With our active lives, it is easy to put exercise and fitness at the bottom of our daily priority list because we don’t recognize any immediate negative effect when we avoid or ignore it. Of course everyone knows they should be doing some form of regular exercise, but people often believe they simply do not have the time needed to focus on their fitness by training regularly and effectively.
When we were young, we had huge physical reserves, but that strength and physical capacity naturally diminishes as we age. We can slow down this natural aging process by engaging in some form of regular exercise, even if we can only spare 10 minutes per day.
Success in life can be measured in many ways and may be dependent upon many variables. But when it comes to your physical health, you can measure your results easily by evaluating how you look and feel, and by your ease of movement as you navigate through daily physical activities.
Consistent exercise, in whatever form (cardio, strength, walking), will help improve your daily energy levels, make you feel better and stronger, both physically and mentally, and will build self-confidence by increasing your physical capacity. Your improved physical presence can actually increase daily productivity.
Where can you start? If time is your enemy and you can only devote 10 minutes a day to your physical well-being, it is certainly better than nothing. Because exercise is so essential and your time may be limited, it is important get the most bang for your exercise buck. To achieve this, I recommend “whole-body” exercise movements whenever possible. Whole-body exercises are movements that work your arms and legs at the same time and against the trunk of your body to maximize their effectiveness over a shorter period of time.
Here are some exercises you can try. Try doing them four times a week for four weeks: Set a timer for 10 minutes and begin doing 10 repetitions of each of the five exercises. These are some of my favorites, and several of them are whole-body exercises. If you complete them before the 10 minutes are up, start back at the top and try to do as many as possible. As you become fit, you can increase your exercise time.
If you have not been exercising on a regular basis, then make sure you start without using any weights (external resistance). Once you do the exercises comfortably for approximately four to six weeks, then you can start adding some light resistance to the exercises.
As a precaution, you should always consult your medical professional before starting this or any exercise program.
1. Squat Press (whole body)
This is a good overall body strengthening exercise. It doesn’t require Olympic skill, making it an ideal starting point for less experienced lifters. This exercise can be done with an Olympic bar, dumbbells, kettlebells or a medicine ball. The focus of the exercise is to drive the resistance upward with forceful hips, an explosive move. Taking the momentum from the hips, the weight is then guided upward with the arms.
Start in a standing position with your fists just above your shoulders, elbows pointing forward. You can use dumbbells or kettlebells resting on your shoulders or an Olympic bar in the racked position. Next, drop down into a full squat position while keeping your heels on the floor, maintaining a firm (lordotic) low-back position. Review the pictures for proper spine and knee alignment, and make sure the spine is in the lordotic position and the knees remain in line with the hips and ankles. Immediately explode upward with your hips and legs while maintaining an upright spine position. Make sure your head is looking up at a fixed point about 8 to 10 feet from the ground. As your knees and hips complete their work, your arms will keep the upward momentum by beginning to extend the weight over your head, a full press. Last, on the downward movement, your hips and legs act as brakes and control the weight back to the full squat position. As soon as the full squat is reached, immediately explode upward and repeat 10 times.
2. Physio-ball Curls This is an excellent exercise to improve unilateral and bilateral hamstring strength, which will balance out your quadriceps strength. The base level (0) is done as an isometric hold to get prepared for the next level (1), where the legs will flex and extend. As your strength is developing, take breaks as needed and move to the next level when 10 repetitions can be done without a break. In general, the ball diameter should be no greater than the distance from the floor to the bottom of your kneecap. You can always go with a smaller ball. Level Zero (0): Bridging up on the ball.
This can be done two ways based on your strength—standing alone or using a wall for support. If you experience hamstring cramping or excessive instability, place the ball against a wall to increase the stability at this level. Move your hips toward the ball until your buttocks are touching the ball. Place the soles of both feet on the very top of the ball. Then extend your hips upward until your knees, hips and shoulders are in a straight line. Hold for 10 seconds, and then repeat. When you can do 10 repetitions with a 10-second hold, proceed to take the ball away from the wall. You are ready to move to Level One (1).
Level One (1): Rolling the ball.
Repeat the same starting process as described in Level Zero (0). From your bridge position, with hips raised and your feet firmly on the ball, slowly extend and straighten your legs, keeping your shoulders, hips and knees in a straight line. After extending, keep your feet on the top of the ball and roll the ball back toward your buttocks and the starting position. Maintain a straight line with your hips, knees and shoulders. That's 1 repetition. Do 9 more.
3. Cross Abs (whole body) This exercise helps strengthen your abdominal musculature with an emphasis on your side abdominal (oblique) muscles—all while keeping your legs and arms straight. If your hamstrings are tight, you may modify the exercise by slightly bending your knees.
Start by lying flat with your right arm extended over your head and your thumb pointing to the ground. Next, raise your left leg and your right arm, keeping both straight while lifting your shoulders slightly off the ground. Your goal is to have your hand and foot touch directly above your navel. Do 10 reps on one side with your right arm and left leg, and then repeat with the left arm and right leg for another 10 reps.
4. Knees to Elbow or “Knee-ups” (whole body) This exercise can be done on a pull-up bar or on the floor. If you don’t yet have the strength to hang from a pull-up bar, you can do this exercise on your back, holding on to the leg of a table for support. Knee-ups help strengthen the flexion musculature of the trunk.
Using a chin-up position (palms facing you), hang from the bar with your arms fully extended, or lay flat on the floor with your arms extended above you while holding on to the table leg. Bending your legs and keeping your lower back on the floor, pull your knees up to try and touch your elbows. Try and maintain an extended arm position. Slowly bring your knees back to the starting position, keeping your core engaged and your lower back on the floor. Do 10 reps.
5. Straight Leg Dead Lift (SLDL) This is a key exercise for learning the relationship between the trunk and lower extremities. The SLDL can be used as a dynamic or static stretch and is an effective strengthening exercise that can be done with weights in your hands.
Stand up straight as if you were bowing. Bend at your waist, and keep your head looking at your “audience.” Avoid rounding your back and looking at your feet. With a very slight bend in your knees, extend until you feel your hamstrings engage. Return to the starting position and complete 10 reps.
Congratulations! You are now on your way to becoming healthier and stronger. Continue to make your fitness a priority—you deserve it!
Watch videos of each exercise on SUCCESSmagazine's YouTube channel. For endurance training tips, download Bob Kaehler’s “Training Manifest” free at www.coachkaehler.com.