Whether you exercise on your own or with a group, whether you fit it in at home with a video, take it to your local track, are a member of a gym, or exercise in your garage, I believe there are certain moves that everyone should do. I call these the non-negotiables. If you have ever been in any of my bootcamp classes, group fitness classes or trained with me privately, these will come as no surprise. These are moves that are good for every body. They help provide strength to function well in everyday life and, furthermore, strengthen the core which is imperative for posture, a healthy back, and simply to make it easier to move throughout the day, and as we continue to move each year.
Squats might just be my all time favorite move. They are such a great multi-tasking move. They work the quads, hamstrings, glutes and erector spinae as well as abs. The squat contribues to making strong hips to sit and stand, engages the glutes and quads to help with support for the back and knees.
When done correctly squats are almost the perfect exercise. When performing a squat, always be conscience of keeping your knees pushed back behind the toes, keep weight in the heels, chest lifted and abs engaged. Progressions include going from body weight squats, to adding weights, and even making them jump or air squats.
I NEVER complete a workout without ab work. Planks are the best of the best for strengthening the entire core – the rectus abdominals, tranversus abdominals, erector spinae, as well as quads, deltoids, obliques. (for an added bonus)
Planks work all these muscles, without any stress on the back or neck which can be so common in crunches. They can also be done ANYWHERE. If just beginning start on forearms with elbows directly under shoulders and on your knees. Being careful not to arch the back and keeping the chin off the chest are key cues I always give. Begin holding for a few seconds leading up to 30 seconds to a minute, or more.
As you progress and get stronger, lift up onto hands and toes, continuing to keep neutral spine and long line from neck to end of spine. Then, progress to lowering down to forearms with elbows under shoulders, long spine, naval pulled back to spine, pressing heels back and holding.
Lunges are a great move to work quads, hamstrings and glutes while also enhancing balance and stability. There are so many variations that can be done with a lunge to engage not just the lower body, but also the core and upper body. It can be fun to get creative with static, forward, reverse or walking lunges.
A beginner should start with a static lunge, being careful to keep a neutral spine, abs engaged, and extend the left leg directly behind. Place the toes of your left leg on the floor as you slowly soften your knees, lowering your body toward the floor. Only go as low as you feel comfortable while keeping your pelvis and spine neutral and shoulders stacked on top of your hips. Drive upward through your legs to straighten them and complete one rep. Perform all reps then switch legs. Progress by adding weights.
The push up is almost the perfect exercise. It works so many muscles at once – and ones you might not even realize! I have to be honest here and say that I do not always incorporate standard push ups into all of my workouts and classes. However, there is typically some sort of variation that comes from the push up included.
These old fashioned, perfect move, work the pectoralis major, deltoids, triceps, transversus abdominals, erector spinae. That’s a lot going on in just one move!
Beginning on the knees is important when just starting out. It is far more important to get the form correct and a full range of motion before moving up. Start with your knees or toes at hip-width distance with hands only slightly wider than shoulders. Keep the spine neutral and chin off the chest and lower your self down and pushing back up for one rep. Keeping the back in a long straight line is really important here. As you get stronger progress from knees to toes.
I love a good Plank Row. It’s another of those moves that works multiple muscles at once. The erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, biceps, deltoids, and entire core are all engaged. These are important for good posture, upper body and upper back and shoulders. I am a guge believer in moves to strengthen the upper back to conter all the rounded shoulders and slouched shoulders we see all around!
One of the best ways to start this exercise as a beginner is to perform a superman. In this move, you lie prone on the floor. Squeeze your glutes to extend and lift your legs off the floor and lift your shoulders off the floor in a back extension, keeping your head and neck relaxed and chin off the chest. Hold and then lower everything down for one rep. As you progress, extend the arms overhead if you want to increase the difficulty.
Progress to a row by getting in a table top position holding dumbbells on the ground under your shoulders and knees under hips. Pull one dumbbell up, bending elbow and deeping it close to your ribcage. Lower that dumbbell to the floor and repeat with the opposite side. As you get stronger lift up onto your toes for the move.
With summer here a lot of folks’ normal exercise routines goes a little topsy turvey. Many moms find it difficult to get to the gym or favorite classes with children at home. This is the time to get creative with workout times and places. At home workouts may be the best answer on some days or fitting in these moves while children are on the playground or at swim team practice, or whereever, may be the only time in the day. That’s okay. A little bit of movement can go a long way. Make sure you incorporate these non-negotiables, think quality over quantity until the moves are perfected and THEN make sure you do enough reps to make it count.
Do you have your own non-negotiables moves for your own workouts?
Enjoy Your Day!