My Top 5 Exercises
It’s been a whirlwind of a week over here. I definitely wore myself out both physically, and mentally. Work has been pretty crazy and all over the place, and I’ve been kicking butt in the fitness department. Between running, rock climbing, hiking, plyometrics, HIIT, and heavy lifting, I’ve literally been doing it all. Next week I am even planning on taking an adult gymnastics class, so stay tuned for a recap of that! For now, I’m battling a little cold, but hoping I will heal myself by creating cocktails like this:
and drinking lots of fluids.
The Core 5 Exercises
With all of the different types of exercises out there, things can get pretty confusing. There are so many different movements and ways to perform those movements, that sometimes it can make your head spin. Of course, you can target your muscles in many different ways, but there are some basics that I believe are what build your foundation. Not only are they functional exercises, but they are strength building and work your entire body simultaneously. If you master these, consider yourself a master of strength. 😀
1. Push Ups
We all know what a push up is, but are you doing them properly? When done correctly, the pushup will work your pecs (chest), deltoids (shoulders), abs, and triceps, but even your legs, glutes, and lats must work as stabilizers in order to do a push up correctly.
Modification: Start from your knees until you build up strength to do a proper push-up. The same flat-back form and movement should be kept.
2. Pull Ups
I have a love/hate relationship with pull ups. They are such a GREAT exercise, but take a lot of work to become good at. There is really only one way to get better (and do more) pull ups, and that is to…wait for it…DO PULL UPS. But you may ask, how do I work on pull ups if I can’t do a single one?! Well, there are several modifications that help you practice the movement until your strength is built up enough to do pull ups on your own. Here are a few options:
Options #1: Band Pull Ups – both legs
Option #3: Band Pull Ups – one foot in, straight leg (instead of your knee on the band, you put your foot on it. Both legs stay straight)
3. Back Squats
The back squat is definitely an important exercise for everyone to learn and practice. I always tell people the best ab exercises I know of are squats and deadlifts. Like the push up, this is a full body exercise. Your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and abs are all working very hard during this exercise. Your back is used as a stabilizer as well. The proper back squat involves a nice athletic stance, with your chest out, shoulders back, flat back, and abs pulled in through your belly button. Here is a video by my good friend (and my first trainer! He taught me all of these moves back in 2007) Bret Contreras. The video talks about proper form, problems, and corrections. It is well worth watching!
Probably my favorite exercise of all time. There are several different types of deadlifts, but for our purposes, I am speaking of the Conventional Deadlift. Unlike the squat, the deadlift is a hinge at the hips. This exercise works your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, upper back, and abs. It is another exercise that requires a lot of attention to form, as not to injure yourself. Learning your form on this exercise is the first priority before adding weight. Once again, I’ll let Bret take this one:
5. The Hip Thrust
Back in 2007, I learned about the hip thrust first hand from, of course, Bret Contreras. In his small Scottsdale gym that I trained with him at, I was introduced to this move and forever fell in love. With the exercise, not Bret. The hip thrust is absolutely the best glute exercise out there. It is a power movement that uses SO many muscles and truly targets the glutes in a way that squats and deadlifts just don’t do (not to take away from them, just a different reaction from the muscles). I am posting another one of Bret’s videos, as he is one of the first people to spread the word and research this amazing exercise in depth.
Side note: Bret is now selling the Hip Thruster machine! (you better believe I’m talking my gym into getting one.)
So there you have it folks. I can guarantee that if you master and practice these 5 moves, you truly need nothing else. Of course, you can always supplement with other exercises and focus on speed, power, or strength (which will all give you a different way to use these moves), but these are staples. Learn them, practice them, and watch your fitness level take strides.