Five exercise essentials, part 1

There are hundreds of exercises to choose from, which when performed properly, yield tremendous results. However, there are five exercise essentials that need to be an integral part of most exercise programs and the majority of exercises possible are simply variations, progressions or regressions of these five essentials. There are dozens of ways to modify these exercises so that just about everyone may perform a variation of the essentials.

Performance of these five exercises helps to keep the mobile joints mobile and the stable joints stable, simulating our daily, functional movements. These exercises also play an important role in all sports training leading to improvement in the required skill sets for each specific sport.

As we move into 2015, make a point of including these five exercises in your exercise program and you will be amazed what results consistent performance of these exercises may yield. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.

Squats: When physically possible, all exercise programs should include some type of squatting exercise. This is a functional exercise as we all must sit down and stand up repeatedly through each day. Squats, when properly performed, strengthen the entire lower body musculature both as movers and stabilizers as well as the inner core unit muscles. There are dozens of squat variations possible; however, a basic squat simply takes the body from a standing position to a “seated” position by hinging from the hip joint, aiming the tailbone to the wall behind you. Body weight remains in the heels to mid-foot to avoid shifting into the toes, which may be detrimental for the knee joint.

Those with knee issues may wish to begin from a supported position such as holding onto a ballet barre, stable countertop or railing or even squatting into a stable chair with a barre to support, which is where I begin training those with significant knee, lumbar spine or stability issues. On the other end of the spectrum, you may add external resistance once you have mastered a squat such as dumbbells, resistive tubing, barbells, TRX Suspension System, multi-gym cable/pulley systems, etc. to increase intensity.

Lunges: When physically possible, all exercise programs should include some type of lunging exercise. This requires significantly more stability than squats as the legs are staggered, front to back, with the back heel elevated throughout the exercise. Lunges also strengthen the entire lower body musculature; however, as mentioned, there is a tremendous amount of stability provided by the inner core unit muscles. The body weight remains in the front heel throughout and the body does not move forward, just straight down toward the floor and back to a fully extended, tall torso position. As with squats, those with knee issues may be able to begin with supported lunges and those who have mastered this exercise may increase intensity by adding external resistance.

The three remaining exercise essentials will be detailed in next week’s column and include pushups (both from a static plank to “moving plank” positions), rows (from standing, inverted or vertical positions) and many different rotational exercises which target the torso, the hip/shoulder/ankle/wrist joints.

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