By Linda Melone
Whether you want to hit a golf ball farther or hit the beach looking good, exercise can help you get where you want to go. It’s just a matter of tailoring your fitness regimen to the outcome you’re looking for.
A well-rounded exercise plan includes aspects of cardiovascular fitness and strength training for overall tone, along with flexibility and core strength. The following easy workouts and tips are designed to help you reach various goals safely.
Pumping Up Your Core
A strong core helps you safely perform just about every activity of daily living, even more so if you enjoy sports such as tennis or golf.
Your core muscles wrap around your trunk like a corset and work in a coordinated effort to keep your pelvis, lower back, hips and abs working together in sync. This not only prevents injury but also gives you better stability and balance.
Use these exercises to help strengthen your core. Perform each for two sets of 6 to 12 repetitions, depending on how much time you have and your current fitness level.
Standing Scapular Stabilization
In a staggered stance with one foot in front of the other, hinge forward from the hips and allow the arms to hang straight below the chest. Pull your shoulder blades down and back before starting the movement. Once the shoulder blades are set, maintain their position, then raise the arms straight out away from the body in a Y shape. Perform the same movement with the arms forming I, T, and W shapes, all while maintaining the position of the shoulder blades. The four letters (Y, I, T, W) make up one rep.
Plank Shoulder Mobility
In a plank position, with elbows and/or hands directly under the shoulders, maintain a straight body line from head to feet. Without allowing the shoulders to come forward, squeeze the shoulder blades together in the back and drop the chest downward. While maintaining a neutral spine, press through the elbows and/or hands and push the chest back up, allowing the shoulder blades to separate at the top of the plank.
Lateral Abdominal Stability
Begin by being in a bird-dog position (on hands and knees with opposite arm and leg extended), then keep the trunk stable and move the arm and leg out away from the midline of the body (laterally). Do not allow the hips to shift or the back to arch.
Lying face-up on the ground, extend the legs and dig the heels into the floor, with toes pointed upward. Engage the legs and lift the hips upward, but avoid locking out your knees. With the hips off the ground slightly, raise one leg off the ground 2 to 6 inches. Slowly lower the heel back to the floor, and repeat with the other leg.
Contralateral Limb Raises
Lie on your stomach on a mat with your legs extended, and point your toes away from your shins. Contract your core muscles, and slowly raise one arm several inches off the floor. Avoid arching your back or raising your head as you hold the position for several seconds. Repeat with the other arm. Vary the exercise by lifting your leg a few inches off the floor without rotating the leg.
Feel like a superhero when you do this exercise, which strengthens the back, hips, glutes and shoulders. For the Superman routine, line on your stomach with the legs and arms extended and the palms facing each other. As you breathe out, contract your abdominal muscles as you extend both hips, raising both legs off the floor as you raise your arms several inches off the floor at the same time. Avoid rotating any of the limbs, and maintain the positions of your torso and head without arching the back.
Front and Side Planks
Planks are harder than they look, but they are excellent for your core, building the strength in your back and abs. Lie on your stomach with your elbows under your shoulders and close to the sides. Place the palms flat on the floor, contract your quads as you extend your legs, and bring your toes toward your shins. Use your core muscles to stiffen the torso. Avoid sagging or arching your low back or bending your knees.
Continue to breathe as you hold this position for a certain amount of time, such as five to ten seconds. Increase the time as you continue to strengthen your core.
You can use your hips in a plank exercise by lying on your left side with your right leg placed directly over the left and your knees bent. Raise your upper body and support your weight with your left arm, keeping your elbow bent to 90 degrees, and keeping your lower knee and hips in contact with the floor or mat. As you exhale, lift your hips off the mat, and hold the position for several seconds.
Supine Reverse Crunches
The reverse crunch helps strengthen your abdominal muscles without putting strain on your neck. Lie on your back flat on the floor with your knees bent and arms spread out to the sides. Contract your abdominal muscles as you lift your feet off the floor, raising the knees so they are directly above the hips. Maintain a 90-degree bend in your knees, and use your arms as a way to balance and support yourself.
Roll the hips off the mat or floor, rolling the spine upward as you bring your hips and pelvis toward your ribs. Maintain the same angle in your knees as you roll upward. In a controlled motion, lower your spine back toward the mat or floor.
Squat jumps help tone your lower body while giving you a bit of a cardio workout as well. Stand with your arms at your sides and feet spread hip-width apart. Pull your shoulders back and down without arching your low back. Shift the hips backward and downward to bend the knees. Lower yourself until your heels are nearly lifting away from the floor.
Keep your back flat and your head facing forward. Take a brief pause, and then jump upwards in an explosive motion as you extend your knees, hips, and ankles. Land quietly and softly on the mid-foot, rolling quickly backward to your heels to avoid placing extra stress on the knees.
Supine Pelvic Tilts
Lie on your back with your knees bent and both feet flat on the floor. Your arms are out to your sides in a “T” position, palms facing up.Exhale: using your abdominal muscles, press your lower back into the floor. Do not lift your hips or let your tailbone roll up off the floor. Hold this position briefly.Inhale: Tip your pelvis in the opposite direction, creating an arch in your lower back (increasing the space between the back and the mat). Do not lift your hips or let your tailbone roll up off the floor. Hold this position briefly before returning to your starting position.
Staying Shapely and Toned
Developing overall muscle tone requires resistance training based on the overload principle, which states that greater-than-normal stress or load on the body is required for training to take place. Once the body adapts to a particular level of stress, you must continue to increasingly challenge the muscle for it to keep changing. This change may include increased muscle endurance or, in this case, growth, which appears as muscle tone where the muscles appear defined, even at rest.
Start with your feet a little wider than your hips, feet angled out slightly. Then, keep your shoulders back and your head up as you use your legs to lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor or slightly lower. Keep your heels in contact with the floor throughout the movement, before coming back up. Don’t lean too far forward.
ing position, step forward and down with either leg into a 90-degree bend while keeping your upper body straight; do not let your knee travel forward of your toes. You can also do a reverse lunge by stepping backward.
Start on the floor with your hands next to your shoulders, arms extended with a straight back, and up on the balls of your feet. Then, bring your chest down toward the floor without letting your back sink before rising back up again. If you don’t have sufficient arm strength, do push-ups from your knees while maintaining proper form.
Pull (Scapular Retraction)
Lie on your stomach with arms outstretched overhead, palms facing one another. Engage your abdominals and pull your shoulder blades back and down as you bring your arms up to form the letters I, Y, T, W, and O.
Begin by kneeling on your right knee with your left foot on the ground in front of you, knee bent at a right angle, and your torso upright. Engage your abdominals as you clasp your hands together in front of you and slightly above your head. And keeping your arms straight, rotate your torso as you bring your arms down and to your right side. Repeat for the desired reps, and switch sides.
Defined as the range of motion around a joint, flexibility requirements vary for different sports and activities. Being inflexible increases the risk of injury, making improvements in range-of-motion an important part of any fitness program. Even if you initially feel stiff, regular stretching, the use of a foam roller, or practicing yoga can enhance your flexibility over time.
Sit in a cross-legged position on the floor. (If you have tight hips, try sitting on a block, pillow, or blanket.) Bring right fingertips to the ground by your right hip, inhale as you bring your left arm up toward the ceiling, and as you exhale, walk your right fingertips to the right. You should feel a stretch along the left side of your body. Hold for five to eight breaths and then switch sides. As you switch sides, also reverse the cross of your legs.
Aim to stretch a little deeper on the second round, maybe bringing your elbow to the floor.
Start in a tabletop position with your knees on the floor directly under your hips and your hands underneath your shoulders. As you inhale, lift your sitting bones and chest toward the ceiling as you drop your belly toward the floor (Cow Pose). As you exhale, round your spine toward the ceiling (Cat Pose). Keep hands and knees in position and continue for 10 to 20 breaths as you alternate Cow Pose on the inhale and Cat Pose on the exhale.
Downward Facing Dog
Begin on your hands and knees, with your hands directly below the shoulders and your knees directly below the hips, toes tucked under. Spread the fingers as wide as possible, with the index and middle finger pointing forward. Draw the navel in and lift your knees away from the floor, pressing the hips up and back to where the wall and ceiling meet behind you. Straighten the arms and legs until your body forms an upside-down V. Lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling while pressing your heels down toward the ground.
Make sure that the inner edges of your feet are exactly parallel. Keep your gaze relaxed, head between your upper arms, navel engaged, and thighs lifted off the kneecaps. If you are very tight, bend your knees to relax the stretch through the backs of your legs. Hold for 10 to 20 breaths.
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