What is the number one reason you don’t exercise? If you said “lack of time”, you are right there with most of the population. Everyone is busy and we all want ways to squeeze our workouts into an already full day. First of all, we need to make it a priority….one of the things that is first on the list of what to do each day! Secondly, make sure we are getting the most out of the time spent at the gym. Don’t waste it! So, what are the top 4 exercises we should make sure we include in our workout?
Here is a list of what some would consider the top whole body exercises to incorporate. They hit all major muscle groups through a range of motions. Big muscle group work will burn more calories if weight management is a focus. Movements that work through a range of movements are more functional and will help you build strength for everyday life tasks.
These exercises can be your entire workout when time is short or can be incorporated into existing workouts to add some variety.
If you are unsure of proper technique ask a trainer who is certified in personal training and fitness. You want to be safe first of all, and you deserve results.
Why? Most trainers agree that squats are one of the best exercises you can do. They work your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves all at once. Your core is engaged completely while doing the exercise. Many joints are used including hips, knees and ankles. It is a functional exercise. You squat to pick stuff up from floor every day!
How to Do it:
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes facing straight ahead or angled slightly outward, you should be comfortable. Slowly bend the knees and lower hips towards the floor, keeping your torso straight and abs pulled in tight. Keep your knees behind your toes by thinking of sitting down on a chair that is a bit too far back. Your weight should be in your heels; make sure everything’s pointing in the same direction. Do not go lower than 90 degrees. Squeeze through the glutes to come back up to standing position. Once you are comfortable with the technique you can add more resistance. That can be a barbell across your shoulders, dumbbells in your hands. There are dozens of variations to keep it interesting and challenging.
Why? Push ups, like squats, are compound movements using almost all the muscles of your body. You’ll work your chest, shoulders, triceps, back and core. Obvious joint movements include shoulders, elbows and wrists.
How to Do It:
Position yourself face down on the floor, balancing on your toes/knees and hands. Your hands should be wider than shoulders, body in a straight line from head to toe. Don’t sag in the middle and don’t stick your butt up in the air. Slowly bend your arms and lower your body towards the floor, stopping when your elbows are at 90 degrees. Exhale and push back up. Variations include incline, decline, wall push-ups and modified versions for beginners.
Why? Like squats, lunges work most of the muscles in your legs including your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves while engaging your core. The lunge is a movement used in many sports and in daily life.
How to Do It:
Stand in a split-stance (one leg forward, one leg back). Bend knees and lower body into a lunge position, keeping the front knee and back knee at 90 degree angles. Keeping the weight in your front heel, push back up (slowly!) to starting position. Never lock your knees at the top and don’t let your knee bend past your toes. Think of lower your back knee towards the floor. The motion should be more up and down vs. forward and back. Variations: front lunges, back lunges and side lunges, walking lunges. Of course when you add weight it becomes a whole new ball game!
4. The Plank.
Why? The plank (or hover) is an isolation move used in Pilates and Yoga and works the abs, back, arms and legs. The plank also targets your internal abdominal muscles which is not typical of most common abdominal exercises.
How to Do It:
Lie face down on mat with elbows resting on floor next to chest. Push your body off the floor in a push-up position with body resting on elbows or hands. Contract the abs and keep the body in a straight line from head to toes. Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat as many times as you can. For beginners, do this move on your knees and gradually work your way up to balancing on your toes. You will be amazed at how challenging it is!
If you do these four exercises in a circuit with intensity and speed you will also get a good cardiovascular workout too!
Here is a combination to try the next time you are at the gym. Be sure to perfect the technique with a trainer before trying these on your own.
Warm up – 10 minutes fast walk to slow jog on treadmill or quick pace on elliptical
Circuit Workout –
- Goblet squat (holding dumbbell like wine goblet) – 15 reps
- Push-up – with feet wide – 15 reps
- Lunge – walking – 15 reps per side
- Plank – from elbows and toes. 30 seconds then rest for 10 second. Repeat 3x
Repeat circuit as many times as you can within 20 minutes. Keep track of the number of rounds that you complete so you can beat it next time!
Spend up to 10 minutes doing your favourite stretches. Never skip this part of your workout…..it will keep you limber and aid in recovery and injury prevention. You do have time for that!
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Until next time,