Get the most out of your workouts

Typically, a workout is focused on lifting, tightening and toning a desired area of the body.  While these are significant, and important, emphasis points, there are actually a few under-appreciated moves that can enhance your workout while helping you keep your body healthy and pain free.

These five exercises from SHAPE Magazine may seem slightly easy to perform; however, they do more than you might think and are crucial for reaching the full potential that our bodies have.  For all five of these moves, there are significant benefits in adding them to your routine.  For starters, they are simple and quick exercises.  Additionally, the exercises don’t need to replace what you already have established in your exercise routine; rather they can just be incorporated into the workout.

  •  Clamshell

Benefits: This exercise move targets your glutes and hamstrings, which help to promote a healthy back and stability in your knees.

What you need: 1 resistance band.

How to do it: Place the resistance band around both of your legs. Lie on your side with your hips and knees at a 45-degree angle and your legs stacked on top of each other. Keep your feet touched as you raise your upper knee as high as is comfortable, while keeping your pelvis stationary. Perform 20 reps on each side.

  •  Y-T-W Raise

Benefits: The Y-T-W Raise is a multi-part move that targets your upper back.  At the same time, it stabilizes your shoulder blades and strengthens your rotator cuff.

What you need: A set of dumbbells (3-5 lbs.).

How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart. For the Y part, raise arms into Y position, while keeping them straight.  Lower back into starting position and repeat 10-15 times.  For the T raises, put a slight bend in your knee, with your back straight.  Raise arms out to shoulder-height, creating a T with your body, palms facing outwards.  Lower back into the starting position and repeat 10-15 times.  Lastly, for the W raises, start in the same position as the T raises.  Bend elbows more than 90 degrees, raise your arms to shoulder height, and squeeze shoulder blades together when you lift.  At the top, your arms form a W.  Repeat this movement 10-15 times.

  •  Opposite Arm and Leg Extensions (Bird Dog)

Benefits: The Bird Dog exercise strengthens the muscles in your glutes and core, while stabilizing the muscles around your spine.  This relieves pressure in your lower back.

What you need: Yoga mat (if desired)

How to do it: Starting on your hands and knees with palms flat to the floor, raise your right arm and left leg until they are in line with your body.  Hold for 5-10 seconds and repeat on other side.  Complete 10 reps on each side.

  •  Single-Leg Squats

Benefits: Any exercises that promote single-leg movements are beneficial because they let you focus on one side of your body at a time.  In turn, this allows the development of balance and prevents injury.  The exercise forces your glutes to act as a stabilizer to protect your knees and lower body, while shaping your legs.

What you need: Just yourself!

How to do it: Start standing on your right leg with both arms straight in front of you.  Bend your right knee and lower your body as if you were sitting down in a chair.  Remember to keep your chest raised as you lower your body.  Perform 10 reps on each leg.

  •  Squats with Arms Overhead

Benefits: Squats are one of the most beneficial all-around exercises out there.  Nevertheless, raising your arms overhead will help you engage your lower trapezius muscles for good posture.

What you need: Just yourself!

How to do it: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart.  Hold your arms straight up overhead, keeping your shoulder blades down and back.  Lower until your thighs are parallel with the floor.  Important! Make sure your knees don’t fall past your toes to prevent injury. Hold position for 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Do 3 total reps.

What are some of your favorite exercises?

Photo credit: tarnalberry

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