Thursday, October 22, 2009

5 Exercises You Should Be Able to Perform Revisited

Back in 2006, I wrote an article titled, "5 Exercises You Should Be Able to Perform", which received a fair share of feedback--both positive and clamorous. What were my 5 exercises destined to make this article worthy?

1.) Squat
2.) Lunge
3.) Step-Up
4.) Push-Up
5.) Ab Crunch

Keep in mind, that my experience as a fitness professional stems from years of working with general population clients--not necessarily high level athletes. I tend to work with people that come to me with a host of limitations--both mental and physical. All of which I must sift through to help them achieve a goal. That goal is becoming more active and almost always--fat loss. Upon meeting a client, I tend to always observe their body language as they explain to me what has prohibited them from achieving their goal in the past without me. I LISETN attentively to obstacles they have met and overcome in recent memory; paying particular attention to their tone of voice. Quickly, I assess their level of passion and commitment. Quickly, I profile which activities they will find enjoyment in and which type of instruction they will respond to with success.
With my mental notes intact, we take a brisk walk and talk some more. Sometimes, I am bewildered at how some of "normal" daily activities are tedious and struggling for them. Simply getting in and out of a vehicle is a rambunctious task. Or getting out of bed every morning is a gut wrenching chore that takes almost takes double...or triple the time it takes you and I!

I wonder...can you imagine everyday having to "work" to get out of bed or the shower? Aside from any physical impairment, can you imagine that something such as mechanical weakness or mental fear can rob time from your life and effect your entire perspective of life? Limitations make you negative...they make you weak...they make you dependent on others and in turn, lose your independence. My job is to turn all that around.

So when I wrote the article, I was thinking in terms of movements--not necessarily exercises. My email box was flooded with other suggestions and mostly, that the movements I chosen were too difficult, or were contradictory to a person's limitations. Again, think in terms of MOVEMENTS. Think in terms of how exercises mainly mimick movements and we simply add resistance to them! What a spectacular thing to take a human movement and add a load, and BOOM, it changes the way the body reacts to it! It helps add helps improve circulation, respiratory response, and strength!

So lets look at my list of 5 "Movements-That-Are-Exercises" That You Should Be Able to Perform:

1.) Squat - A primal movement pattern learned at an early age and lost as we get older. The triple hip action is the first to go when living a sedentary life. Teach this movement first to your clients and all movements following will be easier. Spend as much time perfecting this movement. A good squat is not learned in 1 session. Remember that.

2.) Lunge - Another primal movement pattern that mimics anyone trying to cross a street quickly. Watch a hasten walk or run, or watch daily tasks such as mowing the lawn, weeding, or laundry. I guarantee you will see different degrees of lunges in all these movements. The trick to a successful lunge? The ankle joint and the hip flexor. Read more about lunges here.
3.) Step-Ups - When I encountered knee pain over a year ago, I incorporated step-ups into my regular routine. With certain height adjustments to the step and proper progressions, my knee pain disappeared within months. The step-up gets a bad rap--much like the lunge--because of the knee sensitivity that surrounds certain fitness circles. Truth be told, a flawlessly executed step-up is one of the best exercises for lower body movement and mimics more human movement patterns than any other (that is my opinion). Think of a world without stairs.....

4.) Push-Ups - For every time someone has fallen in their life, I cannot think of a movement that correlates to the recovery of an upright position other than the push-up and my next exercise. Upper body development is crucial to overall human performance and if progressed properly, the push-up is the single most beneficial movement. Much safer than dips, the push-up can be executed in different degrees in order to progress safely and effectively. Trick: Use a Smith Machine with varying bar heights for females.

5.) Ab Crunches - This one caught me a bunch of flack. Why? I understand the ramifications of flexing the spine repeatedly. Trust me...I do. I produced an entire product just for low back pain sufferers. Want to know when the worst time to flex the spine is? Morning--upon wakening. If you read Stuart McGill's work, he stresses the importance of avoiding flexion first thing in the morning because of vertebral disc dehydration. This is the process in which the discs of the spine lose water and therefore, lose a bit of cushion. Over the course of the day, as we are upright; fluid returns to the disc and expands them allowing more cushion for the boney structures. However, getting in and out of bed calls for spinal flexion and understandably, is a motion that we MUST perform. This does not mean we must add 100's of crunches to our routine. It means that we must evaluate this movement and look for ways to make it more efficient. Want to skip this movement? I say add Turkish Get-Ups. This is a perfect polisher for my 5 movements that anyone should be able to preform.
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