Monday, 26 November 2018

Think you’re in great shape? Test yourself with these foundational exercises that measure your level of fitness and health!

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Whether you’re into bodyweight workouts, walking, running, heavy lifting or dancing, there are a few basic exercises you should be able to do. Being able to perform certain exercises or movements can help you better understand your level of fitness, but more importantly, your health.


1. Pushup: You knew this would be on here! The pushup is an ideal measurement of fitness because it recruits several muscle groups: chest, arms and back in the upper body, the core, and even your glutes. Remember your gym teacher making you do these in elementary school for some physical standardized test? This go-to exercise is also a test standard in most boot camps and in the military.

Here’s how you do it: Place your hands slightly wider than your shoulders and bring your feet together, pushing back through the heels. Brace your abdominals so your hips fall into place – your body should create a solid, straight line from the top of the head through the spine, past the hips and all the way down the back of your legs. Exhale and lower your entire body toward the floor as the elbows bend diagonally behind you, palms pressing into the floor. Go as low as you can, ideally bringing your chest to parallel with the elbows or lower, then inhale to push yourself up without breaking that straight line. Get more details here or try it now!


2. Plank: Going back to the fundamentals of core strength and the first position of a pushup, consider the plank. Basically, you need to be able to suspend your body weight between your hands and your feet. Easy, right? Not exactly. The plank requires a strong core, not just your abs, but your hip flexors and glutes. Good form is so important with a plank and it really makes the difference between being able to do it or falling on your face. Most importantly, being able to achieve the plank position during a workout relates to real life functionality more than any other core exercise. It brings your entire body in-sync, and coordination keeps us safe!

Here’s how you do it: Bring your elbows to the floor underneath the shoulders with your hands together or laying separately, palms down. For a high plank, place the hands directly under the shoulders with your palms pressing evenly into the floor and your fingers pointing forward, slightly spread. Zip the legs together, squeezing through the inner thighs through the abdominals. At the same time, let the shoulder blades round out a bit so you’re really pushing the floor away from you and engaging your lats (see below how Real Mom Model Holly Beck places her hands to engage the lats even more). Pull the belly button into the spine to protect the lower back while flexing the glutes. Push back through your heels to even the weight distribution. Breathe. Get your plank on here.


3. Bridge: A classic yoga pose, the bridge also translates into trendy workouts like barre and CrossFit (pelvic thrusters). By powerfully flexing the glutes and stabilizing with the core, you’re also able to stretch the anterior side of your body. You should be able to lift your hips off the ground using only your muscles and holding the position for at least a few seconds. You want your hips to be in line with your thighs for strength training or surpass the thighs for a bigger stretch, like in yoga.


Here’s how to do it: Lie on your back with your arms at your sides, palms down. Bend your knees and walk your feet toward your hips until they are flat on the ground. Before you even lift, make sure the lower back is protected by first bracing the abs. Squeeze the glutes together, push through your heels and lift the hips off the ground. Unless you’re stretching, do not arch your lower back (see the yoga version here). Put the work in the glutes and the weight into your heels. Continue to flex the glutes until you lower. Lower slowly, vertebra by vertebra until your hips are on the floor again. Get the details here.


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