One of the things I wanted to do during the Change Write Now campaign is do my own research into exercises and recipes I can incorporate easily into my life and that others could, too. What I’ve learned over this past year since I made health and fitness a true priority – and what I think people so often don’t realize – is that if you decide you want to tone up, lose 15 pounds, lower your blood pressure or whathaveyou, it doesn’t end once you’ve reached your goal. Choosing your health is a forever choice.
I could go into a whole big post on that subject alone, and I probably will at some point. Today, though, is to highlight some great, basic strength training moves that work your whole body and that can be done anywhere, as long as you have a floor. My sister, who is my trainer and is generally just awesome, has taught me all of these to help me with my progress.
Disclaimer: I am not a certified trainer nor am I a medical professional. Always consult your doctor before beginning any workout routine. I am an amateur fitness enthusiast only and cannot be held liable.
Of course I’m starting with the pushup because it’s so awesome, so basic and so great for your upper body and core. Full-out pushups are best, of course, but if you’re just starting to build strength, there are a lot of benefits to kneeling pushups as well. The one thing – and this is the BIGGEST thing with strength training forever and EVAH – is to watch your form. Bad form = injuries.
With pushups, you have to keep your core – your abs, essentially – tight and pulled in, and your back flat. Keep your chin up, too, so you keep your spine aligned and, as my cousin puts it, “so you can see your enemies coming for you.”
Don’t let your lower back sag or your head drop down. Go all the way down to where your chest touches the floor and then come all the way up. Don’t short-change it.
The leg lift
With abs, most people think crunches, but crunches to me are so limited. Other exercise out there can help you work more of your ab muscles and really strengthen your whole core. The leg lift is my favorite, and I would give you a whole spiel except I found this sweet video that gives you all the guidelines in a little over a minute:
Abs are a gimme. People want flat, toned stomachs all the time, but it’s important to balance all those ab exercises with back exercises. Your mid- and lower back muscles are part of your core, too, and if you neglect them, you could find yourself with back issues down the line. The superman exercise is great for the spine and especially the lower back.
To start, you lie face down, with your arms straight out in front of you and your legs straight behind you. Lift your arms and your legs simultaneously to arch your back. Keep your arms straight – don’t let them droop. You should feel it in your back and butt primarily.
Hold it for a few slow counts and then release.
The basic lunge
If you want a great way to tone your legs, then it’s time to get friendly with lunges. You don’t have to use any weights to start, and they work your quads, your butt, your hamstrings, and – to a slighter degree – the stabilizing muscles of your inner and outer thighs.
The easiest way to start incorporating lunges is the basic forward lunge: step forward, drop your knee to the ground, push back up to standing, and then repeat with the other leg.
It’s easy to injure yourself on lunges – the knees are kind of delicate joints – so watch your form. You should look like this scary anatomy dude above, and your knee should be aligned with your ankle. Take them slow, and don’t rush. If your knees themselves are hurting when you try a lunge or if you have past knee injuries, I wouldn’t push it. I’d talk to a certified personal trainer and/or your doctor.
The shoulder pulse
If you want toned-looking arms, then you can’t just bicep curl your way to victory. A lot of it has to do with the deltoid, that shoulder muscle that overlaps onto your upper arms. (I don’t have a nifty image for this one…)
One way to work it out are shoulder pulses using your own body weight. You can stand or sit with this one. Stretch your arms straight out to your sides in line with your shoulders, palms down, and pulse your arms up and down. This is a small movement – not a big, flapping motion. For a twist, flips your palms up and repeat the pulse, or rotate your hands – palms up and then palms down – with every pulse.
- Form over quality. If your form is starting to suffer, it’s better to stop than to get sloppy just to tack on a few more reps. That’s the easiest way to get injured.
- Listen to your body. There’s the burn that comes with exercise, and then there is the pain of something being not right. If you’re experiencing the latter, stop. Ignoring signals that your body is telling you can just lead to worse problems later on.