The Whole Body
The ten best strength exercises described here are designed to benefit your entire body, which is why several of them work more than one muscle group at once. This isn’t merely my opinion, but a compilation of generally accepted opinions of many of minds entrenched in the health and fitness industry. For convenience sake, I’ve broken them up into three categories. So let’s get right into it and then after reading, stay dedicated to your goal of becoming stronger and fitter on this lifelong journey.
Your core (mid section including abs, obliques, and lower back muscles) is vital to functioning well in everything else you do, and as Travis explains in Train your Core for Ultimate Strength, it’s like a tree trunk that supports everything above and below it, so it has to be strong, firm and balanced. The Plank is therefore a great choice for working your core, while also building both strength and endurance in your arm and leg muscles as well. It adds to that long, deep, concavity yoga teachers are always talking about (it’s also a staple in pilates). Lie down on the floor (a mat or rug is nice to use) and while remaining on your elbows (or hands), raise your body to a push-up position. Keep your abs engaged and maintain a straight-as-a-board (hence, Plank) position from head to toe. Hold it for anywhere from 15 to 60 seconds depending upon your fitness level.
The Reverse Plank is also a killer deal, and to do that you turn your body over and maintain all these same practices in reverse. There are many variations of sit ups and crunches that can be performed, start off with the universally recognized basics in order not to overwork the back. Lie on your back, and pulse up, taking the shoulders off the floor for the crunch. For the sit up, come all the way up towards the knee. Keep the hands interlaced behind the neck but do not put any pressure on the neck as you rise up. As you practice more, you must vary your routine. Therefore, you should read the 6 best ab workouts to get an idea about what should come later. Without a strong, balanced core, you are more likely to injure yourself performing any of the other exercises discussed in this article.
Image Credits: https://theholisticcare.com/yoga/wiki-yoga-poses.html
Squats are exceptional leg strengthening routines to do because they work the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves while also promoting the correct erect posture that you should maintain. Use a squat rack with the bar resting comfortably just below your shoulders in the thick of your upper back. Although you should start off with low weight, keep in mind that this muscle group is the strongest you have in your body. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and parallel to each other. Slowly bend at the knees and lower your hips to the floor but keep your torso straight, abs engaged, and don’t let your knees stray ahead of your planted toes. Push from the heels and look toward the ceiling to help you in keeping that back straight. Doing them correctly is absolutely vital, so it’s worth your while to read How to do Squats Properly: Learn the Proper Squat Technique for great hints and advice along those lines. Do 4 sets of 10, 8, 6, and 4 with increasing weight.
Strong and flexible legs are keys to keeping your knees and lower back healthy. Lunges are another excellent leg strengthener because just like squats, they get the whole leg involved. Stand with one foot forward making sure the knee doesn’t go past the toes. Lower down into a lunge so that both front and back knees are at a 90 degree angle. Ensuring that the weight is on your heels, push up to the starting position. You will feel the burn in your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Lock the front leg, from the knee down, into position. You can hold dumbbells at your sides or rest a barbell on your back to increase strength. Do 3 sets of 8 – 10.
Since I’ve personally experienced the truly lame results of having a sprained ankle, I especially believe in a strict adherence to practicing exercises that strengthen them. All of your weight rides on the ability of your ankles to function properly and when you have a sprain or brake, all of your other fitness endeavors are out the window. Start with resistance bands tied to something stable and flex your ankle in all four directions. You can do these seated or standing. Then utilize a Bosu ball by placing one foot on it and bending down crossing the opposite arm in front of you almost like a pitcher’s delivery (the image here mimics the movement without the Bosu ball). Concentrate on staying balanced and keeping that inner ankle firmly planted because most ankle injuries roll out. Staying in on it is a good habit to practice. For more detailed explanations, refer to the best exercises to strengthen ankles.
Calf Raises are also on this list too. Much like the ankles, you need a good foundation from the ground up. Basic calf raises are performed exactly as they sound, feet hip distance apart, rising up preferably with weight, depending upon your basic fitness level. The calf machines at the gym are an excellent option. Do 2 sets of 20 for these. The next page concerns the hard work to create a well-built upper body..
Push-ups are pretty much universally recognizable, both in how you perform them and as one of the best strength training exercises. The Benefits of Doing Push Ups are many-fold. Push-ups concentrate on working virtually all of your upper-body musculature. So hit the floor, hands wider than shoulders and fully extended, balancing on your hands and toes (you can modify by remaining on your knees). Push-up from the floor while keeping your body as straight as a plank. Lower yourself slowly until your elbows are around 90 degrees and your nose is about to touch the floor. Refer to the Army Physical Fitness Test Standards in the chart to the right to give you an estimate of what your maximum potential is in terms of reps.
While we’re talking about the best exercises to improve your strength, it’s also worth noting that endurance isn’t a fitness factor that should be over-looked. For a sensible approach to settling the strength versus endurance debate, you should include both into your weekly regimen with an emphasis on the discipline that best suits your overall goals.
The Lat Machine ensures those huge and potentially powerful latissimus dorsi muscles your shoulders rest upon, are strong, vibrant, and resilient. For the Lat Pulldown, grip the bar, palms facing away from the front of your body, and take a seat. Engage the abs as you slowly pull the bar down behind your neck, making sure that it is the lats doing the work and not your arms. Do 3 sets for 12 – 14 reps. A lat machine (Powerline PLM180X Lat Machine) available at Aamazon.com is pictured to the right here if you don’t have access to a gym.
Because you’re working those lats, it’s also important to work the muscles on the other side to maintain a proper balance. That’s why the Bench Press makes the list. So lie back on that bench, grip the bar slightly wider than your shoulders (although mixing up the position of your grip every so often will help you get stronger) and ensure that the bar is aligned with your mid-chest. Lower the bar and press up and slightly back so it is a mini-arc. Make sure the lower back stays on that bench throughout the exercise. With ascending weight amounts, do 3 sets of say 12, 10, and 8.
So there you have it, the ten best exercises to get yourself strong and buff which will assist you in all your other athletic endeavors. Practice them consistently and with great care to perform the movements correctly, especially when using weights and resistance. Finally, make it a practice to do your cardio and endurance training along with the program outlined above. Good luck, stay committed, and be sure and thank your body for all that it does for you every so often because someday all you’ll have left is a bunch of brittle bones. Make the best of this life my friends.
Mark Allen’s 12 Best Strength Exercises:
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