There are many exercises out there. Some very effective, some a bit faddy and others that look like they’ve been made up! While training is better than nothing, people can end up wasting a lot of time in the gym.
Unless you’re following a specific programme, knowing what exercises to do in the gym can be a challenge. You’re not sure what exercise works what muscle group, you’re not sure what order to do the exercises in, and can end up throwing some random workout together, or choose a workout you saw on the internet.
There are the usual exercises that have stood the test of time, and have the best bang for their buck. The squat, deadlift and bench (or overhead press) are the top three exercises that most people have heard of. If you want to increase strength, burn fat and build muscle, then these exercises (or a variation of these exercises) should be included in your training. The problem I see is most people don’t know how to effectively execute these exercises. They have mobility or stability restrictions and aren’t getting the most out of them. Lifting with improper technique puts the individual at risk of injury down the line.
There is no one best exercise to be honest. The exercise should fit the individual, rather than the individual to the exercise. Choosing what exercise to perform really depends on a person’s capability, mobility, injury limitations and goals.
However, from past experience I’ve found that the exercises in this blog are relatively easy to perform. They provide an amazing training stimulus and have a great carry over into everyday life. There’ll be less chance of injury and you’ll still be able to pack on some muscle, burn body fat and become stronger in the process.
Side note: Do not push into any pain or discomfort. If something doesn’t feel right, then stop. Ask a trainer at your gym for help, or get in touch with me and I will give you guidance.
BARBELL HIP THRUST
The Barbell Hip Thrust targets the hamstrings, glutes and drills hip extension mechanics which transfers over to the deadlift. Building strong hamstrings and glutes improves posture, alleviates back pain, improves athletic performance and helps build a bigger butt (for the ladies out there). Studies show that glute activation from a hip thrust is very high, targeting the muscle fibres which make it such an effective exercise for all of the above.
HOW TO PERFORM
- Set up with your upper back on the bench and barbell across your hips
- Find a comfortable foot width with your feet under the knees
- Control your hips down then drive them up to the ceiling
- Squeeze your glutes HARD at the top holding for about 2 seconds
- Repeat under controlBe careful not to over extend the hips at the top and arch into the lower back. We want a straight line from knee to shoulder.
Squeezing your glutes at the top will help to naturally align the hips.
Aim for 3-4 sets of 5-12 reps
BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT
The Bulgarian Split Squat is an absolute leg burner, and a sure-fire way to build a stronger lower body. This is a unilateral exercise in that we use one limb at a time, this troubleshoots weakness, corrects imbalances, builds core stabilisation and carries over well in everyday activities like walking or running. It requires balance and coordination making it even more challenging, and helps open the hips helping to build strength and open the hips at the same time.
HOW TO PERFORM
- Set up with one foot on the edge of a bench and the other in front in a lunge position.
- Soften the front knee and use the front leg to control your body towards the floor
- Come down until you feel a deep stretch into the hip
- Press your front foot down to stand back up
- Repeat under control through the entire movement
Make sure you are not just falling into the bottom position, but using your front leg to control the entire movement
Be careful not to flare the ribs up, which can arch the lower back and create discomfort. Draw the rib cage down and keep a straight spine slightly leaning forward.
3-4 sets of 5-12 reps
SINGLE ARM ROW
The single arm row is a variation of a horizontal pulling movement. Horizontal pulling is probably the most beneficial movement to help correct posture and build a strong sexy back. The single arm row builds mass and strength into the lats, upper back while challenging the core, shoulders and hips. The shoulder joint is in its most neutral position when the exercise is performed helping to alleviate shoulder pain and correct postural imbalances.
HOW TO PERFORM
- Set up with your hand and knee on the bench, with the opposite leg out at an angle.
- Start with your arm straight, with a slight stretch into your upper back
- Pull the dumbbell into your front pocket
- Squeeze and hold at the top
- Control the weight back down to the floor and repeat
Make sure you are squeezing at the top of the lift as this fully stabilises the muscles around the shoulder girdle putting it into a more advantageous position.
3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.
Farmer’s Walk is a relatively simple exercise to perform and builds some serious strength and full body stabilisation. Farmer’s Walk improves grip strength, enhances core stabilisation and builds muscle in the lats, traps, shoulders and core. There is a direct carry over to improving chin ups, rehabbing injuries and increasing work capacity as we’re carrying heavy loads over distances. Women with shopping bags, this one’s for you.
HOW TO PERFORM
- Pick weights up in each hand
- Draw shoulder blades together
- Draw rib cage down and tailbone up
- Stack feet, hips, ribs and head
- Grip tight and brace through the core
- Walk, keeping your feet under your hips and tall through the spine
Postural alignment is key, so make sure your feet, hips, ribs and head are stacked in one straight line.
Go HEAVY for 3-6 sets of 30-45 seconds.
There you have it: four exercises that are easy to perform, that will build muscle, burn fat and help improve your posture.
These exercises will work much better if you are following a specific programme catered towards your goals, and I suggest hiring a coach if you’re serious about training and seeing results.
FOR MORE WISDOM BY WILLOUGHBY
GUV’NOR OF MANOR W1