Five exercises to master for a better body...(Part 2)

In last week’s newsletter, you discovered three exercises for better fitness, better physique, and better health. You learned some of the benefits, tips for performing them, and goals to work towards. In this week’s newsletter we’re going to look at two more exercises for a better body, my 21-Day Challenge, and how I incorporate the five exercises into training. Here we go!

Fourth exercise: Pull-up - Performed by pulling your body up to a bar and lowering yourself back down. It’s one doozy of an exercise as you literally have to pull your own weight until your chest almost touches the bar. It is considered a multi-joint or compound exercise which means you need to use more than one muscle group and more than one joint. It works muscles in your back, shoulders, chest and arms. In a pull-up your palms are shoulder-width a part with an overhand grip. Variations include a chin-up (palms facing you) which targets more of the bicep and a neutral-grip (narrower grip with palms facing each other) which also targets more of the bicep and forearm muscles. Why I like it - It’s very challenging which makes it feels amazing upon completion! This is another functional, compound movement exercise that triggers a release of growth hormone. This exercise is a true measure of your fitness level. I need to improve this area of my fitness and am enjoying the journey of finding ways to steadily improve. It is my obstacle and as we know from Marcus Aurelius, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” Tips - Think about actively pulling your chin over the bar (not breaking neutral neck position), i.e. don’t tip head back trying to touch bar with your chin. Pull elbows straight down to your hips. Maintain strong neutral core position. To work on proper form and also for beginners, a good place to start is to do band assisted pull ups. Like it sounds, use a band to offset your weight which will make it easier to pull yourself up and with proper form.

Another starting option is to do the eccentric portion of the pull-up which is the lowering of your body. Get up on the bar and lower yourself as slowly as possible. This is great for building strength and muscle which will lead to you being able to perform the whole exercise. What to train towards - You can start with an assisted pull-up with a band. Another option would be to do a chin-up working more of the bicep which will make it a bit easier. An accessory exercise to the pull-up is a lat pull-down which focuses on the latissimus dorsi, large back muscle used in the pull-up.

Level 1 - Men: 10 pull-ups; Women 5 pull-ups Level 2 - Increase number of reps; 20 for men, 10 for women or add additional weight i.e. weighted vest Fifth exercise: Walking lunge - Like it sounds, lunging and walking. To do this you take step forward with your right foot in line with your right hip. Bend both knees, so your left knee comes within a few inches of the floor. Keep your right knee from going in front of your toes. Engage your right quadriceps and hamstring by pushing your foot into the floor, and then stand up to step forward onto your left foot. Now continue on your left leg. Throughout the lunge, maintain good posture with chest up, shoulders back and looking straight ahead. Why I like it - Great exercise for the quadriceps, the glutes, and the hamstring muscles. Every major muscle group in the lower body is being worked during this exercise. It challenges your stability. Many people have muscle imbalances between their quadriceps and hamstrings which can result in knee and lower back injuries. Walking lunges provide equal activation of both muscles, decreasing risk of injury. Tips - Keep good posture with chest up and shoulders back while you lunge. Your weight should be over your heels and not your toes. Take your time and work on proper movement until this becomes fluid, just like you are walking. You can increase stability and strength gains further by using weight i.e. dumbbells, kettle bells, or barbells with your walking lunges. What to train towards - Work on the fluidity that this exercise is meant to be. You should be able to lunge forward and right into lunging on the other side. Improve so that you are not lunging, standing up with a pause before switching to other side. There should be no pauses, it is a continued movement. Level 1 - Walking lunge with proper form and movement, no pauses for the length of a basketball court Level 2 - Add additional weight i.e. dumbbells. Start light with 10 lbs dumbbells and work up to 15, 20, 25 lbs

21-Day Challenge Last week I started a new challenge. Each day I do three pull-ups followed by ten push-ups and repeat three times for a total of nine pull-ups and 30 push-ups. Why? We need to consistently be challenging ourselves for improvement. I need improvement on my pull-ups. Doing push-ups right after each set of pull-ups makes it more challenging and works opposite muscles. Three pull-ups at a time are manageable and can maintain proper form. How I incorporate these exercises into my training - I use all five of these effective exercises in my training program. Here is a sample.

  • Squats - My morning ritual (every morning, no exceptions) utilizes bodyweight squats to help open up the hips. The most common squat with weight I do is the barbell squat where I do five sets of five repetitions, increasing the weight each set. I will also do many variations of the squat i.e. goblet (holding a weight at chest level while squatting), sumo (feet are pointed out), overhead squat (holding a weight overhead while squatting)

  • Deadlift - I have worked (and continue to work) on proper form. It was difficult at first due to weak core and hamstrings but as those muscles developed, this became easier. Similarly to the squats, I will do five sets of five repetitions while increasing weight on each set using a barbell. Right now I’m deadlifting once per week

  • Push-ups - This is my go-to exercise when traveling (along with the bodyweight squat) because it is so effective and you don’t need any equipment and you don’t need much space. All you need is a can-do attitude. You don’t need to do very many of these for your heart to start pumping hard. As outlined in the 21-Day Challenge; I’m doing 30 push-ups each day

  • Pull-ups - As mentioned, I need to work on form and ability to do multiple repetitions. That is one reason I made this my challenge, so I would improve and hold myself accountable for it. No. Excuses.

  • Walking lunge - After deadlifts, I like to throw in a walking lunge while holding a 25 lb plate overhead or carrying 25 lbs dumbbells at my side. This is a total killer of a workout. As we’ve learned, this exercise uses all the major muscle groups in the lower body. Burn calories…burn...

Keep in mind that once you learn the basic mechanics of these exercises, you can vary the intensity into anything you need for your goals or for a specific day given how much time you have, your location (outdoors, at home, at a gym), or fitness level. I am hopeful that you invest the time to incorporate these into your training program. How could you begin? Make a challenge for yourself. Try one or more of these exercises for fourteen days. Or you can join me for the pull-up / push-up challenge. Whatever it is, know how important it is to seek challenges; don’t wait for a challenge to find you.

To your journey,

Lisa Schaffer

GreenNote Fitness P.S. Checkout my Facebook page for inspiration.

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