Today I’d like to highlight 5 simple, but highly effective exercises that everyone should know how to do properly, and incorporate into their training. The beautiful thing about these movements is their versatility. All of them can be performed anywhere and altered (by adding weight for example) for increased difficulty. Whether you’re a competitive athlete or just started an exercise program, these simple exercises will help you achieve your fitness aspirations.
1. Jump Roping
Channel your inner child with this fun, cardio intensive workout. I recommend getting a speed rope, but any jump rope you have is fine. For starters, make sure your jump rope is the correct size. When you stand on it, the handles should reach up to your arm pits (or fairly close).
Jump roping is more about rhythm than anything else. Start by bouncing on the balls of your feet. This isn’t the high jump, so don’t try and jump to outer space. Try not to pick your feet up by bending your knees; this will only make your life more difficult.
Keep your chest up, relax your shoulders and look straight ahead. Keep you arms down by your sides, you want your wrists to spin the rope, not your elbow or arms. Start by trying to string together 10 jumps, then 20, 30, etc. Once you can easily complete 50 jumps, start trying variations like double unders or alternating from one foot to the other. Get creative and have fun with it!
The squat is a critical component of any workout regimen because it engages nearly every muscle group. Moreover, it serves as the foundation for other more complex movements. So let’s learn how to squat correctly.
Start with your heels shoulder width apart and your toes turned slightly outward (about 30 degrees). Put your arms straight out in front of you and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Keep your chest up, look straight ahead and begin to squat down. Focus on keeping your core tight and pushing your knees outward; you want them to be in-line with your toes. Once your hips are below your knees (you always want to achieve full range of motion, no half squatting), squeeze your glutes and drive your hips up, being sure to keep your heels on the floor.
Many people struggle to squat correctly due to inflexibility. Don’t get discouraged! Make sure to do hip mobility stretches and warm up before starting a squat routine. With some practice, you’ll be doing perfect, full squats in no time.
It seems like the sit-up has developed an undeserved bad reputation. Ab machines bombast the sit-up as bad for your back and ineffective. The truth is, when done correctly, the sit-up is an incredible exercise that engages all of your core muscles.
Start by sitting down with your feet in front of you sole to sole, with your knees spread out wide. This will prevent your hip flexors from doing all of the work that we want your abdominal muscles to perform. You should look like this:
Raise your arms above your head and bend down slowly until your hands hit the floor behind your head. You may want to use an Abmat or a similar product to provide some added comfort. Your back should be lying flat on the floor with your hands extended above your heads, also touching the floor.
Flex your abdominal muscles while simultaneously bringing your arms down from above your head, driving your hands to touch the floor in front of your feet. Congratulations! You’ve successfully completed a sit-up.
The push-up isn’t only for the military. Push-ups build upper body and core strength, while improving shoulder health. If you can’t do a push-up with your legs fully extended, start practicing with your knees on the ground instead.
Assume the starting position with your elbows fully locked. Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart and pointed out at a 45 degree angle. Your body should resemble a board; tighten up those glutes and abdominal muscles.
As you lower your body into the push-up, tuck your elbows in. You want your elbows to be at a 45 degree angle to your body (in line with your hands). Keep your chin tucked in as well, leading with your chest. Once your chest hits the floor (remember to keep your core and glutes engaged), push your body back up to the starting position.
Combining the joys of the squat and the push-up, burpees are challenging, but make for an incredible workout. Start in a standing position. Bend your knees until your hands touch the ground, positioning them like you would for a push up. Kick your feet back into the push-up position and complete a full push-up. You should now be back in the push-up position (arms fully extended).
Hop your feet forward to the outside of your hands, lifting you hands off the ground and landing in a lowered squat position. Your chest should be up, your head should be looking straight ahead and your feet should be slightly duck footed (at a 30 degree angle). Now squat up, but at the top of your squat, jump as high as you can. Repeat until exhaustion.
Salman Zafar is an ecopreneur, consultant, advisor, speaker and journalist with expertise in waste management, waste-to-energy, renewable energy, environment protection, conservation and sustainable development. His geographical areas of focus include Asia, Middle East, Africa and Europe. Salman is the Founder of EcoMENA, a popular voluntary organization based in Qatar. He is also the Founder and CEO of BioEnergy Consult, a reputed consulting firm active in biomass, waste-to-energy and waste management segments.
Salman is a professional environmental writer with more than 350 popular articles to his credit. He is proactively engaged in creating mass environmental awareness in different parts of the world.
Salman Zafar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com