The 5 Most Underrated Exercises In Fitness History

On Sunday, I did one specific exercise that had my legs throbbing, butt twitching, and heart pounding.

And that was just after the first set.

I still had 2 more sets to complete. Even my training partner looked up at me and commented:

“Oh that looks tough, I’m not looking forward to my turn.”

And I loved every minute of it.

The thing that surprised me the most?

It was a move I haven’t done in months. Not because I don’t like it, but because I had written it off as being inferior to other lower body moves: Squats, deadlifts, and lunges. These are my general go-to moves (and most womens’).

So what is this amazing exercise I speak of?

My Underrated Move: High Step-Ups

Step-ups at “bench height” don’t do much for me, I never feel a burn and often feel as if I cheated myself at the end of a workout.

However, when I saw a 30-inch box at the gym on Sunday, I immediately decided to grab a pre-weighted bar (40-pounds) and give them a go.

Quick Side Note On Step Ups: 

Depending on your set-up strategy, the muscles you target can be changed. Start standing close to the box and you’ll predominately hit your quads (thighs)… stand farther away, and you’ll target your glutes (butt) more.

For this particular workout, I decided that a closer stance would be best.

And wowza, I learned what I was doing wrong all these years, it wasn’t that the step-up wasn’t doing anything for me… it was that I needed a higher step.

I’m Sorry Step-Ups

Even today, two days later, my thighs are still burning. I think that combination of the step-ups followed by box jumps may have been the killer leg burn I was looking for!

One thing is certain, I owe step-ups an apology.

I am sorry, I classified you an a personal insignificant exercise. You were underrated, but now I will use you more often!

Other Common Underrated Exercises

My exercise mistake had me thinking about other workout moves that are often underrated.

Moves that are fabulous, yet often get overlooked.

Underrated Exercise 2: Row Machine

Row machines were all the rage in the 80s, but now you’ll be sent on a scavenger hunt to find one. We belong to a gym chain so we have access to several in Charleston. I only know of a single facility that has a row machine… one single machine.

Why? Rowing is killer! It’s not only a great cardio workout, but you’ll be hardpressed to find a cardio workout that will make your legs, arms, and back “feel the burn” quite like a rower.

If you have one, please, get on it and just try to row for 250 meters as quickly as possible.

Just don’t make this embarrassing mistake:

I don’t think my heart rate has ever shot up so quickly as when I tried rowing. Then again, flying up out of the seat may have contributed to the high heart rate too.

Underrated Exercise 3: Jumping Jacks. 

When I think about jumping jacks, I have visions of elementary school P.E. After that, they are often out of sight, out of mind. Well, not really for me because I utilize them in boot camps all the time.

However, at the gym, I very rarely… in fact, I don’t think EVER have seen someone do jumping jacks.

It’s a shame. A great warm up move since it sends blood flowing to all the extremeties while at the same time increasing heart rate, but it’s also a great active rest exercise.

Instead of sitting around between sets, do 60 seconds of jumping jacks. Muscles still get a recovery period, while blood flow and heart rate continue to stay high.

One more plus… there are so many variations of jumping jacks to make them more challenging and a concrete element of a workout.

Squat jacks (as shown below), plank jacks, slow jacks (not what you think). In fact, I might have to do a “30 Variations Of Jumping Jacks” post soon.

Underrated Exercise 4: Post Workout Stretches

I’m guilty of this, after a tough workout I don’t often take the time to sit and stretch.

BIG mistake.

Stretching has been linked to greater strength gains,  decreased muscle soreness, increased recovery time, and decreased injuries (check out more benefits here).


When stretching, blood flow is increased to the muscles which helps them to be flooded with oxygen and nutrients needed for growth and recovery.

As a runner, I feel my tight hips, calves and achilles on a daily basis… I know how important stretching is, yet I haven’t committed the time to doing it.

Hopefully you have. I’m working on it!

Underrated Exercise 5: Farmers Carry

farmers carry

What is this exercise? Basically, you grab a dumbbell in each hand and walk with it.

The weight should be heavy and you’ll need to really work to get to your destination.

It’s a great move, but one I don’t think I’ve ever seen a woman do… at least not at my gym.

Farmers carry is great for grip, endurance, back & shoulder strength (especially the traps), and of course the lower body. It’s an exercise that creeps up on you, and by the end you’re sitting around wondering how that took so much energy out of you.

Give it a go, set a timer for just 2 minutes and try to walk back and forth without setting the weight down.

A Fitness Challenge

I love challenges! So I am giving one to you…

During your next workout, try one of the above moves or look at your current training and choose any exercise that you haven’t done in a long time, if ever.

You never know, it might end up being a new favorite.

Q: What is an exercise you feel is underrated? 

Because I feel it’s only appropriate, later this week I’ll play devil’s advocate and announce the most overrated exercises!

Q: What do you think will be on the list?


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