As promised, here is a post on the best exercises for everyone. These are functional exercises… can be done anywhere- park, home, gym… do not need weights (atleast not at beginner level)… and work the entire body muscles. I generally perform these once a week but the FF group classes – Body Pump, Core training, ABT (Abs, Butt, Thigh)… all have these exercises in one form or the other. So I end up doing them 3-4 times a week.
Reps are repetitions- number of times you do a workout… example… I do 3 sets of 20 reps which means I do the workout 60 times but take a break after doing it every 20 times. My rule is to a workout anywhere between 8-20 times… If I can do it with correct form 20 times… I move to the next level in the exercise.
1) Squats : There is no better exercise than squats. I remember… in Gold’s gym the trainer asked me to do 100 squats. I thought he was kidding but he was serious… and I managed to do them. Now, I love squats. They are my absolute favorite workout.
Found this pic here. It explains squats very clearly. You basically move like you are going to sit on a chair. The most important thing is to ensure your knees are behind your toes. Once you can do this with correct form… atleast 3 sets of 20 reps you can move to the next level. On some days I do 5 sets of 20 reps… around 100 of these.
Pic taken from here. Take a bar… load it with 2 kg on both sides and then squat. The rules of correct form remain the same. Right now am doing 5-10 kg on each side since the bar also weighs 20 kg but I need an instructor’s help to squat with so much weight. Do this with a trainer’s help in the beginning… you don’t want to hurt yourself. Also, form is more important than weight. If higher weight is making you lose your form either reduce the reps or reduce the weight. You need to keep increasing either one in each session. I generally do 3 sets of 20 reps.
I find lunges more difficult than squats. I wish someday we can be as good friends as squats.
Pic taken from this site. That is a lunge… back straight… one knee at 90 degree and the other knee as close to the ground as possible. Again, 3 sets of 20 reps without losing form. Reduce the reps if form is not 100%.
Next level :
Basically, you hold dumb bells in each hand and lunge. Form remains the same. I generally lift 5 kg dumb bells in each hand and do 3 sets of 20 reps. Again, form is more important than weight. And keep increasing one or the other in every session
Pic source here. This is the correct form for a plank. I see people doing it incorrectly every single day. If it is not done right… there is no point. And it is difficult. You need to hold this position for as long as possible. Start with 10 secs and up by 10 secs in every session. I can do 60 secs… want to get to 2 mins someday. 2 months back my old gym- VLCC had a contest and were giving away 15 days gym membership free. A lady managed to do planks for 5 mins… which is not possible unless you are an athlete. Yep, her form was all wrong and even the trainers didn’t know the correct form. If it feels easy, you are doing it wrong.
In core training session… this is our first level. We then proceed to planks on a bosu ball… walking planks… etc etc.
This is the best exercise for your abs (and not crunches… crunches are useless… don’t waste time on them).
4) Side planks
Another great workout for abs.
Image source here. Hold the position for as long as you can and then turn to the other side and repeat. This workout is more difficult than the regular plank. I hold 30 secs each side and do 3 sets.
5) Bench Dips
This is another favorite. When I tried it for the first time I could not do even one. And now… 3 sets of 20 reps are a breeze. As you build muscles and arms become stronger this workout becomes easier. It is an exercise for the triceps (KC… you were right about this… I just didn’t want you to win an argument). I have felt my wrists becoming stronger due to this.
I don’t keep my legs completely straight. This is what my form looks like.
Basically, you are holding onto a bench… I used the bench showed above in previous gym and now use a step…. hips have to be close to the bench and you move down and up. You need to move your hips as close to the floor as possible… elbows need to be tucked in close to the body and back needs to be straight. It is ok if at the start you can do only 3 of these. As you gain strength this will become easier.
Next level : Weighted bench dips
Place a round weight on your lap and do this workout. I use 5 kg weights in my Body Pump classes. On regular days… I do it without weights.
6) Calf Raise
This workout looks and feels harmless but is torture. Worst is … the pain comes later… the next day.
Stand at a slight height… on a step or anything which is not too high…. your heel should be outside the step…. raise your heel as high as possible and then come down slightly below the top of step. Do not touch the heel to the floor. I generally do 3 sets of 20 reps.
Pic taken here.
Next level :
Hold onto dumb bells in each hand or a bar placed on your shoulders.
7) Push ups
This has to be the most difficult workout ever. I have respect for people who can do this correctly. There are soooo many people whose form is wrong and think they are superman or something. When I joined the gym I was made to do bar push ups for 6 months.
It looks like this. I was so proud of myself ‘coz I was doing ‘push ups’. These are very, very easy.
And then I decided to do ‘real’ push ups which look like this:
At my old gym I was doing 15 of these at one go but without going all the way down. But at FF the trainer made me go all the way down… and now I can do 10,7,7 but want to do 10,10,10 as a start. After which I will try for 15,15,15.
This requires a lot of strength in the arms and is a very difficult workout. But totally worth it. Don’t even try the ‘girly’ ones… with bent knees. When you can do the ‘real’ thing, why settle for anything less?
Again… form is most important and not the reps. If you are not going all the way down, it doesn’t count. Its ok if you can only do 1 proper push up in a session. Its worth it.
8) Pull Ups
Still working on doing even one of this.. so will post once am successful.
Thats it. Do this right… and do it well… and you will be on your way to fitness. I mix these up with other workouts…. but they are the most important ones of the routine. I never skip these.
The best part is they can be done anywhere.
I got serious about weight lifting after a free trial session with a Fitness First trainer who asked me why I was wasting time doing so much cardio. He was commented that I don’t even know what workouts I do in the gym despite having such good knowledge about fitness. I decided to change things up.
The 2nd thing which has guided me is this blog http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/
This is the only fitness blog I read and follow.