The fitness industry makes millions from the idea that people need a “facility” in which to exercise, when, in reality, all that's needed is knowledge of a few, specific exercises. In my opinion, the following workouts are staples for any exercise regimen. They’re simple, straightforward and can be performed nearly anywhere, particularly outdoors.
Add these exercises to any cardio routine (which can also be done outdoors) like running, jumping rope, climbing stairs, etc., and you can be well on your way to sculpting the sort of body that you want:
The Push-Up (Chest, Triceps, Abdomen)
Beloved by convicts and insecure adolescents, alike, push-ups are by far my favorite exercise and are a great way to build up strength and stability in the shoulder girdle, as well as in the chest (pectorals) and arms (triceps).
The great thing about push-ups, too, is the way in which Push-Ups also function as a core exercise, integrating the use of the lumbo-pelvic-hip-complex to work your midsection, as well as your arms. (#nerdtidbit)
How To Do Them:
With your feet together, legs extended and hands planted flatly beneath your shoulders, raise your hips to the height of your shoulders while bracing your abs (pulling the navel in toward the spine). Lower your body toward the ground by bending your elbows, keeping your head in line with your shoulders, Push your body back up to the starting position, then repeat.
If You Can't...
Try kneeling push-ups if the traditional ones are too tough. This exercise is essentially the same as the regular push-up, but is often better for those who are just beginning.
The difference is that, instead of raising your hips, you’ll have your knees on the ground (balancing on them) and your ankles crossed, behind. Keeping the hips raised, slightly, so as to engage the abs, again, bend your elbows, lower your body as far as you can, push through the heels of your hands and return to the upright, starting position.
Watch Out For:
- The Low-Back Sag - Many will sag their backs when performing these, but if you're doing them right, your hips should be raised almost to the height of your shoulders, allowing you to feel engagement in the abs, as well.
The Pull-Up (Lats - huge muscles that connect your shoulder blades to your ribs, Biceps)
Ah, the dreaded pull-up. Few exercises make the average American feel as wimpy.
But there's a reason for this: most people, when moving throughout the day, rarely do any physical activity which requires them to pull anything. If we are pulling, we’re usually only ever using our biceps (e.g. picking up groceries, luggage, etc.) without any engagement of the muscles of the back. Nevertheless, these muscles are important not only for appearance’s sake, but also because of the ways in which they support the torso.
Fortunately, there are pull-up bars, everywhere. Go to your local playground and try these out. If you struggle with the completion of one rep (that is to say, if you can’t do a pull-up, at all) try these:
If you’re already good at pull-ups, however, make sure your form’s right.
How To Do Them:
Place your hands on a horizontal bar, shoulder-width apart.
Extend your arms (so that you're hanging) keep your head positioned over your shoulders and pull straight back up, pulling your collarbone to the height of the bar. Lower your body and repeat.
If You Can't...
If you find these difficult, start with "negatives:" hop up to the height of the bar (at the ending position of the exercise, where the collarbone is at bar height) and, extending your arms, lower your body as slowly as possible.
Negatives are good for building up muscle by stimulating your ability to hold your own weight during the phase in which your muscle lengthens, (the eccentric phase of the exercise). From there, it’s easier to actually pull yourself up.
Watch Out For:
- Excessive Neck Tension
Regardless of how few of these you can do, resist any urge to push your head up to the height of the bar. Do as many as you can, with your head aligned with your shoulders, let your Lats/biceps do the work, instead.
- Lower Body Instability
Generally, try as best you can to keep your lower body from swinging (hips beneath shoulders) during pull-ups. Bend your knees, if you have to, but don't raise your knees in an effort to elevate your body. This, too, will allow for better activation of your lats and biceps and prompt your core to work, as well.
Think of a push-up position, except that you’re balancing on your forearms instead of on the palms of your hands.
(Plant your elbows directly beneath your shoulders, balance on your toes with your feet a few inches apart, and raise your hips to the height of your shoulders. Brace your lower abdomen and hold).
The plank is a fantastic isometric exercise for the transverse and lower rectus abdominis, muscles that are geared toward keeping