First we have Neila Rey. With close to 300,000 followers, Neila Rey is one of the most-trusted fitness professionals on Google+.
“There is nothing more empowering than being in control of your own body and that’s why bodyweight training is my favorite kind of exercise. With every move, every push you make, your body becomes stronger and more agile, turning into a weapon and yourself into a warrior. Exercise is all about control – physical and mental – and once you have it, there is nothing you feel you cannot do. You unlock something primal, something unstoppable inside yourself and it eventually becomes you.
Something that seems so simple very often is the most effective, most challenging exercise to do. Defying gravity is not just about fitness, it’s about life and you being able to push through, with its up and downs over and over again and be victorious every single time.
Push-ups are a basic, often overlooked exercise that are sometimes used as punishment. They are, in fact, one of the best and most effective forms of exercise there is with a whole rainbow of different moves designed to challenge, push and reinvent you.
By placing your body parallel to the ground you load all its biomechanics. All the major muscle groups, joints and tendons. You then pit yourself against the pull of planet Earth. So, each time you rise from a push-up you are winning a tug-of-war with the planet. Provided you tense your abs to keep your body straight a single push-up works quads, deltoids, chest, triceps, glutes and even your lower back.
Push-Up Variation: Renegade Row
Add variation with a renegade row lift that also works the biceps and lateral abs and you suddenly have the ultimate upper body and core exercise.” ~ Neila Rey
Next, we meet Jeff Oriente, the man behind another extremely popular Google+ page, Fitness Oriented. His fitness posts are always highly informative and useful, and he frequently addresses proper mechanics, rehabilitative strategies, and functional fitness.
“I’m going to talk about why I love squats and why you should too!
Even though squats can feel like an exercise only the spawn of Satan himself could conjure up, I am a huge fan of them. Let me tell you why.
Squatting is a functional activity we perform each day, even though you may not realize it. Whether we are running (each step is a single leg squat), picking something out of the cupboard, or picking up all the garbage off the floor after a giant Thanksgiving feast, we are potentially squatting hundreds, if not thousands of times per day! Not only that, but squats are hugely beneficial in many sports and are crucial to perform if you want that competitive edge.
The problem is that squatting is a challenging exercise for many people because not only is it very taxing on the body energy-wise, given that we can use over 200 muscles in the body performing a squat in the gym, but squatting also demands proper form to avoid injury.
In the tutorial below, I am going to teach you how to squat with a weighted bar on your back. Please note, I am referring to a free weight squat, not the bastard child Smith Machine squat that you should avoid, despite its beckoning with its sweet siren song with sinister undertones.
So now, let’s learn HOW TO SQUAT!
Balance the bar on your upper back. Your hands should grasp the bar, palms down. There are two positions for the bar on your back:
- High bar squats are where the bar is placed at the base of the neck.
- Low bar squats are when the bar is placed below that, running across the traps and posterior delts. Low bar squats tend to place greater stress at the hips but less at the knees.
Both squat positions are well tolerated by most lifters, but I prefer low bar squats because I feel less pressure at the knees.
Now, bring your chest out and up. Keep your gaze forward, as gazing downward may increase flexion and shearing forces at the spine when you squat. Use your knee and hip extensor muscles to lift the bar when you are ready. Have a spotter if you need it, especially if you are attempting to use heavy weight.
The Lowering Phase:
- Keep your spine rigid and as close to a neutral position as you can.
- Slowly flex your knees and hips as you lower your body.
- Continue sticking your chest outwards and upwards.
- You may stop once your upper legs are parallel with the floor, but going further than parallel will activate the gluteus maximus (butt muscle) more.
- As you go down, squat so that your knees are not going too far forward or coming past your toes, as this increases shearing forces there.
- Make sure your knees do not cave in or come excessively outwards.
- If your heels are coming off of the ground during the downward motion, improve your ankle flexibility as this should not be happening!
The Upward Phase:
- Again keep your back rigid and as close to a neutral position as you can.
- Extend your knees and hips slowly until you have reached your starting position.
Now you know how to squat properly!
Knowing proper squat form will allow you to perform many functional activities of daily living more effectively, avoid injury, and get stronger.
Additional Squatting Tips!
• Maintain good overall flexibility in your body, particularly at the calves and hips, as limited motion in these areas can make you go into unnatural movements during a squat, increasing your chance of injury.
• Spend time strengthening your hamstrings as the hamstrings help pull back on your tibia (lower leg bone) during the squat and resists the forward pull of the quads on the tibia, decreasing stress on the ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) at the knee.
• Do not squat while fatigued!
• Do not hold your breath while squatting! Holding your breath can cause your blood pressure to skyrocket to a dangerous rate.”
~ Jeff Oriente
Next up is Justin Glenn. I first “met” Justin on Twitter, where he posts excellent content and links to articles on his site, Shaping Yourself.
“The deadlift is the king of all exercises for three reasons.
1) The deadlift promotes proper movement and posture.
A majority of the day people are hunched over at a desk, reaching forward toward a keyboard, or driving. Therefore, the muscles in the front of the body associated with this posture – rectus abdominis, hip flexors, chest muscles, etc – will become chronically tight. Conversely, the muscles that work opposite – glutes,hamstrings, lats, rhomboids, lumbar erectors, etc – become lengthened and weak.
To reverse this imbalance we need to strengthen all of the lengthened and weak muscles. The deadlift is the number one exercise for accomplishing this task.
2) The deadlift is efficient.
The deadlift works the glutes, hamstrings, quads and all of the muscles of the back. During the deadlift, the bar is loaded in front of a person’s center of gravity. This places a ton of work on the core to stabilize. Also, as a person moves up in weight, they will develop a massively strong grip. The only major muscles not worked are your chest and biceps. The deadlift simply gives you the best bang for your buck.
3) The deadlift is hard.
It is you vs the bar. There is no cheating. There is no momentum. You must grip the bar and pull it off of the floor. It is like pulling dead weight…. hence the name deadlift. It doesn’t get any more hardcore than that!” ~ Justin Glenn
For exercise tips, workouts and other articles from Justin, check out his website, or follow him on YouTube, Twitter, or Facebook.
And finally, we have Katie Bielefeld, also known as The Fitness Mom! Katie is a personal trainer and wellness coach.
My favorite exercise is Titanium Tucks. They burn out the upper body, chisel out the triceps, banish belly bulge, strengthen the back and core, tone the calves, and build up the hamstrings all while your getting a burst of cardio. And that’s an awesome all-in-one power move! I was introduced to titanium tucks by the JNL Fusion DVD program.” ~ Katie Bielefeld
Due to technical difficulties, Katie was unable to get a video to me, so I saw the opportunity and grabbed it! Here I am attempting this challenging exercise:
Titanium Tucks are like the bottom half of a burpee but on one leg! This one is tough!
To train with Katie, visit FitOrbit, or follow her on Twitter or Google+. She is also on Instagram as momswithmuscle.
This post wouldn’t be complete without MY favorite exercise. But you already know what it is!
All hail the burpee!
I love burpees because they get the heart rate up, challenge upper body, lower body, core, and balance, and pack a punch with one move. Toss a push-up into it and it’s basically the perfect combination of the four exercises above! So if burpees aren’t your thing, hit those muscle groups with the four exercises above, loved by our esteemed trainers for their benefits and application to functional fitness.
Thank you to our great personal trainers for their contributions! Readers, show your love by hitting them up on social media!