Top 5 Bodyweight Exercises

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With my new book, Doorframe Pull-up Bar Workouts out this week, a new blog post seemed appropriate. My book is centered around exercises that can be done at home (or anywhere) with a pull-up bar. In today’s post, I’m going to list the top 5 bodyweight exercises. These are all fundamental movements in any exercise program and can be progressed or regressed as needed. All of these can be found in Doorframe Pull-up Bar Workouts

 

1. Pull-ups

Pull-ups are one of the absolute best exercises that you can do. They are a great strength building exercise because you are pulling your entire bodyweight. Additionally, pull-ups work a wide variety of upper body muscles, including the Lats, Rhomboids, Biceps, Deltoids and Forearms.  Pull-ups can be progressed or regressed to meet the needs of any fitness level and can be performed almost anywhere.

2. Push-up

Push-ups should be a staple of any fitness program. Push-ups can be performed anywhere and require no equipment.  Pushups work a wide variety of muscles in the upper body, including the Pectorals, Triceps and Deltoids. Additionally, push-ups are a great core exercise due to the trunk stability that is required to perform a proper push-up. While they are easier to perform than pull-ups, Push-ups are still a difficult exercise and can be progressed or regressed in order to meet the needs of any fitness level.

3. Lunges

Lunges are among the most dynamic lower body exercises. Lunges narrowly beat out squats to make this list. Lunges work on almost all of the muscles in the lower body with a focus on the Quads, Hamstrings and Glutes. Lunges are also a great exercise for balance, stability and control. They can also be performed in a wide variety of ranges and in all planes of motion. This means that you are never at a loss for ways to make the exercise different and more dynamic.

4. Burpees or Squat Thrusts

Burpees are  both my most and least favorite exercise. They are my most favorite due to the conditioning benefits and least because of how difficult they can be. Burpees are second to none as far as their ability to increase the heart rate and develop your conditioning. They are the perfect exercise to use with a High Intensity Interval Training protocol and can be used to build both anaerobic and aerobic conditioning. Like the other exercises mentioned, burpees are dynamic and can be modified to include pull-ups and or push-ups among many other movements.

5. Walking plank

The best core exercises are the ones which require you to stabilize your trunk with dynamic movement. In that way, walking planks are a great core exercise. While traditional planks can be great for the core, walking planks have the added benefit of forcing you to stay stable while there is a shift in your center of gravity. Additionally, the arm extension is a great way to strengthen your core.

Target Zones: Training the Shoulders

Aesthetically speaking, the shoulders can be a very underrated muscle to work. People always talk about having a nice chest or big arms but in my opinion nice shoulders will make the upper body look much better.

The shoulder is a very complicated area consisting of a lot of muscles. Within that one joint you have the 4 rotator cuff muscles and the chest an lats also insert in that area. The large muscle that we generally refer to when discussing the shoulders consists of 3 heads, the frontal, medial and lateral heads. It is important to understand this when working out the shoulders.

The first thing to take into account is that she shoulder joint is a very complex joint which assists in just about every upper body movement. Because of this, it serves many different and sometimes conflicting purposes. For this reason, it’s always important to exercise safely when working on the shoulders.

As I mentioned before, the shoulder joint is the home to the rotator cuff muscles, which rotate the arm internally and externally as well as assist in stabilizing the joint. I like to begin a shoulder workout by working (lightly) on the rotator cuff muscles as a way of reinforcing my shoulders stability for the heavier lifting.

The deltoids consist of 3 heads, the frontal (located on the front of the shoulder), the medial (located on the middle of the shoulder) and the lateral (located on the back of the shoulder) heads. In order to fully develop the shoulder one would need to work all three. Front raises are great for the frontal head. Lateral raises and upright rows are great for the medial head. Rear delt flys and reverse pec dec flys are great for the lateral head. Exercises like shoulder presses are also very effective because they require all three muscles working together as well as assistance from the rotator cuff muscles.

When training the shoulders, it’s important to look at it as a complicated joint which needs it’s parts worked both individually as well as together to get the best results.

Ask the trainer: When to stretch?

Question: Hi Ryan, I would like to know if it is better to stretch before or after I work out. People tell me different things and it can be very confusing. Thanks for your help.

Answer: The proper order of exercise, especially when it comes to stretching is one of those topics where you can ask 10 people and get 10 different answers. While I will answer your question, I will also try to answer the larger order of how to combine all of the different training modalities.

Warm up– When we work out, it is always important to warm up. The warm up can be a light jog or performing specific exercises or movments slowly or with little resistence. The idea is to get the body lose and the blood flowing in preparation for the intense exercise. Working out cold can sometimes lead to injury.

Resistence training– Resistence or strength training should be the first thing you do after the warmup if you are planning on it. The energy stores and muscle fiber types needed for resistence training will be the first to go so it’s important that if you are going to strength train that you do it first as you will likely not have as much energy later.

Cardiovascular training– Cardiovascular training relies primiraly on oxygen so it should always be done after your strength training. Some people prefer to do it first and while this is fine, it will take away from the energy needed for the workout.

Flexibility– Flexibility, or stretching should always be saved for the end of the work out unless there is a specific injury or severe tightnedd which needs work on prior to a workout. Stretching prior to a workout can interfere with the neuromuscular system and can cause the muscles to work in a less than efficient manner.

Cooldown– A cooldoen should always be done at the end of a workout. A stretch can be a way of cooling down but if you chose not to stretch, it is important to do something which will serve to cool the body down, rather than to stop

Exercise of the week: abdominal kick up

The abdominal Kick up is a great exercise to work the core.

Muscles used
Primary: rectus abdominus, obliques.
Secondary: erector spinae, pectoralis

Start: to start lie on your back and with your knees fully extended, raise your feet so that your hips are bent at 90 degrees. Your arms should be flat on the floor and should be used to counter balance the movement.

Movement: begin by pressing your arms into the floor and lift your hips off of the ground. Beginners should only Lift a couple of inches off but more advanced people can lift up to a foot off of the ground. Once you reach the top of the movement, pause and hold for a second. Finally, lower yourself slowly back to the starting position.

Weekly fitness Journal

As I planned way back in March, I finally began training at the Wat in September and I’m now a month into it. Training has been great so far. As someone new to training with a group, I started by taking the beginner classes and they have been very challenging. Kru Phil Nurse personally teaches the total beginner classes and there is a real mix of skill levels in the class. After a week or so I started taking the beginner- intermediate classes and have definitely noticed that I am playing catch up with the more experienced people.

Though I have a ways to go, I have noticed my running is really paying off. My conditioning is far better in the classes than I would have expected. I always feel fresh and ready to go which has been a big bonus. I’m really excited, already in a month I have noticed significant progress.

Workouts
Since I’m now taking Muay Thai classes 4-5 times a week, my running has tapered off a bit. I’m running 3-4 days a week. I work out with weights about 2-3 days a week.

Exercise of the week: side lying lateral raise

Exercise: Side lying lateral raise

Primary Muscles worked: Deltoids
Secondary: Latisimus Dorsi

Equipment: Dumbbell

The side lying lateral raise is a great exercise for the shoulders. It is deceptively hard due to the angle so make sure to start with a lighter weight.

Starting: Lie on your side on a flat surface. It can be on the floor, a bench or a mat. Maintain a stable spine and keep the top leg in front of the bottom leg to create a stable base. With a dumbbell in the top hand start with your arm at the hip and the thumb pointed up.

Movement: make sure to lock your elbow in position and using the shoulder, raise your arm until your arm is pointing straight up towards the ceeling. Slowly lower the arm back to the hip. Lowering slowly will work opposing muscles and will create an even more intense workout.

Keeping fit through stress

It’s very common for a life change to have an impact on a person’s ability to work out and eat right. As one of my clients put it, “sometimes life happens.” Major changes can have an impact on drive, motivation and concentration. More often than not, change or stress ends up having a serious negative impact on a person’s fitness and nutrition program. This post is going to cover some ways to effectively navagate change without completely disrupting your fitness program:

1. Exercise feels good. By now most of us know that exercise releases endorphins throughout the body which make us feel much better. It also can serve as stress relief so if you are going through a hard time, an intense workout may help you unwind and feel better.

2. Have a plan and be prepared. Generally, I stress the importance of preparation and this is especially true when going through stress. It can be easy to let fitness and nutrition fall by the wasteside so a person must plan their workouts and eating habits more dilligently in order to stay on track.

3. Healthy eating leads to a more productive person. One thing that people notice when they switch from an unhealthy diet to a healthy one is how much better they feel. Healthy eating creates sustainable and stable energy levels. It can keep a person from feeling tired and sluggish.

4. Create a goal. Goal setting is generally a very effective tool to use with a fitness program because if gives a person something to focus on. When going through a stressful period, this focus can be a great distraction from the stress and can be a source for positive energy.

5. Find an activity. It would be great if everybody loved running or lifting weights but unfortunately, that’s not the case. When going through stress, it can be hard for a person to motivate themself to participate in an activity which they don’t enjoy. The beauty of fitness is that there is an unlimited number of things that one can so to stay fit. From cycling to dance to yoga to rebounding, there are plenty of activities in the gym and out which may be of interest. Finding the right activity can help to make exercise more fun and the person more likely to stick with it.

Exercise of the week: Jackknife

The Jackknife is a great abdominal exercise which requires a good amount of strength to perform.

Muscles used: rectus abdominus, psoas, obliques

Start: you should be lying supine (on your back) on a mat. The arms should be extended behind you and on the floor and the legs should be fully extended and together.

jackMovement: the movement consists of two movements performed together. Part one is to curl your upper body up with your arms guiding the body through the movement. You should only need to curl up a couple of inches off of the ground. (a common mistake is to sit up too high, be careful of that)
Part two of the movement is to simultaneously lift the legs up in the air. Keep the knees as straight as possible. Attempt to touch your toes, ankles or knees.

After touching, go back to the starting position and repeat.

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