Day 8 of 31-Day Series “Your Last Health Resolution”
Which exercises are best? Which ones maximize your results? And which ones are just plain wrong?
With as much time as I spend in the gym on a daily basis, I’ve seen a lot of stuff. Many people approach me with questions, and I’m happy to answer. Sometimes I approach them. Normally a small form change will allow them to perform an exercise properly or more effectively. Other times I might suggest a completely different movement. And while I can’t give you the best exercises for everything in just one post, I will tell you what works for your major muscle groups.
Hanging Leg Raises (Knees To Elbows)
Hang onto a pullup bar or slide into some arm slings. Then lift your knees up until they touch your elbows. If you don’t have a very strong core, you won’t reach your elbows. That’s alright. Lift as high as you can. The strength will come. This movement hits your tranverse abdominus and your recti. In other words, it works all the way around.
Legs and Glutes
Nobody likes squats. Just resign yourself to that fact. But you simply can’t replace the muscle stimulation, core development, and hormone production that occurs from them. A full squat (when your thighs drop to parallel to the floor or just below) will also engage your glutes and build a perky posterior.
This is probably the most incorrectly executed exercise in the gym. When performing a squat, your hips should move back immediately. This transfers the force directly through your heels. You should be able to lift your toes slightly throughout the entire movement of a squat. And your knees should never extend past your toes. If they do, or if you press through your toes, you’re placing undue tension on your patella tendon and could cause a knee injury. If you have questions, ask a certified trainer.
See squats. These are vital for core strength as well.
Romanian Deadlifts (Straight-Legged Deadlifts)
These target your hamstrings and your lower back. Form is critical in this lift. You begin in a standing position with your chest out and lower back drawn in. Keep your lower back tucked in as you lower the barbell. This takes abdominal strength. Look at your profile in a mirror as you lower the weight. You’re spine should not round. Your back should look straight. Lower the bar just to your shins and rise again. A lot of people fear this movement. But when done correctly, you will build extremely important lumbar and paraspinal strength.
Single Leg Squats
Nothing will tighten your glutes more effectively than these. You’ll feel them for a few days. Follow the same form as a regular squat. The only difference is one leg is elevated on a bench behind you. Drive your front heel into the ground, and squeeze your butt. Don’t push off your rear leg. This could cause undue stress on your rear quadriceps.
Decline Bench Press
Pressing on a decline of 20 to 40 degrees helps activate a maximum amount of muscle fibers across the chest.
Tried and true, pushups work your chest and activate your core. However, I can count on one hand the number of female clients I’ve had who could perform even one correctly. The common tendency is to elevate your butt. But as soon as you do that, you’re going to involve your shoulders. You end up with burning deltoids and very little chest work. Your hands should should be in line with your chest and outside of your shoulders. And your body should be in a straight line from head to toe (or to knees for modified pushups). Elevate your head slightly to help extend your chest out and keep your shoulders back. If you look at Jamie in the female demonstration, you’ll see she has better form than her male counterpart.
Another longtime favorite. Pullups have a surprisingly high core activation measurement as well. The large lat muscles in your back will see big benefit from slow pullups. And you’ll find yourself developing a nice “V” shape.
Bent Over Rows
These rows require the same form as the Romanian deadlift. Your back should remain in a straight line as you bend and row. You not only hit your rhomboids in the middle of your back with this movement, you recruit muscles in the lumbar, glutes, and legs.
Now you know which exercises are best for the major muscle groups. Incorporate them into your fitness plan.