FIVE KEY EXERCISES
Smart ways to tweak five fundamental exercises to enhance your training program
If you’ve been exercising for a while and noticing that you’re getting a bit stagnant with your results, it may be time to mix things up. When it comes to resistance training and maximizing fitness results, one of the most important things to remember is the law of progressive overload. This is the gradual increase of stress placed upon the body during exercise. You can manipulate a number of variables to provide an ‘overload’ which is simply a new stimulus to challenge the body.
For the best results in increasing your muscle and strength there are 5 fundamental exercises below as well as some tips and tricks for each one. If you’re not doing these movements already, please seek professional advice before performing any of these exercises. For best results and to reduce risk of injury, always have an exercise professional advise safety recommendations and check your technique.
Squats are what are known as ‘big bang’
fundamental exercises. They are fantastic for strengthening and shaping your legs. They are also big calorie-burners because of the amount of muscle used in performing them.
When you’re squatting, make sure you keep your weight on the heels of your feet. As you lower your body and come back up, keep your chest high and your back straight.
Variations: goblet squat, front squat, sumo squats, single-leg squats, over-head squats, pistol squats.
I highly recommend that you regularly include lunges in your training program if you want to improve the shape and/or the strength of your legs. I used to hate lunges, but the more I did them, the better I got at them and the firmer my legs became. They are worth it!
Variations are endless: experiment with alternative foot angles to target different parts of your thighs – such as cross-over lunges (also known as glute med lunges) and 45 degree wide-leg lunges (for your inner thighs).
The deadlift is the king of resistance exercises. It works more muscle groups than almost any other resistance exercise. It’s a big calorie burner.
If you haven’t performed them before, seek professional advice to help you with your technique. Correct form is a must. The deadlift is a ‘bend’ movement pattern. A regression of the deadlift is the 45-degree roman chair machine which helps get you stronger to perform the deadlift – particularly with strengthening the muscles in your lower back.
As you lower down, lead with your chest. ‘Gather’ your glutes at the bottom of the movement and use them to lift yourself. Imagine a band around your knees that you’re pushing against as you come up. Also imagine ‘peeling’ yourself up.
If your flexibility allows, try performing the movement standing on 2 boxes or steps and lowering your body in between holding heavy dumbbells or kettlebells for variation and to go deeper.
If leg strength or muscle is a goal, squats should be included in every program.
Lunges are a highly functional exercise and generally incorporate more stabilising muscles than squats.
Warning – deadlifts are an advanced exercise. They need to be progressed up to.
4. PRESS EXERCISES
Press exercises include chest, shoulders and triceps movements. Push-ups are a closedchain press exercise, which utilise more muscles. If you get the right intensity, they are big calorie burners that also incorporate your core and stabilizing muscles.
Variations: vary your angles between flat, incline and decline. Also vary the equipment you perform the movements with – bench, Swiss ball, cable, dumbbells, barbells etc.
5. PULL EXERCISES
Because of the amount of forward-movement in our lives, many people need to do more pull exercises. Pull exercises are excellent for improving your posture and reducing risk of injury from muscle imbalance.
I recommend you consider a 2:1 ratio of pull to push exercises. Include at least one vertical (e.g. chin up) and one horizontal (e.g. bentover row) pull movement in your training program.
By including or tweaking these 5 exercises, you will enhance your training program and it could really help take your results to the next level. Go ahead, give them a try. Just remember to listen to your body and have adequate recovery and nutrition afterwards.
Kat Millar works with people globally to improve their health, confidence and energy. Since 2003, through her coaching, training, online programs and seminars, Kat has helped almost a thousand people to achieve their goals. Kat is an award-winning figure competitor, fitness lecturer and NLP practitioner and has a passion for nutrition and behavioural psychology. Kat offers a range of programs for total body transformation and can be contacted through her website or her Facebook page.