One benefit of having a PERSONAL TRAINER must be that you don’t have to come up with your own work-outs every day. I know if I spent the time planning creative work-outs, I could probably come up with some. But most days when I wake up blurry eyed and tired, I don’t stray too far from my three favorite exercises: push-ups, lunges, and crunches. I have found these exercises have kept me pretty fit and, with small modifications, they continue to be challenging after years of use.
To me, push-ups are the single most important upper body exercise. I do about 300 a week. This exercise covers every major muscle group from pectorals to deltoids to biceps and triceps. Don’t believe me? Try the 100 push-up challenge that my TRAINER husband likes to give his clients. Do 5 sets of twenty push-ups or 4 sets of fifteen and 1 set of ten. If you can complete this challenge, tomorrow the soreness in your muscles will illustrate exactly which muscles you’ve worked.
Push-ups are easily modified to make them easier, more difficult or more focused on particular muscle groups. I generally do “girl” push-ups or knee push-ups. These are still effective and you’ll find you can do more than standard push-ups. A change in hand placement will change the muscles worked. Further apart you’ll be working your pectoral muscles, close to your body and slightly behind the shoulders, your triceps will do most of the work. If I’m feeling ambitious, I put my legs up on a fit ball. By placing any part of your leg on the ball, thigh to tops of feet, you can change the angle and intensity. The further your hands are from the ball, the more challenging the push-up.
I used to try to achieve the toned thighs I desire by lifting heavy weights at the gym. My thighs will probably never be slim, but I thought they could at least be muscular. I wasn’t afraid to put 80 lbs. on a squat rack and go to town. I lifted the heaviest weight I could on the leg press or hamstring curl. I got pretty strong but I also think my legs got pretty big. I’ve changed my strategy.
I now believe my body weight is more than enough for my legs to be lifting. I rely on the many variations of lunges instead of super heavy weights. I lunge forward and backward. I do walking lunges around my exercise room. When I’m lucky enough to be jogging outside, I love to stop and do walking lunges to break things up. I lunge up on a Bosu ball and lunge down from on top of a bench. I like to incorporate jumping lunges into circuits for a high-intensity bout of cardio.
I’m not sure if “crunches” is the technical term but what I mean is any exercise that targets the abdominal muscles or the core. Most of these exercises involve some kind of “crunch” or squeezing of the abs. I like to think of the ab muscles as a built in corset and, if properly trained, they can pull in everything around your midsection. Because of this, I try work my abs every day. The trick to keeping this exercise effective is variety. By mixing up the angles, the resistance and the movement, your body will continue to be challenged.
Basic crunch: lie on your back, feet on the floor contracting abs as you curl up; this can be made more challenging by holding arms straight up above your head, holding a weight in your hands, or holding the contraction up for a few seconds before lowering
V-ups: lie flat on the floor arms stretched out above your head, bring up your hands and feet at the same time to form a V; this is so challenging you may not need to make it harder but holding a weight in your hands or a medicine ball between your feet will certainly do so
Fit ball crunches: lie back on a fit ball with feet on the floor and complete standard crunch motion; work on balance by straightening your leg and holding while your crunch; work your oblique (side abdominal) muscles by crossing over left elbow to right knee and vice versa
Standing crunch: stand feet apart and pull one knee up at a time as you contract your abs and curl into a C; Pull knee across your body toward opposite elbow to work the obliques
Using variations of these three exercises have kept my work-outs challenging and easy to plan. For a full body work-out, I do circuits containing one of each type and a cardio bout. Simple, challenging, and effective.