This week I made my debut doing health/fitness segments on the local TV station. I am excited to have the opportunity to offer free exercise and nutrition advice once a month to viewers in the greater Columbus area. (You can catch the segments the first Sunday of each month in the 9 a.m. hour of Good Day Columbus on FOX 28.)
My first segment detailed five basic moves for a beginner who is just getting started with an exercise program. Each exercise mimics “activities of daily living” meaning these are movements we actually perform frequently in our daily lives. For that reason they are very functional and a great starting point.
1. The “bend & lift” movement. Exercise: Squat
The squat is one of the most basic yet most effective lower body moves. Every time you sit down on the couch or get up out of a car, you’re doing a squat.
In fitness we use the squat to challenge all the lower body muscles, as well as improve balance.
Aim to go as low as possible without the knees coming forward past the toes, and without leaning forward or rounding the back. As you get stronger, keep working to get the glutes lower to the floor. To make it harder, add weights.
2. The “single-leg” movement. Exercise: Lunge
The lunge is a one-legged version of the squat. It is more difficult because it requires better balance and the ability to lift and lower your body weight with one leg. Walking up stairs or bending over to pick something up with the weight on one leg would be examples of movements similar to the lunge.
As with the squat, the goal here is to keep the weight in the back of the body (the glutes and hamstrings) and to lower yourself as close to the floor as possible without allowing the knee to go past the toe or leaning forward. This exercise puts more pressure on the knee so it should be avoided if you have knee joint issues.
3. The “push” movement. Exercise: Push-up
The push-up is an exercise I include in all my client programs and group classes. It’s extremely functional and effective.
However, many of my clients (especially women) hate doing them. That’s because they are hard! It requires a strong back and core, as well as a very strong upper body.
Being able to lift your own body weight is an important strength to have, especially as we age. If you fall to the floor, you want to be able to push yourself back up, right?
When just starting out, make push-ups less challenging by doing them on your knees. Just be sure to keep your weight forward in your hands and not in your knees and hips. Once you can lower your chest all the way to the floor, you can progress to doing them on your toes.
4. The “pull” movement. Exercise: Resistance Band Row
Pulling is an action we do regularly. Examples of pulling movements would be opening a door, or pulling something heavy toward you. It is one movement that is hard to recreate in the exercise world without equipment.
A resistance band is a great option for working out at home. You could also use cable machines and barbells or dumbbells to perform pulling movements if you are at a gym.
Using the band, wrap it around something sturdy like a pole or another person, then keeping the elbows tucked to your sides, draw the arms straight back and shoulder blades together. Release the band slowly then repeat. I tell clients to imagine pinching a pencil beneath your shoulder blades. Be careful not to let your shoulders take over- press them down and away from your ears.
5. The “rotational” movement. Exercise: Medicine Ball Rotation
One of my favorite things is showing someone new to exercise ways to work their core without laying down on the floor. Often when we think of core exercises we only think of crunches. In reality, our core is working all day long to stabilize our spine and prevent injury to the lower back. Why not, then, work the core in a way that more realistically mimics how we move throughout our day?
Using a medicine ball or light weights, simply twisting slowly from side to side provides a functional challenge to the muscles of the core. Be careful not to over-rotate which could put pressure on the spine and low back, and be sure the hips and feet stay forward. Twist from the belly button up. Keep the abs tight and the movement slow and deliberate. To make it more difficult, extend the arms out parallel to the floor.
All five exercises shown here are safe for anyone who is generally healthy, without any chronic conditions or injuries or has been cleared by a doctor for exercise. A person with diabetes, hypertension, other chronic illness, joint pain or injury should first consult their doctor.
Want a sexy, sculpted midsection?
Forget sit-ups and crunches- you’ve got to get creative and train your abs all over the weight room, not just on the mat at the end of your workout.
Use multiple exercises, high reps, and challenge your core from all sides.
One of my favorite tools for ab work is the decline bench. It allows you to go past 90 degrees and increase the resistance against gravity which makes your core work a lot harder.
Here are three of my favorite decline bench ab exercises.
Squeeze the legs together and lift your feet towards the ceiling. Using your lower abs, push up towards the ceiling then use your core muscles to slowly lower back down. Do not go all the way to the floor. Keep your back flat against the bench. Don’t use your arms to pull you up, focus on using all your core strength. Do 3 sets of 12-15 reps.
Sit-up tall and be sure not to round the back. Twist and punch one arm out then slowly lower back down. Repeat on the other side. Try to fully extend the arm as much as possible. Start with 5 pound weights and work your way up to 8-10 pounds. Do 3 sets of 10 reps per side.
Squeeze the inner thighs and feet to keep from dropping the ball. Lift legs straight up towards the ceiling then push up slightly with the lower abs. Use your core to slowly lower back down. Do not go all the way to the floor. Keep your lower back pressed into the bench. To decrease the challenge, you can bend your knees slightly.
Remember, abs are built in the gym but revealed in the kitchen so be sure to eat healthy, avoid alcohol and sugar as much as possible and drink plenty of water if you want your hard work to show.
We lead busy lives. It can be hard to find the time to fit in a work out. But, we know we have to make time if we want to be healthy and reach our weight loss goals.
Here’s the good news. Making time no longer means logging hours at the gym. Research shows just 10 minutes of vigorous exercise is as beneficial (sometimes even more so) than exercising at a low to moderate intensity for three times that.
In this week’s workout I am going to ask you to go HARD, as hard as you can for four minutes. Then you get a break to catch your breath and let your body recover.
Do the following moves for 1:00 each, one right after the other: jumping jacks, mountain climbers, jump rope, burpees. Then rest for 1:00, walking around the room or marching in place.
Repeat that as many times as you can, for up to 20 minutes.
That’s it! You don’t need to keep going for an hour- as long as you work at maximum intensity for each four minute cycle.
When you’re done you’ll have completed an intense cardio workout that not only burns fat for hours, it also strengthens your entire body and works your core.
Oh, and you will also be dripping with sweat and bursting with pride 😉
One of the most inexpensive pieces of fitness equipment is a jump rope. I got mine at Wal-Mart for less than five bucks. There are higher and lower priced versions with various features, but all you really need is the right length and preferably weighted handles.
Jumping rope is a highly effective cardiovascular activity. It works not only the legs, core, and arms, but also your balance and agility. If you don’t think you have enough coordination to jump rope- get one anyway. What a great way to improve it!
I use my jump rope to warm-up before a work out, and also for cardio bursts in between lifting sets when I want to really take up the intensity of my workout. I also sometimes finish a lift with a 4:00 Tabata (:20 on/:10 rest) using my jump rope.
Here’s a great nine minute jump rope circuit you can do if you are short on time, or repeat the serious several times for a longer workout.
Warm-Up for 5:00
1:00 Jump rope (casual pace)
1:00 Jump rope (quick pace)
1:00 Jump rope (kicks heels to glutes)
1:00 Butterfly crunches
1:00 Jump rope (stay in low squat)
1:00 Jump rope (jack the feet in/out)
Don’t have a jump rope? Do it without one! I use this in my HIIT classes all the time. Spin the arms and jump as if you had a rope. It’s just as effective as with a rope!