Fun workouts to make you more supple and stronger
It’s a new year, and what better time is there to start a new workout routine? At the very least, why not integrate a few new moves that will make you stronger inside and out? In this article, we’re going to take a look at some of the newest exercises to hit the workout scene. Take the ones you like, and discard the rest. If there’s just one exercise in here that sticks, great! It only takes one to make changes you can see and enjoy.
We all want a healthy core, right? I know I do. In this section we’ll take a look at a few exercises that will target the core in highly effective ways.
5-minute core Pilates workout
Pilates is so good for your core muscles. And a stable core is essential for not only outer physical strength, but also for inner strength and self-confidence. I tend to forget about Pilates. But, this short workout makes Pilates accessible any time of day.
To begin this brief core workout, simply come to all fours in tabletop position. The first exercise is known as the bird dog. While breathing deeply the entire time, from tabletop position, stretch your right arm in front of you and your left leg straight out in back of you. Hold this for a few breaths, then return to tabletop position and do the same thing on the opposite side. This is considered one repetition. Do three reps, breathing deeply as you do.
Next, you’re going to stay in tabletop position, and simply lift your knees off the ground, and hover them there as you breathe. You’ll feel your core engage in a major way as you hover the knees. Pause and breathe deeply through three cycles of inhalation and exhalation as you hover. Then place the knees back to the floor. Repeat this knee hovering five times.
Last but not least, you’re going to do a combination of the bird dog and knee hover. Hover the knees as you did before, then stretch the right arm out in front of you as you stretch the left leg straight out in back. Hold for a moment, then lower the knees and come back to tabletop position for a rest. Then repeat the move on the other side. The hovering bird dog isn’t easy. But it is effective. Do it 2-3 times until you build up enough strength for more.
The tabletop press
This one’s based upon the yoga posture known as tabletop. But, it’s a lot more difficult. And if you do it on a regular basis, say 5 to 10 times a week, you’re going to build your core muscles in substantial ways. Wanna know exactly how to do the tabletop press? Here’s the way:
Lie on your back. Bend your knees at a 90 degree angle so that your knees are directly over the hips. Next, you’re going to press your forearm against the thighs. As you do this, you’ll feel the core tighten dramatically. It’s as if you’re doing a sit up, but with the forearms pressed into the thighs.
As you tighten your tummy muscles, keep your lower back on the floor. As you press the lower back into the floor, you’re going to feel an even deeper engagement of your core muscles. Breathe into this engagement and hold the pose for as many deep breaths and you can muster. I like to hold for about five deep inhalations and exhalations. This is enough to start shaking a bit. And shaking is a good thing. It means positive change is happening!
Take a rest, and then repeat the tabletop press again, holding for 5 deep cycles of breath. Rest again, and repeat one more time. Doing this pose three times in a sitting is sufficient. Just try to do it 5-10 times each week, and you should start to feel much stronger.
For the arms and upper body…
If we’re going to work the core, then why not learn how to strengthen the arms and upper body, in a few new and interesting ways? The following moves will make your arms and upper body stronger without becoming just another boring exercise to do so.
4 different kinds of push ups
Push ups have been around since our days in elementary school gym class. Most of us aren’t crazy about doing them, but there’s no denying they’re an effective arm and upper body strengthener. And who doesn’t want a stronger upper body and well-defined arms? Luckily, there’s not just one boring way of doing push ups. We can spice up the age-old exercise by practicing a few different ways of working the arms. Here are 4 creative ways to do it:
Push ups with hands reversed
Do you work at a computer like so many of us do these days? If so, your hands need a good stretch. And with this push up, they get it. All you’re going to do is get into a tabletop position as if you were about to do a normal push up. Next, reverse the placement of your hands so that your fingers are pointing inward. Outstretch your legs behind you so that you’re in plank position with reversed hands.
Then, simply do a pushup as you normally would, but only lower to the point where your biceps are parallel to your mat or the ground. Pause here, and then push back up to plank. For the push ups with hands reversed, I say do 5 reps (for women) then take a break, and do five more. That’s about all I can handle in one sitting, although I plan to work up to more as the year goes on. Do what feels best for you. Then, improve bit by bit. I like to do push ups three times a week, on average.
Pike push ups
Another exercise that mimics a yoga pose is the pike push up. The pike pushup is super simple. It’s basically a downward facing dog/ pushup move. Here’s how you do it:
Simply come into a plank position. You’ll want the feet together in this particular plank pose. Make sure your hands are directly beneath your shoulders. Next, you’re going to come into a downward facing dog position by walking your feet towards your hands until your body is in an upside down V position—a.k.a. downward facing dog.
From this downward facing dog position, you’re going to bend at the elbows to move towards the floor, keeping the elbows tucked in and the torso in a straight line. You can pause while hovering and then push yourself back up to downward facing dog. This would be considered one repetition. Do as many repetitions as you can, then rest, and do another set.
Superman push up
Last but not least, we have the Superman push up. This push up looks like its namesake—Superman! So, how exactly do you do the Superman push up? Here’s how:
Move into a traditional plank position. Your feet are together and the arms are shoulder-width apart. Now, move your arms and hands until they’re stretched out in front of you. They’ll be just about one foot in front of you. You can think of this as your beginning position. Next, slowly bend at the elbows and lower your chest towards the floor. Keep your core engaged and keep your hips from sagging as best you can. Take a pause as you hover, then push yourself back up to your beginning position. This is one repetition.
Superman push ups are difficult. So, don’t expect to do that many reps. And if it’s altogether too challenging for you, all you need to do is place your knees on the floor to modify the exercise.
For the back…
Who doesn’t want the strong and beautiful back of a dancer? I love the look of a well-defined back. The back muscles can be so beautiful. Wouldn’t it be nice to maintain a gorgeous back even as we get older? I think we can, with just a couple, simple techniques.
Lay on a table, face down. Your feet are on the floor, and your hips are at the edge of the table. Hold onto the sides of the table with your hands for support. Raise your legs slightly off the ground. Then, using the lower back muscles and gluteal muscles, lift the legs as high up behind you as you can. Pause and hold this position to a count of 4. Then lower the legs to the floor, and repeat. Do as many dolphin kicks as you can. These will target the glutes and many of the lower and mid back muscles.
For the upper back, I like the Superman pull.
Lie on your stomach. Extend your arms overhead. Raise the arms, torso, and legs off the ground. Then, using your back muscles, bring the elbows into your chest. Then return the arms out in front of you and lower your entire body to the floor to rest. Repeat the exercise again. Do as many reps as you like, maybe aiming for 15 repetitions.
There you have it! Some new moves to make you stronger and fitter this year! Pick and choose the ones you like, and before long you’ll be leaner, toner, and more confident in your skin!
All these pushups are different. Some may be easier for your body than others, so simply pay attention to your body in each given moment. You don’t want to stress or injure yourself. But, you do want to be challenged.