Today’s economy has forced shoppers to seek out bargains to get more bang for their buck. Bulk buying and buy-one-get-one specials are some of the ways we’ve learned to “shop smart.”
Similarly, in the exercise world, people who are strapped for time because of busy schedules often look for ways to spend less time working out without sacrificing the quality of their routines. In essence, they want to “exercise smart.”
With that in mind, here are five exercises to consider, especially when you’re short on time and eager for results.
A lot of gym-goers, and even many hardcore bodybuilders, don’t include the deadlift in their routines, writing it off as an exercise “only for power lifters.” Truth is the deadlift, no matter what your fitness goals, is one of the most effective exercises out there.
Done correctly, the deadlift works the backs of your legs, your lower back, your upper back, the backs of your shoulders and even your abs. Talk about bang for your buck!
Additionally, the deadlift motion is compact, meaning you’re able to lift much more weight with this exercise than most others. Start with a barbell or dumbbells flat on the floor. Bend both your hips and knees to lower your body and grab the weight (make sure your back is flat and not slouched as your reach down). Then push through your heels as your explode your legs and back upright to a full standing position. At the top, take your shoulders back and thrust your chest forward.
Squat presses are similar to deadlifts in that they work several muscle groups at once but different in that instead of working the muscles in the back of your body, they work most of the ones in the front. Muscle groups targeted include the front of your legs, upper chest, triceps, shoulders and abs.
Begin the squat press by standing upright with either a barbell resting on your upper chest or dumbbells held just in front of your shoulders. Lower your body into a full squat, bringing your upper legs low enough that they’re parallel with the floor but making sure the weight is balanced over your heels. As you push through your heels to raise your body, also thrust your arms over head.
Walking is wonderful but it’s not a great calorie burner or body conditioner. Jogging is great for the heart and lungs but can be tough on the knees. Sprinting (running as fast as you can for short distances), however, is the quickest way to raise your heart rate and produces far less wear and tear on the knees and other joints.
Sprinting is not for the unconditioned, but it is something most people can build up to. One of the best cardio routines I know is to alternate between sprinting and walking (20 seconds each). Try that for 10 to 15 minutes and you’ll wonder why you spent hours jogging in previous workouts.
Somewhere along the line, crunches and its many variations, became the king of all ab exercises. While I have nothing against them, sit-ups work you harder. A full sit-up also works the hip flexors at the very top of your legs, which some incorrectly assume means that the abs aren’t being worked as hard. But even when the hip flexors are involved, the abs are still under tension.
Try doing crunches right after doing a set of sit-ups and you’ll realize quickly how well they work.
Much like sprinting, jumping is one of the quickest ways to elevate your heart rate and get into the cardio zone.
Whether it’s high intensity moves like box jumps (where you squat then jump onto a box or step), moderate intensity jumps like jumping jacks or lower intensity moves like jumping rope, nothing beats jumping for jump-starting your exercise routine.
So, take some of the high-value exercises and go get the most out of your workout today.
Frank Shelton is a certified fitness trainer and owner of The Village Gym. He can be reached at (302) 376-3060 or firstname.lastname@example.org.