, kettlebells and medicine balls. Start with lighter weight (or no weight) to master the movement mechanics, and then build from there. You can also try lighter, single leg deadlifts to work the same area.

Watch a simple example of performing deadlifts.

3. Side-Lying Leg Lifts

The side-lying leg lift went out of fashion with leg warmers and leotards, but it’s making a comeback as trainers realize the importance of training the glute medius. The glute medius does more than just lift the leg out to the side and rotate. It also stabilizes the pelvis and lower extremities. Focus on the glute medius and you’ll improve your balances and prevent  injuries, as well as increase athletic performance.

Watch a side-lying leg lift and a few other glute medius exercises.

4. Ankle Exercise: Resisted Dorsiflexion

The relationship between your foot, ankle and lower leg significantly influences the rest of your kinetic chain, or path between joints. If your calf is developed, but the opposing muscle group weak, that can lead to lower leg issues. That’s why you want to focus on the anterior tibialis, which is the front side of the lower leg and responsible for dorsiflexion, or flexing of the foot. The easiest way to strengthen this area is by performing Resisted Dorsiflexion.

Watch the Resisted Dorsiflexion exercise. Learn more about the anterior tibialis and helpful exercises.

5. Side Plank 

You’re likely performing some type of planking exercise in your routine (if not, you should!). But the side plank often is overlooked, and should make a weekly appearance. Variety is important to fully explore how beneficial planking is to strengthening your core. Side planks are not only targeting the deep muscles of the core, but they help strengthen the hips and require stabilization of the shoulder muscles. There are many side plank variations, but begin with a static side plank and hold for 15-30 seconds on each side.

Watch a quick video on the side plank.

6. Shoulder Exercise: External & Internal Rotation


Rotator cuff injuries are pretty common when you’re not focusing on the muscles around the shoulder (specifically, the Infraspinatus, Supraspinatus, Subscapularis, and Teres minor). External and Internal Rotation exercises target just that. Strengthening the rotator cuff will help the integrity and stability of the shoulder, thus allowing you to stay safe in all of your lifting activities (strength training, daily life or sport).

Watch a compilation of rotator cuff exercises.

Note: Per the American College of Sports Medicine, fitness routines should to be balanced with cardio, strength, core, and flexibility. That means resistance training (strength) on each major muscle group at least 2-3 days per week, plus at least 30-60 minutes of moderate intensity cardio five days a week, or vigorous intensity cardio at least 3 days a week for 20-60 minutes. Then, don’t forget crucial core and flexibility sessions (like foam rolling) that are key to safety and effectiveness.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Shannon Fable, 2013 IDEA and 2006 ACE Instructor of the Year, is the VP of Fitness Programming for the FIT4MOM® franchise. For more than two decades, she has helped impressive brands such as Anytime Fitness, Schwinn®, Power Systems, ACE, Silver Sneakers, and BOSU® as a fitness business and programming consultant. An experienced educator, freelance writer, and certified Book Yourself Solid® Business Coach, she helps fitness entrepreneurs navigate the industry and make more money. Fable serves as Vice Chair of the ACE Board of Directors and is the founder and co-owner of GroupEx PRO®, a cloud-based group fitness management tool.