20 Jul Exercise Starter Guide, Part Two
Welcome to Part Two of our Exercise Starter Guide mini-series!
Last week we worked through exercises #1 through #12, and this week we’re wrapping things up—so let’s just right in!
There’s nothing like pushups to get every muscle in your body working and your blood circulating.
It seems simple — but strength is in the details. Spend today perfecting your form and tightening your core. Kneel on the floor if your arms or upper back needs extra support throughout the minute.
Do as many as you can for 1 minute, focusing on form not speed or reps
- Position your hands shoulder-width apart, or a bit wider.
- As you bend your elbows and lower toward the ground, your elbows should be at about a 45-degree angle to your body. Also, your fingers should be splayed.
- Keep your back in plank the entire time — hunching or sagging means your core isn’t engaged.
A great flow when your body needs a break. Cat-Cow, or Chakravakasana, is a yoga pose that’s said to improve posture and balance — ideal for those with back pain.
The benefits of this synchronized breath movement will also help you relax and ease some of the day’s stress.
Do as many in 1 minute as you can
- Begin on your hands and knees in table pose, with a neutral spine. As you inhale and move into cow pose, lift your sit bones upward, press your chest forward and allow your belly to sink.
- Lift your head, relax your shoulders away from your ears, and gaze straight ahead.
- As you exhale, come into cat pose while rounding your spine outward, tucking in your tailbone, and drawing your pubic bone forward.
- Release your head toward the floor — just don’t force your chin to your chest. Most importantly, just relax.
Strengthen and stretch your shoulders, arms, upper back, legs, glutes, and wrists all in one go. Get really in tune with your body here. Pay attention to areas that are extra tight.
Hold for 30 seconds and come back down to rest for a few seconds. Repeat for two more minutes.
- Begin by sitting on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Bring your hands several inches behind your hips, and rotate your palms so your fingertips point toward your toes.
- Externally rotate your upper arms as you press your hands down firmly into the mat, then draw your shoulder blades into your back and allow your chest to lift.
- On an inhalation, press your hands and feet down and lift your hips toward the ceiling. Work toward pressing the soles of your feet into the floor while keeping your legs straight and taut.
- Once you’re comfy, you can slowly release your head. Allow it to drop back, and hold there for up to 30 seconds. To release, slowly lower your hips to the mat.
Planking is one of the best things you can do, but after 10 seconds, you might have maximized its potential. You can enhance the usual plank by doing reaches.
Do 20 reps (10 per side). Repeat 3 times.
- Get in plank position, making sure your lower back isn’t arched and your abs are tight.
- Alternating hands, reach down with a straight arm and touch the opposite hip. This adds an element of cardio to the move and also trains your body to balance.
Work out knots and stimulate blood flow in your hamstrings. Technically, this is known as myofascial release. The application of low-intensity pressure forces soft tissues to lengthen over a period of time. Hold in areas where you feel extra tightness before moving further down your leg.
Do it for 30 seconds to a minute, then switch legs.
- Place a foam roller underneath your leg and gently push your body back and forth, from glute to knee.
- Do it for 30 seconds to a minute, then switch legs.
Not only will the roller knead those tight upper back muscles, but you’ll be getting a good quad and glutes stretch as your legs do the real work.
Do it from 30 seconds to 1 minute
- Lie on your back, placing the foam roller underneath your shoulder blades.
- Prop yourself up with your feet, raising your knees so your glutes are off the floor.
- Start rolling your way down. Focus and hold on the tight knots for at least 10 seconds.
This must-do exercise targets the erector spinae, a group of muscles that extend from the base of the skull to the sacrum. If you feel a strain on your back, modify your movements by dropping the weight. You can also alternate arms and legs during the lifts.
10 consecutive lifts, 5-second rest, repeat 3 times
- Lie on your stomach, arms straight out in front of you, holding an exercise ball between your hands.
- Engage your abs. As you inhale, squeeze the ball and lift your knees, arms, and chest off the floor.
Shape and firm up those glutes with this move that’s also a great training exercise for running or skiing. While you should focus on form, if you’re ready to take this to a new stage, you can focus on intensity and burn.
Do 12 to 20 reps per side. Repeat the set 3 times.
- Get into all fours, with a straight spine, and contract your core muscles.
- Extend your right leg back and up until your thigh is parallel with the ground. The sole of your right foot should be facing the ceiling.
- Contract your glute at the top of the move and hold for a beat.
- Return to your starting position without touching your knee to the ground and repeat.
- Do 12 to 20 repetitions, then switch sides.
This exercise is also great for keeping your hip flexors limber. Feel free to tweak this movement for needed modification. If your lower back is straining, bend your knees and lower your legs so that you’re not arching the entire way through.
Do 10 per side. Repeat 3 times.
- Lie on your back, hands at your sides. While the common flutter kick has you scissoring both legs simultaneously, this take keeps one leg straight up while the other rises from the floor to meet it.
- Keep your abs engaged to tone those muscles, as well as strengthen your core.
- Do about 10 per side.
Known as a heart-opening position, Fish Pose improves spinal flexibility and posture by stretching the front of your body, upper back muscles, and neck.
- Lie down with arms at your sides, palms down.
- Press your forearms and elbows into the floor and lift your chest to arch your back. Lift your shoulder blades and upper torso off the floor, then tilt your head back and bring the crown of your head to the floor.
- Press through your heels and hold for five breaths.
- To release, press through your forearms to slightly lift your head off the floor. Exhale as you lower your torso and head to the floor.
The purpose of this lift is simple: It helps support your knees and lower back, especially when doing any heavy lifting. And the way to build up those inner thigh muscles is just as easy.
As always, tweak this movement for your comfort, but make sure you aren’t straining any of your other muscles.
Do 10 reps for each leg. Repeat 3 times.
- Lie on your back with your legs straight up in the air, keeping your feet flat.
- Slowly drop one leg to the side at about a 45-degree angle. Be sure to keep your leg straight and feet flat.
You may recognize these twists if you’ve taken a yoga class and stayed for the stretching. These are great on their own to help “massage” your internal organs by bringing them blood flow.
Incorporating this movement into your workout routine or daily stretch is a great way to increase spinal mobility.
Hold for 10 seconds and then switch. Repeat until you feel your body instinctively relaxing.
- Lying down with your arms straight out, palms down, look in one direction.
- Twist both knees to the floor in the other direction.
This is about confidently shrugging your way through difficulties and letting go of stress. We could all use a little strength and support in brushing off inconsequential burdens.
20 reps, repeat 3 times
- Stand tall, lifting your chin.
- Lift both shoulders to your ears, making sure you’re activating your back muscles and not your neck. This is purely an isolation move to show those deltoids and rotator cuffs some love.
Now that you’ve learnt all these moves, the easy way, it’s time to put them together for a satisfying workout routine.
We recommend starting with two-three stretches, activating your arms, core, and legs. Then choose five moves you enjoyed, and spend one minute doing them (with a 10-second break in between). Repeat this three times for a feel-good burn. Then treat your muscles to a massage with a foam roller.