Thursday, August 26, 2010

Break The Mold Part 2 - Bodyweight Excercises

I promised I would continue this thread sooner than now, specifically the next week but, alas, I didn't get it done.  I am, however, falling under the two week mark so woohoo!  In my first excercise blog post, Break The Mold Friday, I touched on building muscle by lifting light weights instead of heavy ones and achieving the overall goal without undue stress, strain and injury.  You should check it out and also read the study article that was the basis of the post. 

In this post, I promised to give you, the readers, some very simple and extremely effective bodyweight excercises that you can do in the comfort of your own home, without the cost of a gym membership, expensive equipment that ends up as a clothes line, etc....  All you need for most any excercise are some comfortable workout clothes, (shorts or sweats, t-shirt, good shoes) and a rubber or foam mat that you can pick up at most any retailer such as Wal-Mart, etc. for around $20.00.

You don't have to look like Tony Horton or Denise Austin to do these core excercises at any stage of your life.  It doesn't matter if you run marathons or have never done anything other than walk to the car, you will benefit from these programs.  They are NOT exciting, fun, glamorous, or easy.  You will, however, feel the benefits from doing them and when you stick with them, see the results as well.  After you master these, you can easily do other, more advanced excercises and be in the absolute best shape of you life.  Many people choose to do aerobics, pilates, yoga, kettlebells or some other excercise as part of a group effort.  You can also do the same.  Call your friends, neighbors, wives, husbands, etc to join in with you.  Almost anything you do as a group will have a more positive impact and keep you motivated to the final goal.

Ok! With the pep talk out of the way, lets get to the fun stuff!  This first bodyweight excercise is what is called a CORE excercise.  Your core muscles are the group of muscles around your midsection or "core".  Major muscles included are the pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominis (stomach muscles), multifidus (thin muscles on either side of the spine), internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, erector spinae (sacrospinalis) (large muscles on either side of the spine) especially the longissimus thoracis, and the diaphragm. Minor core muscles include the latissimus dorsi, gluteus maximus, and trapezius.

This first core excercise requires little to no movement, only good form and it will kick your tail if you do it correctly!

Illustrations and advice are attributed to Abs Excercise Advice

1. Elbow Bridge Plank

Your Position

Start by lying face down on the ground or use an exercise mat. Place your elbows and forearms underneath your chest.

Prop yourself up to form a bridge using your toes and forearms

Maintain a flat back and do not allow your hips to sag towards the ground.

Target Muscles
The Core - Abdominals, Hips, Back

Step By Step Instructions
Hold this position *focusing on tightening your abs* until you can no longer maintain a flat bridge. For beginners, start with 10 seconds.  Do approximately 3 sets slowly working your way up to 60 seconds per rep.

Return to start position.

Beware of Cheating!
Remember to not let your hips and back sag. This exercise will only be effective if you work to maintain a flat line from your shoulders to your feet. You might want to start in front of a mirror to learn the technique.

Side Plank

Your Position
Lie on your side with your right hand on the ground or use an exercise mat. For beginners, it is recommended to begin this exercise on your elbow.

Lift yourself up to form a plank with your right arm straight and your left arm on your side.

Target Muscles
The Core - Abdominals, Hips, Back

Step By Step Instructions
Hold this position for the recommended number of reps (start with 8-12). Repeat with the other side.

Beware of Cheating!
Remember to keep your body in a straight line, tightening your abs and butt muscles. You might want to start in front of a mirror to learn the technique.

After you learn these two excercises and can practice them with good form, you can progess to the simple push-up.  Now many people will tell me "I already know how to do a push-up!  Why are you telling me again?" 

The question is not do you know how to do you know how to do them correctly?  The number one failure of a correct push-up is bad form.  Your bottom is sagging to the floor when you're in position or it is sticking high in the air.  When performed correctly, push-ups can be one of the most effective excercises out there. 

Guess what?  There is no equipment to buy, (You are walking around with it every day)  The only thing you need to perform it is a flat surface which you can always find, and willpower.  After you master the elbow front plank and side plank, you will be in the perfect position to do a perfect push-up.  The reason your bottom sags to the floor is from a weak core.  When you stick it up in the air, you are compensating for that weakened core.  After your core is strong, you'll get more out of your workouts, feel and look better in your clothes and be stronger than you ever were before.

There are many kinds of push-ups but today we will focus on the standard, two handed, shoulder width variety.

"Wall" press-ups are performed by standing close to a wall and pushing away from the wall with the arms; one can increase the difficulty by moving your feet farther from the wall.

"Table" or "chair" press-ups are performed by pushing away from a table, chair, or other object. The lower the object, the more difficult the press-up. You should be sure that the object is securely stationary before attempting to press up from it.

"Modified" or "ladies'" press-ups are performed by supporting the lower body on the knees instead of the toes, which reduces the difficulty. This is useful for warm ups/downs, pyramids/drop sets, endurance training and rehab. It can also be used to train in a more explosive plyometric manner (like clapping pushups) when you can't perform them with the feet. It can also be used with the 1-arm variations as a transition.

Image: from Wikipedia
US Marines count out pushups.

If you are not an athletic person, take care to start with the Wall Presses first.  After you are very comfortable with them, progess to theTable / Chair presses.  Finally graduating to the Floor push-ups when you gain your strength.  Aim to do enough repetitions that you can feel the exertion but not so much that you hurt yourself gradually working your way up.  Getting the proper benefit from excercise will involve some pain and sacrifice, but not at the expense of your health.  I personally aim for approximately 1000 push-ups per week in varying form and most times I achieve it.  However, I am not yet where I want to be physically and I want to incorporate some more excercises in my routine..   

Your goals may be more or less but the important thing to do is get moving!!   These are only a few few of the body weight excercises that you can do and in coming days I can cover more of them.  Tell me what you would like to see in the comments....

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