There’s so much fitness and wellness information available to all of us, it can be tempting to chase the latest trend. With strength training, personal trainer Bobby Zajkowski points out that there is nothing wrong with sticking with the basics, especially if you’ve developed a routine that works for you.


“Same shirt, different day? Nothing wrong with working those bigger muscle groups a few times a week as long as you’re recovering well,” says Bobby. “We all want to progress with our workouts and do the cool new stuff, but sticking with the basics will never hurt you.”


What exactly are the basics? Bobby identifies the following exercises as good options to build your upper and lower body and strengthen your core. Each exercise can be performed using the Life Fitness equipment or free weights based on your preference. This also gives you the flexibility to pursue your workout at home if you have free weights available. Members are always welcome to check in at the fitness desk with questions about proper equipment use.


Upper body exercises:

Biceps curl

Triceps press

Pulldown and chest press


Lower body exercises:

Leg press

Leg curl

Leg extension

Hips – abductor and adductor


Core exercises:

Planks. Bobby says, “With a plank, you want to be on your tippy toes while keeping your knees, legs and stomach off the ground.” Plank is about holding that straight-as-a-board position. You can hold plank with arm variations: on your forearms or with your hands on the ground and extended arms. Planks also can be done on the floor, against a wall, or at an incline with your arms on a weight bench. “Building planks will take time. Aim for 20-30 seconds at first, then build up 5-10 seconds. The lower you are, the harder it is!” adds Bobby.


Hip raises. From a prone position on your back, bend your knees with feet on the ground and curl your hips up, then lower back down (known as bridge to those familiar with yoga).

Captain’s chair

Seated core

These last two — captain’s chair and seated core — can sometimes be confusing or unfamiliar.

Bobby points out that with captain’s chair, it’s important to have proper positioning. Back up to the chair, step onto the foot pads and grab the handles. Rest your forearms on the arm pads. Position yourself so that the curved chair back is in the small of your back to help support your back as you work your core. Once positioned, you can lift your legs with your knees bent, or do a straight leg version. It’s important to do your knee or leg lift steadily and with control, which helps work and protect your muscles.

Bobby demonstrating proper form for a crunch on the captain’s chair.

The seated core exercise is another option if you’re looking to develop core strength. This is especially useful when you’re not able to make it to the gym, or as an option for anyone who might not like using the core exercise machines. Choose a sturdy chair, sit down and scoot to the front so that your buttocks are still firmly on the chair, but your back is not against the chair back. This will ensure better core engagement during the exercise. Maintain upright posture and slowly bring your knees up to your chest, then lower them back down.

Bobby demonstrating a seated crunch.


The number of repetitions for any of these exercises will depend on the person’s level of fitness, comfort level and familiarity with strength building and goals. Typically, Bobby will start a client at two sets of 8-10 repetitions, then build to three sets of 8-10 repetitions.


Please check in with the fitness desk if you’d like guidance on any of the exercises above. Our members also are welcome to ask for an equipment orientation at any time. Even if you’ve had an equipment orientation in the past, participating in a quick review may give you a helpful reminder about proper form or familiarize you with equipment you may not have used before.


The bottom line: the basics deliver!