Forget about doing bicep curls or sit-ups until the cows come home. Here are five exercises that will make sure your entire body gets the once over.
After your first experience of squats you may well end up walking in a manner similar to a cowboy just getting off a horse, but once you get used to them, you’ll reap the benefits. They’re great for adding strength to your legs and increasing the amount of power you can generate from your lower body.
Squats are one of the most effective compound exercises and work nearly every muscle group in your legs – your calves, your hamstrings, your quads and your glutes – all at once. Form during a squat is all important. Stand with your feet hip-width apart with your toes pointing straight ahead and keep your knees behind your toes at all times as you slowly bend towards the floor. Keep your torso straight and your core tucked in to gain maximum benefit from the exercise.
Practise your form without adding weight until you perfect it and then gradually add weight as you begin to become more confident. Don’t be a hero either and pile on the weight straight away in an effort to impress greased up gym junkies, squat –related injuries hurt and could do lasting damage.
The plank is fast replacing the sit-up as the best and safest way to strengthening your core and abdominal muscles. Better yet, rather than twist your back into all sorts of uncomfortable positions like a sit-up, all you have to do is stay still. Easy, right? Well not quite.
Start by lying face down on a mat or on the floor and ease yourself into a push up position with your elbows or hands holding your body weight. Keep your body in a straight line from head to toes and hold the position for a certain period of time, keeping your core and abdominal muscles tight at all times. Stay in the fixed position for around 30 seconds at first, but gradually increase the time of the exercise as you get more comfortable.
The plank targets your abs, but it also gets your legs and arms working at the same time. There are numerous variations of the plank such as side planks and the brilliantly-titled superman planks which target more specific abdominal muscles.
The rather morbid sounding deadlift is often associated with weightlifters with bulging muscles and veins trying to set world records, but it is also one of the most effective compound exercises, working the quad and glute muscles in your legs, your core abdominal muscles and your arms for good measure.
The danger of adding too much weight too soon
Stand in front of the grounded weight with your feet shoulder width apart, squat down and ensure that your weight is on your heels as opposed to the front of your feet. Grip the weight in front of you, look straight ahead and extend your body to a standing position before lowering the weight again.
Back injuries can be easily incurred if form is all wrong, but there's plenty of reward if you get it right.
Not to be practised in tight-fitting clothing that may split during exercise, or loose fitting shorts that will expose your goolies for all to see, lunges are a great dynamic stretch for your lower body, working your quads in particular, but also your glutes, hamstrings and calves.
Begin by standing with one leg facing forward and the other facing back, keep your back straight and move forward in a lunging motion, paying attention not to let your knees slip ahead of your toes. Then slowly ease yourself back into the starting position and repeat the exercise, switching to the other leg after the designated amount of reps.
Like the squat, it’s important to get your form right before adding weights, which are held behind the head and balanced on your shoulders during the exercise.
Ah, the classic. Strict army generals scream ‘Git down and give me 20, private’ for a reason. Despite years and years of new fangled ways of doing different exercises, push ups remain one of the most simple yet effective exercises out there.
Like the best compound exercises, push ups work a variety of muscle groups such as your shoulders, chest, arms and abs. Although they’re simple and easy to do, they are often performed in the wrong way by people looking for an easy way out.
Like the plank, you want your body to be in a straight line from head to toe so keep your belly up, your arse down, position your hands slightly wider than your shoulders and get down to the ground so that your chest is practically brushing against the floor. Repeat the exercise over and over again and gradually increase reps once you begin to feel stronger.
The more ambitious among you may want to try push up variations such as introducing a clap of your hands between every push up or, the ultimate symbol of machismo, one armed push-ups.