Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Fitness for the Economically Conscious
For the first time since the survey's creation, body weight training has appeared in the 2013 Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends from the American College of Sports Medicine (read the results in entirety here). Logically fueled in part by a sluggish global economy, economically conscious individuals all across the world are turning to body weight training programs in the New Year to shed weight and stay in shape while evading the sometimes over-the-top membership fees charged at gyms. While new to the survey, body weight training programs have in fact been in use and employed as a form of resistance training by individuals as well as fitness professionals working with clientele for many generations. Today, several organizations are now packaging workout plans and selling them as an inexpensive and effective way to workout due to the very minimal exercise equipment needed.
Below you will find a list containing several of my favorite body-weight exercises designed to inspire workout ideas and methods for incorporating resistance training into your daily workout regimen. While engaging in these, and other body-weight resistance training exercises, be sure to alternate between exercises designed to overload your cardiovascular system and exercises targeted towards strength gains in specific muscle groups in order to get a more holistic workout. Incorporating exercises that challenge your cardiovascular system will help to keep your heart rate high and all of your major muscle groups warm and engaged.
Actively adjust sets, reps, and intensity based upon your level of fitness. If you find these exercises are easy to perform, I suggest increasing the weight, changing the site of weight application, or incorporating some sort of modification to the movement to make it more challenging. Likewise, if you find these exercises too difficult to begin with, start with a modified variation and slowly build up so that you can complete the move in its original form. As always, be sure to pay close attention to your body and form in order to minimize your risk of getting injured.
- Burpees: Begin in standing position. Slowly lower your trunk towards the ground, passing through the squat position until your hands touch the ground between your feet. In one rapid motion, jump your feet back so that you are in a stationary push up position. Return to the deep squat position in one rapid motion by hoisting your legs forward between your hands. Return to standing position. Repeat. *To increase intensity: add an explosive jump to the end of this move and incorporate a push-up.
- Plank: Get into push-up position but come down onto your elbows so that they are supporting your body weight rather than your hands. Make sure that your spine is entirely neutral and your body is aligned. Engage your abdominal muscles and lift your entire body off of the ground; hold for 30 seconds, then release. Rotate 90 degrees so that all of your weight is on one elbow and your non-supportive hand is raised perpendicular to the floor. Hold for 30 seconds and release. Repeat on other side. *To increase intensity: try elevating one leg at a time and/or increase the duration of the exercise.
- Mountain Climbers: Get into push-up position, with hands slightly wider than shoulder width. While on your fore-feet, swing one leg up between your hands. In one quick motion switch legs, repeat.
- Vertical Leg Lifts: Lie on your back with your arms at your sides, palms facing down. Slowly raise your feet toward the ceiling until your legs make an approximately 60 degree angle with the ground. Hold for 5 seconds, and then slowly lower your legs back toward the ground until feet are roughly 4-6 inches above the ground. Hold for 5 seconds, repeat.
- Frog Jumps: Crouch your body into a very deep squat and rapidly explode into a jump so that all of your extremities are extending outward from your core. Repeat.
- Squats: While holding a medicine ball (or other source of weight) at your waist, stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your knees slightly bent. Slowly move your hips back and bend at your knees, effectively lowering your body until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Hold this position for a few seconds, and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat. *To increase intensity: try one (or several) of the following common variations: incorporate a jump, increase the weight or change the location of weight application, perform squats on one leg at a time, add a twisting component while in the down phase of the squat, or try adding a punch, kick, etc.
- Lunges: Begin in standing position with your knees slightly bent while holding a medicine ball (or other source of weight). Step forward with your right foot so that your feet are roughly 3-4 feet apart. Slowly bend at the knees, making sure to keep your front knee behind your toes and lowering your back knee straight down towards the ground. Maintain an erect spine, and engage your abdominal and gluteal muscles as your descend. Hold in this position for a few seconds, and then slowly return to the starting position. Switch legs, repeat. *To increase intensity: try adding a twist to the down portion of the exercise or try adding a jump to the exercise while switching legs. **To more specifically target the gluteal muscles rather than your quads, try increasing the distance between your feet; this decreases the load carried by this muscle group as you extend your knee, causing your glutes to pick up the slack instead.
- Single-Leg Deadlifts: Begin in standing position, holding a medicine ball. Step one foot forward with your back foot lightly touching the ground (be sure that you are not supporting any of your body weight with this foot). Slowly tilt your hips forward and lower the weight towards the floor, keeping all of your weight on the front leg. Try to keep the supporting leg as straight as possible without locking your knees. Be sure to keep your shoulders back so that your spine stays neutral and your abdominal muscles are engaged, bending at the waist only. Lower the weight as close to the ground as your flexibility and level of balance will allow, then slowly push into your heel to return to the starting position. *To increase intensity: remove non-supportive foot entirely off of the ground as your lower the weight so that your leg is fully extended and parallel with the ground during the down phase of this exercise. Ease into this slowly as you improve your balance to avoid injury and improper form.
- Push-Ups: Get into standard push-up position. Make sure to keep your spine straight and shoulders pushed back. Slowly bend at the elbows until your chest is roughly one inch from the ground. Push into your hands to extend your elbows and return to the starting position. Repeat until point of fatigue. *To increase intensity: lift one leg entirely off of the ground, do the push-ups on one arm at a time, or bring your hands together so that your index fingers and thumbs create a diamond; then, try to get your nose to the middle of this diamond.