These are some of my favourite exercises for increasing strength. You will find a good variety covering all the major muscle groups of the body, just make sure you complete a good warm up before trying any of these exercise. All of these strength exercises can be adapted to suit your level of fitness so if you would like to try any of these movements but you’re a bit unsure then please contact me at the studio.
- Push-ups – Unlike a chest press with dumbbells, barbells or fixed resistance machines, a good push-up will engage not only the chest and other pushing muscles but also back, abdominal and lower body muscles. They’re great for strengthening the pushing muscles and raising your metabolism. Try throwing in a dozen push-ups between other exercises.
- Lunges – Not just great for toning the lower body but studies show that a good lunge recruits more muscle fibres than any other single exercise. Add a barbell and you’ll force core muscles to engage even more to control the exercise and keep your balance. Try walking in lunges for 2 sets twice each week to give your metabolism a kick.
- Clean and press – Originally a weightlifting performance move, the clean and press is widely used in exercise routines for people wanting to tone up, improve fitness, increase strength and power, raise metabolism and speed up weight loss. It uses the whole body and with so many variations of the move it can be easily adjusted to focus more on areas needing an extra push. Try completing a repetition every 10 seconds for 2, 3 or 4 minutes – a great stamina challenge. If you can do that, take off one second for every repetition.
- Down, twist and kick – A great fitness exercise; simply place hands down on a mat at about 1 to 1.5 times shoulder-width, and stretch one leg back as if moving into a push-ups position. Then take the front leg under and across stretching the foot as far wide as possible and touching the floor with your hip. Finally bring the leg back to where it moved from and stand up pushing off from the front leg and lifting the back knee into a high raised position. This exercise will strengthen the core muscles, muscles on the side of the torso (obliques) that are turned to face the floor and the front leg that you’re pushing from to stand back up. As there are so many muscle groups working, along with moving from vertical to horizontal and back, your heart rate and breathing will jump up to an anaerobic intensity where you’ll burn calories at a very high rate.
- Inverted Row – This is a very tough exercise as you’re pulling your whole body weight. Place your feet on a bench or step and take a grip of a bar (slightly over shoulder-width with the bar on a rack) in a way so that your body is hanging underneath it with the bar in line with the chest. Keep the body straight as you pull the chest up to the bar. Wrist straps can be a useful tool for this exercise as it will place a lot of resistance on the forearm muscles – use the wrist straps to get more effort from the back and arm muscles before the grip gives up.
- Dumbbell or Kettlebell front swing – This exercise will strengthen the posterior chain/group of muscles in the back, glutes, and back of thighs. It should be performed with a dynamic style of movement by punching the hips forwards to generate momentum and swing the weight up to shoulder or head height. Then, allow gravity to drop the weight and, with the knees slightly bent, let the weight swing back and punch the hips forwards again. The back needs to remain in a neutral curve throughout and head up looking straight ahead. A heavier weight would generally encourage more ‘’feel’’ in the exercise and control.
- TRX plank crunches – This is my number one exercise for the abs. Very direct so don’t go crazy on it the first time you try it as you will feel it the next day and beyond. Simply assume a plank position with your feet in the loops of a TRX and keep the knees straight as you raise your hips as high as you can by crunching your abdominal muscles. Hold at the top for a squeeze and then lower the hips almost to the floor. For added difficulty walk the elbows forwards, slow it down or move into a push-ups position.
- Diving Triceps extensions – With a bar on a rack or a smith machine adjusted to about half way between hips and shoulder height, keep a straight line between ankles and shoulders and take a grip of the bar slightly narrower than shoulder width. Lower the body by bending at the elbows and keeping the elbows tucked in; dive the head under the bar and feel a slight stretch in the triceps. Then pull the bar down towards the floor while still keeping the body straight to return to the starting position. The range of movement places a big strain on the triceps so, again, don’t go crazy on the first time round – try just one or two sets to about 90% of your maximum.
- Deadlift – One of the most basic of functional exercises, the deadlift is a simple technique of lifting a weight from the floor. Take a shoulder-width stance with toes under the bar and a similar-width grip of the bar. With the back straight, looking straight ahead, drive the shoulders up by pushing through the legs until you reach a fully upright position – to help you get the right starting position, imagine sticking your bottom out when taking a grip of the bar. For help with gripping the bar, try one arm with an overhand grip and the other with an underhand grip.
- Underhand chin-ups – Performing chin-ups or pull-ups with a shoulder-width underhand grip would usually engage more work from the biceps than the back muscles. Try to lift the chest up towards the bar by pulling the shoulders back and down. The added range of movement will help you engage important postural muscles in the mid and upper back. As with almost all other exercises, try to breathe out on the lift/pull.