Since writing my post on the Lost Art of the Push-Up last month I’ve gotten a lot of feedback indicating a great interest in physical fitness. Keeping in theme with classic exercises that don’t require thousands of dollars of equipment or gym memberships I want to present 3 exercises that will give you an incredible workout and get you in great shape if done consistently.
These three exercises comprise the workout trifecta or the “Holy Trinity of fitness,” as reader Dave pointed out. They are a bit old-school, but they’ve stood the test of time and are still used today, with great success, by the U.S. military.
1) Lie Face down on the floor with your legs together. Put your palms on the ground just more than shoulder width apart.
2) Look out ahead of you, not down. Look out ahead of you and focus on something to keep your head from bobbing up and down during the exercise.
3) While pushing yourself up keep your back as straight as possible. Imagine a board running down your back from your head to your toes. Don’t stick your butt in the air and don’t go the opposite direction looking like a seal with your back arched. Keeping your back straight is key in working out your whole body.
4) As you reach the top, take a breath and then start down. Lower yourself until your arms are bent at a 90 degree angle, but don’t let yourself rest on the floor. Lots of people let their chest touch the floor, but this is a weak way of doing push-ups and your cheating yourself if you do this.
5) Repeat until you can no longer push yourself up. Going to failure is extremely uncomfortable, but nothing else will give you a more accurate indication of where you are physically
1) Find a Hanging Surface. Most people prefer a metal bar of some sort, but any surface that will allow you to hang down at arm’s length will work. You can purchase doorway pull-up bar at most sporting goods stores or online.
2) Hang Palms Facing Away. This is the difference between a pull-up and a chin-up. With a chin-up your palms are facing you and you work different muscles, mainly biceps. For a pull-up you palms should be facing away from you. This is a bit harder, but it works your back a lot more. Position your hands a bit wider than shoulder width. You can vary this as width to work different muscles, but this is a good starting place.
3) Cross Your Feet. By crossing your feet you keep your legs from thrashing around and also help keep them bent a little bit. Legs have no place in this exercise, so keep ‘em crossed and still.
4) Pull Yourself Up. Seems simple enough, but if you’ve never done pull-ups, chances are you may only be able to do 1 or 2, if any. No problem, you’ll get there (more on getting started below). While pulling yourself up remain controlled. Pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar.
5) Lead With Your Chest. Imagine pointing your sternum right at the pull-up bar, this will help ensure proper body position and keep you from injuring shoulders. Looking up during the pull-up will help this happen more naturally.
6) Lower Yourself Down. Don’t let yourself just fall down, be controlled. By controlling yourself on the way down you are working your muscles throughout the whole exercise and preventing injuries that can occur from slamming your body weight down on joints and muscles
Help, I Can’t Even Do One – Most people can’t do a pull-up right out of the gate so don’t feel bad. Here are some ways to get started:
- Ask someone to help. If you have a workout partner have them hold your sides and push you as you go up. Make sure they pushing you up…I’ve had “partners” spot me and push me forward which didn’t work out so well.
- Use the Lat pull-down machine. By increasing your weight on this machine you will be building the muscles necessary for pull-ups.
- Use a resistance band. These can help you on the way up…this is good if you don’t have a partner
Here’s an awesome post on pull-ups from StrongLifts.com
1) Anchor Your Feet. Whether you have someone hold down on your feet or you slip them under something sturdy like a couch or a sit-up bar at the gym the important thing is to anchor your feet.
2) Arms Crossed Over Chest. Many people put their hands behind their heads, but this can result in an injury. The best technique is keeping your arms crossed over your chest. Not only is it safer, it forces you to use your abs rather than momentum from jerking your head up with your arms.
3) Touch Legs with Elbows. Go up until your elbows touch your thigh. Flex your abs as you reach the top and give a wink to the person holding your feet just to show them that you’re a fitness god.
4) Go Down Until Your Shoulders Touch the Ground. Don’t bounce yourself, but make sure that you go back down all the way. By having your shoulders touch the ground you are making sure to get the full range of the exercise. Don’t, however, let yourself rest between sit-ups…touching the ground is not the same as laying on the ground.
- Hip Flexors
These three exercises are by no means the only exercises one should do to get themselves in top physical shape, but they provide a very solid base from which to start building. Obviously one would be wise to do some sort of cardio exercise like running or bicycling and weight training if possible. What makes these three exercises so great is the wide range of muscles they cover and the fact that they can be done almost anywhere.
Finally, for kids these exercises are wonderful. Weight lifting can be hazardous to a young person’s development, but these exercises can provide great muscle development in a safe way. Start doing this workout trifecta on a regular basis and see for yourself how good they are.
Do you think these are the top three exercises? Why or why not?
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