Guest Blogger: Meg Sanders
As a newly certified group fitness instructor, I have been learning a lot about the tried and true exercises of the trade. I have narrowed down this extensive repetoire to just five of what I think are not only the simplest, but also the most effective. The best part if that they require no weights, machines or special equipment and they can be done anywhere!
PlanksPlanks are a great way to strengthen and build endurance in your core, abdomen and lower back. Here is how to do a perfect plank:
Lie face down resting on your forearms with palms flat on the floor. Raise your body up so that only your elbows and toes are touching the floor. Maintain a flat back in a straight line from head to toe. Avoid letting your lower back sag or rise into the air by contracting your abs. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat 2-4 times. The stronger you get, the longer your hold should be.
Push-UpsYes, push-ups are one of the oldest exercises, but they remain one of the best, no matter how much we hate them (OK, I’ll speak for myself here – I hate them!). Push-ups are a great way to strengthen your shoulders, arms, abs and upper back. (By the way, planks and push-ups work in tandem, each helping you perform the other one better so use that as motivation to do them both!)
As with planks, good form is imperative for performing push-ups. Keep a straight back, tight abs and butt and try to maintain continuous movement and full extension of the arms. To work more on chest, place your hands wider than shoulder-width; to focus more on your back and triceps, bring your hands closer together and form a triangle with thumbs and index fingers. If a full push-up is too difficult, do a modified push-up by dropping your knees to the floor until you build up your strength. Shoot for 10-15 consecutive push-ups.
Doing dips are one of the best ways to tone the back of your arms. You can use a chair, bench or any other stable piece of furniture or object. Place your hands behind you, fingers facing forward, on the chair (or other object). Elbows should be pointed straight back and at a 90 degree angle at starting position. Lower your hips down toward the floor/ground and raise your body back up without locking your elbows. Bending your knees is a good way to start, but work up to keeping your legs extended straight in front of you or, place feet on a second raised piece of furniture/object.
Step-upsI love step-ups because there are so many variations. They work your glutes, hamstrings and quads simultaneously and can be modified by adding height to the step or by holding weight. Like dips, you can use a bench, wall, chair or even a large rock, as my sister and I did recently in Montana (the same large rocks I ran into with a pickup truck towing 4 horses in a trailer, but that’s a different story). You can perform step-ups by keeping one foot on the bench and stepping up and on with the opposite or by alternating each time. If doing step-ups with one leg, you can add a knee lift after stepping up, pulling your knee up to your chest. For a more intense challenge, jump on and off the bench with both feet at the same time.
BurpeesIf there is one exercise I dislike as much, or more than, push-ups, it’s this one. But it is also probably the best total body strengthening and conditioning exercise there is. You’ll feel these in your chest, arms, shoulders, quads, hamstrings and core. Start in a squat position with your palms on the floor in front of you. Next, kick your feet back behind you so that you are in a push-up position and immediately bring your feet back underneath your torso into the squat position. Jump to a standing position and raise your arms straight above your head. Immediately continue with the next rep.
These exercises are also a great way to measure your progress – give yourself a monthly fitness test by doing as many repetitions of each as you can in one minute and track your results (for the plank, hold it as long as you can).
Thanks for all the great tips, Meg!
Photos: Google Images