Have you ever walked into the gym and asked yourself, "Where the ____ do I begin?" (I'll allow you to fill in the blank.) Trust me, I have. But working out doesn't have to stress you out. Here are five often overlooked exercises that you should be doing to maximize results.
1. Battle Ropes
Rope work has become a staple of most gyms and fitness centers, and for a good reason. They improve muscle endurance and cardiovascular strength. Swing them, slam them, wave them, pull them. However you use them, they will add great gains to your fitness routine The best part is they are portable. So, if you own your own rope, you can take it anywhere! Try this: Take the rope (start with one that's 1.5 inches in diameter and 50 feet long) and wrap it around a pole, bench leg or tree. The rope should be in a U shape. Grab the grips of the rope, one in each hand. Swing the ropes up and down with knees bent slightly, back straight and core tight. Alternate swings: right, left, right, left. Start slow, but when ready, pick up the pace! Do this for 15 seconds, then rest for 15 seconds over a minutes time. Perform three rounds.
2. Suspension Training
I am sure you have stared at those straps hanging from the ceiling and wondered what the heck could you do with that. Don't be afraid. Those straps will add some serious upper body strength, lower body strength, and the most coveted of all -- core strength. Suspension exercise can be a great addition to your program no matter what your level of fitness. These straps allow you to perform rows, one-legged squats, push ups, lunges, and a wide array of body weight exercises that help you seriously tone up. Whether they are TRX (which are standard in any quality gym) or another type of strap, suspension training is functional fitness at its best. Add some suspension rows to your upper body regimen. Grip the straps by the handles in a neutral grip. Keep your body straight and lean back pulling tight on the straps. Pull yourself up and in, keeping constant tension on the straps. For beginners, a slight bend in the knees with feet flat on the ground is good. But for a tougher go at it, rest on your heels with straight legs as you pull yourself up. Make sure the straps are tight! No slack! Perform three sets of 15 rows. Then, add some suspension push ups at three sets for 12 reps. Do this by lowering the straps and performing a push up while gripping the handles instead of the ground. This will help you add great muscle endurance, strength, and build other areas of your fitness.
Kettlebells are the standard in resistance training in the fitness world today. KB swings provide an explosive full body workout that can help you build strength and power in the legs and arms. Let's not forget the power cardio workout that you are getting while performing this task. KBs are great for intervals or circuits and can be performed virtually anywhere. Try 30 seconds of KB swings followed by 30 seconds of rest for three rounds. Do this by gripping the KB with both hands and hanging it between your legs whilst you squat slightly. Swing the bell up using the power in your legs, hips, glutes, and core muscles. The swing should be powered up in front of you by keeping your arms straight. The KB should stop once it is extended directly above your sight line. Bring the KB back down into starting position and do it again. Your heart will be pumping, your arms and legs will be burning, and you will feel like a million bucks.
I love the name burpee. When I talk to clients about this one they always giggle. But when they are done with them, the giggles turn to scowls. It is the one exercise that, to this day, I still cringe at performing. Yet, burpees are one of the best full body exercises that you can do the help burn those calories and kick your fitness into high gear. To perform a burpee, start in standing position. Bring your body down into a sprawl position and kick your legs out behind you, putting you in a push up position. Then, bring your legs back into your body and shoot yourself back into standing position. End with a jump straight up, reaching high over your head. This fluid motion is only one rep! Start with three sets of 10, taking a minute break in between sets and feel the calories drip off your brow. If you can't perform a full burpee, use a flat bench to push off instead of the ground.
Planks are nothing new to the fitness world. The plank is the best way to push your core strength to the brink. Hold yourself out like a table, using your forearms and toes to keep you up. Keep the rear end down by pulling your belly button up towards your spine. And hold, hold, hold till you can't hold anymore. Man... those words are like music to my ears. And if you want to add spice to your life (as you should), there is a wide variety of plank to choose from. For oblique work, add the side plank to your workout. Prop up on one forearm and stack your feet on top of each other. You should be in a slant from head down to toes. You'll feel the burn in your side. If you're feeling the need to severely punish yourself (in a good way of course), perform the superman plank. Get into normal plank position but raise your left arm up and right leg up, leaving you to balance on only one foot and one arm. After 15 seconds, switch arm and leg. But if you are just looking to build some great core strength and tone up that mid section, hold plank for three rounds. The first two rounds hold for 30 seconds. The last round go for max time.
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