Every year new fitness trends come and go, and while its motivating changing your fitness routine from time to time, let’s not forget that most of these freshly-made trends are simply new combinations of what has been already invented. Mastering the fitness basics is essential for a functional body and it is a must know to engage in any type of exercise safely and more importantly, to achieve maximum results. In this article we are going to help you learn in detail the perfect technique of what are some of the most effective exercises to tone up and keep strong arms, legs and core: lunges, press-ups, plank and leg raises.

 

Lunges

They will help you strengthen your legs and buttocks, improve posture and loosen up your hips flexors (inner hip), which tend to become stiff from sitting or standing long hours. Main muscles involved are quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteus maximus (thighs and bottom).

Position the feet hip – width apart, toes facing forward.

 

Exercise action

  1. Step directly forwards with the right leg a sufficient distance to enable both knees to bend at right angle (90 degrees) as the body is lowered.
  2. Keep the body upright and the toes pointing forwards. Concentrate on maintaining the feet at hip width distance whist alternating the stepping action. This helps to maintain a good an stable base.
  3. Look directly forward and bring the chin slightly in whilst pulling up from the crown to help the back stay upright
  4. Ensure that the trailing knee does not contact the floor. Keep your front knee on top of the ankle all while lowering the back knee.
  5. Relax the shoulders and arms.
  6. Drive back the right leg to the starting position. Repeat, alternating the leading leg to the desired number of repetitions.

 

More advance variations, you could try holding the lunge for a few seconds with both knees on a 90 degree or performing the exercise with the back foot on a step or bench (Bulgarian lunges, as shown in the image).

Precautions

  • Some individuals may find the lunge stressful on the knees. If so, one alternative is lowering the knee only half way.
  • If balance is a problem, then all repetitions can be completed on one leg at a time maintaining a split stance position, and holding onto something (like a wall) or someone by your side if necessary.

 

Press-ups

They are one of the most self-empowering exercises, working on your pectorals, shoulders, biceps, triceps and core.

  • Box position (beginners)– with hands on the floor shoulder width and a half apart, knees under hips. This variation is ideal for those who always have struggled with this exercise. You will start building strength on your upper body and core until you can easily pass to the next variation after a couple of weeks of training or so.
  • ¾ Position (intermediate) – with hands on the floor shoulder width and a half apart, weight resting above knees. This variation engages a little more your core. Make sure your knees are in a comfortable position, resting the weight on the top of the knee, not the end itself.
  • Full position (advanced) – with hands on the floor, shoulder width and a half apart, legs straight and feet on the floor.

More advanced variations would be inclined press-ups (with feet on a higher surface like a bench), with one foot interlaced / in top of the other one or off of the floor, and diamond press-ups (drawing a diamond shape with your hands – as shown in the image), for stronger triceps.

Exercise action

  1. Bend at the elbows to lower the body towards the floor as you inhale
  2. Straighten elbows to lift the body up as you exhale
  3. Keep the spine neutral and the shoulders away from the ears

Precautions

  • Avoid locking the elbows if you are hyper-mobile
  • Avoid lifting the bottom or pushing your tummy towards the floor.
  • Aim for the full range of motion.

 

Plank

Facing down on the floor you can either perform an elbow or arm plank. First one will engage more your shoulders while the second one will engage more your triceps. All types of prone (facing down) planks target the abdominal muscles and are great to lose fat around the belly area.

Exercise action

  1. Resting on your hands or forearm, keep your head facing to the floor with neutral spine and feet together.
  2. Hold for as long as you can while breathing smoothly.

A beginner variation would involve performing the same exercise on your knees.

A more advance variation would be tapping with your feet either on and off of the floor or side to side alternating movement with one foot at a time, as shown in the images.

    

Precautions

  • Avoid arching your back or letting your hips shagging towards the floor
  • Stop if you experience lower back pain

 

Leg raises

They are my favourite lower abs exercise, perfect to fight that particular excess fat in the lower belly.

Lying on your back, extend the legs up and keep your hands by the end of your hips for better core stability and protect your lower back.

Exercise action

  1. Keeping both feet together at all the times, bring the legs up away from the floor as you inhale.
  2. Lower the legs slowly as you exhale.
  3. Repeat focusing on your breath and your abdominal muscles for as many repetitions as you can.

A beginner variation would be bending the knees and trying to bring them as close as possible to your chest.

A more advance variation would be lowering the legs slower, e.g. in 3 seconds or bringing your hands behind the neck, as shown in the image (mind your back!).

Precautions

  1. Keep your back flat and the head off of the floor while performing this exercise.
  2. Stop if you feel back or neck pain.

For all different type of exercises it is important to build a progression, starting from a beginners level in which technique is perfectly understood and performed, and gradually increasing the intensity and resistance as the exercise becomes easier over the weeks. Ideally any type of exercise which involves certain level of technique (like the ones mentioned above) must be performed in the presence of a coach or personal trainer who can guide you and supervise you to prevent injuries, ensure good technique and include the relevant changes based on your progression to help you get maximum results. Even we coaches and personal trainers often need our own coaches to guide us when learning new exercises!

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