5 exercises you NEED to be doing – And you don\’t need a gym to do them!

With the new year almost upon us, most people make New Year\’s resolutions to get back into shape.  This usually entails signing up for a year commitment at a fancy new gym that we PROMISE we will attend.  And yet usually by February most of us have stopped going and just have a monthly $40 reminder that we aren\’t meeting the goals that we had set for ourself.  This year that does not have to be the case!  Stop and think before you sign a year contract to go to the gym, \”Do I actually enjoy going to the gym?\”.  If the answer is no, then don\’t set yourself up for failure by signing a contract that we both know won\’t be followed through on.  For more information on physical therapy services head to www.totalperformancept.com.

What you need to decide before you embark on an exercise program is what do you like to do?  Is it walk, run, bike, take classes with friends, lift, roller blade, hike, row, etc.  The possibilites are endless.  Figuring out what you enjoy doing and what you are passionate about is the first step in picking an exercise program and following through.  For me, I can\’t run on a treadmill.  The thought of it makes me shudder, I don\’t know why I just find it incredibly boring.  But I can do short bursts on a treadmill.  For example, I can do a 2 minute quick run in between working out on other equipment.  You have to figure out what works for you.

However, even when figuring out what workout you enjoy, there are a few exercises that everyone should be doing.  And you don\’t need a gym or equipment to do them so you can do them anywhere.  These are generally exercises that people don\’t enjoy – but FYI specific exercises that people don\’t like are generally the ones that you should be doing as they are targeting your weak areas.

  1. Planks – Everyone wants to know how to work their abdominals.  Here is a hint, none of the gym machines that claim to work your abs really do.  Most of them you can compensate using your hip flexors or arms.  People constantly fight me on doing planks, \”Isn\’t there another machine I can do, these are so hard, I don\’t like them.\”  The bottom line is no there other exercise that even comes close to duplicating the plank, no other exercise works your abdominals like a plank.  In order to do a proper plank – get into push up position, then drop to your elbows.  Hold this position on your elbows for as long as you can.  When you start to shake the exercise is over.  You should perform 6 of these and the eventual goal is to hold them for 1 minute and 30 seconds.
  2. Side Planks –  This completes the only 2 exercises that you need to for your abdominals.  Again, no machine takes the place of these.  Most people like to lay side ways on a back extensor machine and lift up to the side to try to taget the side abs, but again compensation from other muscle groups often comes into play.  For these you lay on your side and push up on your elbow and your feet so that your whole mid-section is lifted off the table.  Hold this until you shake.  Then switch to the other side.  Again the goal for this is 1 minute and 30 seconds and performing 6 on each side.
  3. Lunges –  Lunges are a great way to target the whole leg and not need a machine.  I often hear people tell me they can\’t do lunges, they hurt too much.  Well there are very few people that I have encountered that \’can\’t\’ do lunges.  The main things to focus on when doing lunges is to make sure that you place your leg our far enough so that your knee does not go over your toe.  Then push through the heel on the front foot.  This is the biggest mistake I see made, people push through their toes and get knee pain.  Pushing through the toes allow for a high amount of pressure to be placed on the knee cap, causing knee pain.  Also make sure that most of your weight is placed through the front leg.  Alot of people place a significant amount of weight on their back leg, causing pain.  Perform 3 sets of 10 on each leg.
  4. Push ups –  One of the best total body exercises you can do is a push up.  I say total body as it works your shoulders, back, abs and legs to some extent.  The hardest part is most people can\’t do a full push up so they go to their knees.  This is acceptable but not advisable.  Do as many push ups as you can from your toes, even if it is only one, if you work at them everyday, you will eventually be able to do many more.
  5. Squats –  Squats have gotten a bad rap over the years, just like lunges, mainly because people do them incorrectly.  Squats are just sitting into a chair, in their simplest form.  Most people can\’t do 30 full squats (to the floor) yet these same people are on weight machines putting weights on their back and attempting to do squats then complaining of pain.  The place to start with squats is practice sitting in a low chair.  Start with your feet shoulder width apart.  Again put the weight through your heels, so your heels should NOT leave the ground.  Then stick your butt out and try to sit down in the chair but instead of sitting have your butt gently touch and then stand back up.  Eventually remove the chair and go all the way to the ground.  Doing 3 sets of 10 of these will get your whole lower body in shape.

Most important thing as we go into the new year – is to get out and move.  We are all busy but it can make a world of difference to your overall physical and mental health.  Here\’s to a happy and healthy new year!

For more information about physical therapy services head to www.totalperformancept.com.


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We Have an Immediate Opening for a Physical Therapist in Harleysville. Resumes Can Be Sent to linda@totalperformancept.com

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