Main Smarter Workouts: The Science of Exercise Made Simple
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Contents Exercise Finder Foreword Preface Acknowledgments Introduction PART I The Science and Why It Matters Understand the physiology and the methodology of exercise to help shape your workouts. 1 How Exercise Changes Your Body 2 Movement and Intensity in Practice PART II Exercises and Workouts Cover all your bases with a full range of workouts using a variety of equipment to maximize results. 3 Mobility Training 4 Core Strength Training 5 Metabolic Conditioning PART III Get Fit and Stay Fit Complete instructions on how to organize your fitness goals for long-term success. 6 Designing Your Exercise Program 7 Lifetime Programming References About the Author Earn Continuing Education Credits/ Units Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: McCall, Pete, 1972- author. Title: Smarter workouts : the science of exercise made simple / Pete McCall. Description: Champaign, IL : Human Kinetics,  | Includes bibliographical references. Identifiers: LCCN 2018042399 (print) | LCCN 2018048692 (ebook) | ISBN 9781492572602 (epub) | ISBN 9781492567899 (PDF) | ISBN 9781492567882 (print) Subjects: LCSH: Exercise. | Physical fitness. Classification: LCC RA781 (ebook) | LCC RA781 .M3853 2019 (print) | DDC 613.7--dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2018042399 ISBN: 978-1-4925-6788-2 (print) Copyright © 2019 by PMc Fitness Solutions LLC All rights reserved. Except for use in a review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying, and recording, and in any information storage and retrieval system, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher. This publication is written and published to provide accurate and authoritative information relevant to the subject matter presented. 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For information about Human Kinetics’ coverage in other areas of the world, please visit our website: www.HumanKinetics.com E7329 4 Core Strength Training From video-based workouts to infomercials to group fitness classes at the local gym, it seems as if you can’t hear any fitness instructor teach an exercise without using the words contract, squeeze, or engage in reference to your core. The rectus abdominis muscle provides the shape of the proverbial six-pack on the front of the abdomen. That’s not the only muscle that’s important, though. The area comprised of your upper legs, spine, and chest, often referred to as the body’s core, is made up of a number of muscles that work together to create the necessary stability and mobility for efficient movement. Effective exercise strategies for the muscles often referred to as the core require more than merely squeezing or contracting. This chapter will provide effective strategies, along with a number of fun and challenging workouts, to help you develop true core strength. Because they often require you to lie down on the floor, many traditional core exercises do not harness the inherent mechanical energy created when the body is in a vertical, upright position. Momentum occurs as the result of a mass moving at any rate of speed; the greater the mass or faster the speed, the higher the momentum. The muscles that attach your shoulders and pelvis to the spine can harness the momentum created by the competing forces of gravity and ground reaction to generate the mechanical energy for many of the movements you perform on a regular basis. When any part of your body starts moving, it generates momentum, and one of the primary functions of muscle, fascia, and elastic connective tissue is to control this momentum. When it comes to core training, the abdominals can be controlled by the brain to flex the spine when you’re lying on the ground, but this is not how they actually work during upright movement. During the gait cycle, which is the default pattern of human movement, the multiple layers of the abdominals are lengthened in all three planes as the rib cage and pelvis rotate opposite one another; these lengthening motions engage the muscles in their natural way of functioning. Therefore, it is easy to see how the crunch is really not the most effective exercise for strengthening core muscles. All You Ever Needed to Know About Your Core You Learned Before You Could Walk Every time your foot makes contact with the ground, your body is accelerated downward by the force of gravity. At the same time, the ground exerts an equal and opposite force upwards into your lower leg, called ground reaction force (GRF); these two competing forces intersect around the body’s center of gravity. How we learn to control our bodies as we grow from newborns to infants to children provides important insights into how our muscles are designed to function. Humans are one of the only mammals born not knowing how to walk; when a four-legged mammal is born, it only takes a few minutes for it to learn how to stand on its feet. Quadrupeds have four legs to support the mass of the body, with a spine parallel to the ground, while humans are bipeds with a spine that is perpendicular to the ground and only two legs to support the weight of the body. This means that it can take a human approximately ten to fourteen months or longer to learn how to sequence and coordinate the muscle actions responsible for walking because the muscles and skeletal structures have to become strong enough to maintain a vertical position that resists the downward pull of gravity (Enoka 2002). The natural stages of human motor skill development are extending the spine, rolling over, sitting up, belly crawling, crawling, cruising (which is standing and walking while holding on to stable objects), and, finally, walking. During the stages of development, the muscles are developing the timing, strength, and coordination to integrate movements of the hips, pelvis, spine, and shoulders. At no point during the natural progression of walking does a baby lie on its back and flex his or her spine to perform a crunch (Abernathy 2005). Lying on your back to do abdominal and oblique crunches could actually be working against the way your muscles function. Attempting to isolate specific muscles with traditional core exercises will not train the tissues and skeletal structures to accommodate the multiplanar forces you could experience when performing a number of ADLs such as lifting a young child from a crib or carrying a big bag of groceries. Functional Anatomy: Understanding Your Core Muscles Core is commonly used to describe the muscles that control motion of the pelvis, femurs, rib cage, and spine, specifically, the lumbar and thoracic segments. However, any muscle that can influence motion of the upper legs, pelvis, or spine could be considered part of your body’s core region as well. This means that a number of muscles not traditionally classified as part of the core could be considered core muscles because they can indeed influence motion at these segments. For example, both the long and short heads of the biceps (your upper-arm muscle) attach to the shoulder blade (at the supraglenoid tubercle and coracoid process, respectively), which sits on the thoracic rib cage. If the biceps remain in a state of contraction, the muscle could pull the scapula forward, creating a rounded shoulder, which then changes the position of the thoracic spine, causing it to flex and bend toward the front of the body. If the thoracic spine remains in a flexed position, it will affect the muscles responsible for controlling both position and motion of the entire spine, ultimately changing your center of gravity. One group of researchers describes the core as the pelvic girdle, spine, shoulders, and all soft tissues (ligaments, tendons, fascia, and muscle) with proximal attachments originating on the axial skeleton formed by the skull, spine, and rib cage (Martuscello et al. 2013). This definition includes the numerous muscles that attach to the pelvis, abdominals, and spine (figure 4.1). Dr. Stuart McGill describes the core as being “composed of the lumbar spine, the muscles of the abdominal wall, the back extensors and quadratus lomborum. Also included are the multi-joint muscles, namely, latissimus dorsi and psoas that pass through the core linking it to the pelvis, legs, shoulders and arms” (McGill 2010, 33). A separate model describes the abdominal muscles as being organized into layers—superficial, intermediate, and deep—based on their relation to the superficial surface of the skin and the deep, internal structures of the skeleton (Neumann 2010). McGill is not alone in his thoughts that ground-based strength training can be effective for enhancing the strength of core muscles. According to researchers Bret Contreras and Brad Schoenfeld, “Most training can be considered ‘core training’ … With respect to program design, basic core strength and endurance will be realized through performance of most non-machine-based exercises such as during squats, deadlifts, chin-ups and push-ups” (Contreras and Schoenfeld 2011, 14). The human body is designed to move most efficiently when walking or running across the ground. The muscles, fascia, elastic connective tissues, and skeletal structures function most effectively when standing upright on the ground, not lying on the floor. Exercises to develop core strength, therefore, should enhance the ability of the muscles to function as a single, integrated system. Regardless of the specific model referenced, the muscles that connect the hips, pelvis, spine, shoulders, and rib cage function as the transmission of the body because they are responsible for transferring forces generated from the ground through the legs and trunk and ultimately out through the upper extremities. If you want to improve your core strength, you need to perform exercises for a wide range of muscle groups, including the gluteal complex (gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus), hamstrings, quadriceps, adductors, spinal erectors, internal obliques, external obliques, hip flexors, latissimus dorsi (which attaches to the lower back, so it is considered a core muscle), and, finally, the rectus abdominis (otherwise known as the six-pack muscle). These muscles all attach to the core of the body. [image: ] Figure 4.1 The core muscles are organized in layers and work together to create stability. Dr. McGill has found that using ground-based, vertical exercises to strengthen the core is extremely effective because muscles can develop the ability to produce force in the multiple directions necessary to support various positions and handle unexpected loads (McGill 2010). The external and internal obliques, rectus abdominis (RA), and transverse abdominis (TVA) are considered part of the deep layer in Neumann’s model and make up the abdominal wall as described by McGill. The deep muscles create stability around the lumbar spine in order to allow motion of the thoracic spine, shoulders, and hips. The muscles of the abdominal wall are layered against one another like the individual layers of a sheet of plywood; as these layers contract, they create stiffness around the lumbar spine and pelvis to establish core stability. Because of the way these layers of muscles work as a single unit, they are only capable of working in isolation when you are in various positions lying on the floor or in an exercise machine with a specific ROM. A stationary posture is both the beginning and end point for all movement; as the deep muscles of the core get stronger, they will help you maintain a straighter posture, which in turn, can help you to move better. Plus, as the deep core muscles become stronger, they will act like a weight belt or girdle and actually help to flatten your stomach by holding the contents of your abdominal cavity in behind the walls of muscle. The Role of Core Muscles in Movement Exercise is a function of movement created by many muscles working together simultaneously, not a series of discrete actions. Nowhere is this more apparent than the core region. Exercises for core muscles are often performed in an inefficient manner that may not actually improve their ability to control movement when you are standing on your feet. Instead, exercises for your core muscles should be based on how the body is designed to move or, more specifically, how your muscles produce various movements when you’re standing upright (see tables 4.1 and 4.2 and figure 4.2). For example, a common misunderstanding is that countless crunches are the best way to sculpt a six-pack. However, the only time the RA flexes the spine is when the body is lying on the ground, which begs the question, Is the crunch the most efficient use of your time during a workout? A strength-training program for core muscles should feature exercises in a standing position to properly prepare the body to produce and control forces experienced in ADLs. Movements should integrate the hips, trunk, and shoulders to efficiently distribute the downward force created by gravity as well as the upward forces generated by GRF. Exercises in the prone (face-down) or supine (face-up) positions can help establish strength specifically through activating the motor units responsible for contracting the muscle fibers that stabilize the spine and pelvis. For example, the plank exercise requires minimal movement while contracting all layers of the abdominal fascia and is an excellent way to establish the muscle recruitment patterns required to stabilize the spine. When done properly, the plank not only uses the deep abdominal muscles but it also recruits hip, shoulder, and upper-back muscles (Hibbs et al. 2008). However, once you establish the ability to properly brace the spine, it becomes necessary to integrate movement at the hips before progressing to exercises performed in standing positions. As Dr. McGill’s work has demonstrated, movement-based strength training exercises that involve your upper- and lower-body limbs working together from a standing position can be extremely effective for developing core strength (McGill 2010). Understanding and Controlling Movement When walking or running, the body has to move in all three different directions to create forward movement. Your chest and rib cage will counterrotate relative to the pelvis in reaction to the momentum created by the arms and legs moving opposite of one another. During gait, as the right leg swings forward, the left arm swings forward. This counterrotation of the torso and hips lengthens all layers of your core muscles, which are designed to facilitate this multiplanar action to make it smooth and efficient. That’s right; the actual purpose of our core muscles is to work effectively and efficiently while the body is in an upright, vertical position (Earls 2014). To store the elastic energy used for many upright movements, exercise strategies for core muscles should include movements that first lengthen the tissue before it shortens. For sustainable, long-term results, an exercise program should first enhance mobility and tissue extensibility in individual movement patterns before progressing to complex, dynamic movements that involve multiple planes of motion. Mobility exercises allow the CNS to develop efficient timing of muscle contractions before progressing to the more complex movement patterns that can improve strength and allow muscles to generate force in multiple directions. Table 4.1 Attachments and Actions of Deep Core Muscles Muscle Superior attachments Inferior attachments Integrated function External oblique Lateral side of ribs 4-12 Iliac crest, linea alba, and fascial sheath of RA Control motion at the trunk by producing flexion in the sagittal plane, lateral flexion in the frontal plane, and rotation in the transverse plane Internal oblique*+ Iliac crest, inguinal ligament, and thoracolumbar fascia Ribs 9-12, linea alba, and fascial sheath of RA Control motion at the trunk by producing flexion in the sagittal plane, lateral flexion in the frontal plane, and rotation in the transverse plane Rectus abdominis Xiphoid process of the sternum Pubic symphysis of the pelvis Decelerate anterior tilting of the pelvis, control rotation of the trunk, co-contract with other layers to stabilize the spine Transverse abdominis Iliac crest, thoracolumbar fascia, inner surface of cartilage of ribs 6-12, and inguinal ligament Linea alba and fascial sheath of RA Compression of abdominal cavity, create stability by increasing tension on thoracolumbar fascia, provide attachment sites for other abdominal muscles *The contralateral (opposite side) external oblique (EO) and internal oblique (IO) work together to create rotation; for example, the right EO works with the left IO to create rotation to the left. Superior is an anatomical term and means “toward the head”; conversely, inferior means “away from the head.” +The ipsilateral (same side) EO and IO work together to create lateral flexion; for example, the right EO works with the right IO to create right lateral flexion of the spine. Table 4.2 Attachments and Actions of Superficial and Intermediate Core Muscles Muscle Superior attachments Inferior attachments Integrated function Hamstrings: biceps femoris (BF), semitendinosus (ST), semimembranosus (SM) BF: ischial tuberosity (bottom of pelvis) ST: ischial tuberosity SM: ischial tuberosity BF: top of fibula and lateral tibial condyle (lower leg) ST: inferior to medial condyle of tibia (top of lower leg) SM: medial condyle of tibia (top of lower leg) Extend hip, extend knee (when foot is on the ground), control internal and external rotation Adductor complex: brevis, longus, magnus Brevis: pubic bone Longus: pubic bone Magnus: pubic bone and ischial tuberosity Brevis: middle 1/3 of back of femur Longus: middle 1/3 of back of femur Magnus: linea aspera and adductor tubercle (back of femur) Extend the hip when the leg is in front of the body and flex the hip when the leg is behind the body Quadriceps: rectus femoris (RF), vastus medialis (VM), vastus intermedius (VI), vastus lateralis (VL) RF: bottom front of pelvis VM: front of thigh bone (femur) VI: top 2/3 of thigh bone (femur) VL: top of thigh bone (greater trochanter—femur) front of thigh bone (femur) RF: patella (kneecap) and tibial tuberosity VM: medial tibial condyle, medial patella, and medial aspect of RF tendon VI: inferior aspect of patella, tendons of VL and VM VL: lower patella, front of lateral tibial condyle (top of lower leg) Flex hip, extend (straighten) lower leg, control stability of knee Gluteal complex: maximus, medius, and minimus Sacrum and coccyx (lower back), posterior gluteal line, and iliac crest (top of pelvis) Gluteal line of thigh bone (femur), inferior and anterior to lateral condyle of tibia (top of lower leg) Extend hip, create external rotation of hip (resist internal rotation of hip), adduct hip Latissimus dorsi Intertubercular groove of humerus (upper arm) Spinous processes of lower 6 thoracic and all lumbar vertebrae, ilium and lower 3 ribs, inferior angle of scapula Extend upper arm, pull arm closer to body (adduct), control rotation of the shoulder; the inferior segments can create forward tilt of pelvis Spinal erectors External occipital protuberance (bottom of skull) Lumbar and sacral vertebrae Extend (straighten) spine, decelerate forward flexion of spine, maintain lengthened position [image: ] Figure 4.2 The muscles that work together to control movement of the spine, hip, thigh, and knee. What the Science Says: Benefits of Strength Training Throughout the Aging Process Age-related reductions in muscle mass as well as the concurrent loss of force output can significantly impair the functional strength required for essential ADLs. Strength training exercises performed to a point of momentary fatigue can activate type II muscle motor units; if they are not regularly engaged through progressively challenging strength training exercises, it could result in a loss of muscle mass. In addition, age-related changes in hormone levels resulting in an imbalance between the anabolic hormones necessary for growth and the catabolic hormones used for energy production has been associated with muscle atrophy and reduced force production (Taylor and Johnson 2008). Atrophy is the loss of muscle size, which can happen to adults who do not perform any strength training exercises during the aging process; without regular strength training, adults can lose an average of 5 pounds (2.3 kg) of lean muscle per decade (Taylor and Johnson 2008). Strength training can provide numerous benefits, including an increase in lean muscle mass, increased production of the hormones that promote muscle growth, improved cardiovascular efficiency, elevated resting metabolism (meaning you’ll burn more calories throughout the day even when not exercising), and the ability to participate in your favorite activities. Whether you are male or female, if you are interested in maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle with the ability to enjoy your favorite activities as you age, you should make strength training a key component of your exercise program. Strength training provides the necessary stimulus to engage and activate the type II motor units and fibers related to increasing muscle force production as well as increasing the production of the hormones required for muscle growth. Exercises in Your Core Strength Workout Core exercises don’t need to be overly complicated; however, they do need to be based on the foundational movement patterns and use a number of different muscles, especially if your goals include the ability to do an efficient and effective workout in a limited amount of time. The more muscles and whole-body movements you use during a workout, the higher your oxygen consumption and the greater your caloric expenditure. Strength training exercises like kettlebell swings, dumbbell Romanian deadlifts, or kettlebell Turkish get-ups can be extremely effective for enhancing strength in all layers of abdominal muscles. Core muscles contain a combination of type I and type II fibers. Low-intensity, long-duration stabilization exercises activate type I fibers, while heavy resistance strength or power exercises stimulate the type II fibers. McGill’s work studying strongman competitors provides important insights into how core muscles and the spine adapt to three-dimensional forces and the need to reflexively maintain spinal stability under many different loads (McGill, Karpowicz, and Fenwick 2009). Strongman competitions feature individual events requiring competitors to carry heavy loads, which can help develop the strength necessary to move the body and maintain dynamic balance while handling a variety of external forces. Because they compete in standing positions to move, lift, carry, and throw heavy weights, strongman athletes develop substantial core strength because the multiple layers of muscle reflexively co-contract to create the stiffness necessary to prevent the spine from buckling (McGill, Karpowicz, and Fenwick 2009b). McGill’s work suggests that a successful core conditioning program can include exercises adapted from strongman competitions such as the one-arm overhead press, windmill, and carries to generate three-dimensional strength around the spine and pelvis (McGill and Marshall 2012). The examples below demonstrate how movement patterns can become the foundation of an exercise program to enhance core strength while improving overall coordination and skill. Hip-Dominant Movements There is one thing that most top athletes and dancers have in common: a well-shaped behind. The reason is that the hips are one of the most mobile joints in the body, and the gluteus maximus muscles that control that mobility are responsible for generating strength and power, which is then used by all other segments in the body. Exercises that engage the muscle mass around the hip will develop functional strength of, shape, and sculpt this highly visible muscle and help burn more calories during the workout. Examples include glute bridges, squats, deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, and swings. Single-Leg Movements Single-leg balance exercises can be important for helping integrate abdominal function with the lower extremities because your core muscles play an important role in controlling the position of your body any time you balance on a single leg. Walking or running is the process of transitioning from one leg to the other; therefore, being strong and stable while balanced on a single leg is an important part of improving human movement performance. Examples include single-leg glute bridges, single-leg balance exercises, lunges, or split squats. Plank, Push-Up, or One of the Many Variations The body is organized into two primary segments, upper and lower, which are connected via the spine and trunk muscles. Planks and their many variations are an important exercise for creating stability in the muscles around the spine that link the upper and lower body. The fascinating thing is that the core muscles that connect the upper and lower bodies act as a corset. If they get stronger, they can actually help your stomach become flatter. When doing a plank, it’s important to keep the hips and shoulders at the same height so the spine is in a relatively neutral position. Once you master the basic plank (holding it for 45 seconds or longer without dropping your hips), you can progress to one of the more challenging variations, which can involve movement of the hips or shoulders while maintaining a stable spine. Note: A push-up can be considered a progressed version of the plank. When it comes to developing core strength, it is more important to do a good plank than a bad push-up. Pulling Movements If you’re in the modern workforce, there is a good chance that you spend a portion of your day using a computer or mobile device. Whether we are sitting at a desk or using a tablet, we have a habit of slouching forward (cue: changing your posture to sit upright right now), which can cause our shoulders to internally rotate. Try this: Sit up nice and tall, and raise your right hand in front of your body as high as you can. Now slouch and try the same thing. When we slouch, we limit the space in our shoulder joint that allows easy, efficient overhead movements. Doing pulling exercises with a tall spine and a neutral (palms facing each other) or supinated (palms up) grip places the glenohumeral joint of the shoulder in an externally rotated position, helping alleviate pressure in the joint that occurs as a result of typing at a computer while sitting all day. Make sure to add one or two pulling movements to each workout. They’re even better if they are in a standing position (e.g., bent-over dumbbell rows, or alternating arm resistance tubing pulls). Examples include bent-over rows, one-arm rows, pullovers, stability ball roll-outs, and band pulls. Overhead Lifting and Pushing While Standing Other than certain weight machines or seated dumbbell presses, how many times do you find yourself having to lift something over your head while in a seated position? Here’s another question: How many times do you lift something overhead with your elbows out to the side (in the three and nine o’clock positions)? The shoulders are most effective during overhead movements when the elbows are pointed toward the front of the body (the eleven and one o’clock positions). This allows the cup of the shoulder blade to properly move and stabilize the ball of the humerus (upper arm bone) when your arm is moving overhead. Doing an overhead press while standing allows you to engage and use the muscles that connect your hips to your trunk. If you’re seated, these muscles are not involved, and you lose the opportunity to burn a few extra calories. Whether it’s a sandbag, dumbbells, kettlebells, or medicine balls, lifting something heavy overhead can help you develop strength from ground through hips and trunk and out through the upper extremities. Think of it as a standing plank using your shoulders and arms. Examples include standing dumbbell presses, standing kettlebell presses, windmills, and medicine ball lifts. Rotational Movements When walking or running, your shoulders rotate over your hips. Rotation is one of the foundational patterns of human movement, yet it is often overlooked in many traditional exercise programs. When you are in a standing position, your hip, abdominal, and upper-back muscles work together to create rotational movement. In fact, a rotational movement is part pulling and part pushing, making it a pattern that supports strength development in the other patterns. Examples include medicine ball chops, medicine ball twists, kettlebell windmills, and rotations with resistance tubing. These six movement types should be the foundation of any effective exercise program to enhance the function and strength of core muscles. An additional benefit is that because they use a number of muscles at the same time, these movement-based exercises can be an effective way to burn calories while increasing strength. It may be tempting to change exercises frequently in an effort to avoid becoming bored. However, it is important to remain consistent with the exercises for a number of workouts so that the different systems of the body, specifically the CNS and muscular, learn how to execute the pattern as a reflex without any conscious effort. The following workouts provide examples of how to organize these movement patterns into time-efficient exercise programs that can help you improve coordination, movement skill, and, most importantly, strength of the muscles responsible for stabilizing and moving your body. Core Strength Training Workouts The primary purpose of core strength training is to improve your muscles’ ability to produce and distribute force throughout the entire body. As mentioned, gait is the default pattern of human movement. During the gait cycle, your shoulders and hips counterrotate to generate the force and momentum to move you forward. Therefore, the most effective strength training for core muscles involves working in a standing position where you use both your hips and shoulders at the same time. Many of these core exercises are essentially traditional strength training exercises, but when done with the right intention from a standing position they can help develop the integrated strength of all of the muscles that both stabilize and move the core. To increase the overall energy expenditure (the amount of calories burned), these workouts are designed to be performed as circuits, where you move from one exercise to the next with minimal rest time between each exercise. Rest for 90 seconds to 2 minutes once all exercises are completed. The exercises should be performed at a steady tempo of one to three seconds in each direction. Going slower during the muscle lengthening phase (when muscles are stretching) is a technique that can increase the number of motor units activated. When starting a new workout program, the exercises should seem challenging but not cause any pain or discomfort. The starting range of repetitions is a total of 8 to 10, 4 to 5 on each arm or leg. As you feel yourself getting stronger, add 2 reps every week until you are doing a total of 20 reps for each exercise (10 on each arm). Note: if 20 reps becomes easy, then you will be developing endurance, the ability to maintain a consistent amount of force, as opposed to strength, which is the ability to generate a greater amount of force, and it will be time to use heavier weights or change the piece of equipment to place a new challenge on the body. Start with two complete circuits of each workout. Once you can complete the two circuits relatively easily, add a third circuit. Once three circuits feels relatively easy, or if you have the time, add a fourth, then possibly a fifth circuit. The goal is to get to a point where you are doing each exercise for at least 10 reps for each arm or leg (20 total for the exercise) 4 times through the circuit. It should take about 10 to 12 weeks to progress from starting a workout to reaching the point where you are completing multiple circuits of at least 20 reps (total) for each exercise. Once that has occurred, it will be time to either change the equipment or the workout, for example, switching from bodyweight to a sandbag or transition from doing core training to metabolic conditioning. See chapter 5 for more discussion of how circuits can work in metabolic conditioning. For easier reference, flip to the blue-colored tabs on the sides of the pages to help you quickly identify the core-strength exercises in this book. BODYWEIGHT EXERCISES FOR CORE STRENGTH Using only your body weight can be an extremely effective strategy for strengthening your core muscles. The movement-based exercises should be performed at a steady pace under control in order to keep the muscles under tension; the isometric exercises should be held for the designated period of time to keep the muscles under tension. The great thing about bodyweight workouts is that they can be done anywhere, which makes them an excellent option if you travel a lot for work or your time is extremely limited and you need exercise solutions that fit a tight schedule. Exercise Sets Repetitions High plank 2 20 sec hold Side plank 2 20 sec hold each side Glute bridge 2 8-10 Single-leg balance with arm reaches 2 8-10 each side Lateral lunge with trunk rotation 2 4-5 each side Reverse lunge with overhead reach 2 4-5 each leg Squats with forward reach 2 8-10 Perform this workout as a circuit with little-to-no rest between each exercise, rest for 90 seconds to 2 minutes after completing all exercises. High Plank Benefits Because the high plank position uses the arms in an extended position, both the shoulders and hips are integrated, making this exercise effective for strengthening many of the muscles that help stabilize the pelvis and spine. Instructions Start in a prone high plank (top of the push-up) position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your legs extended behind you, approximately hip-width apart. Press your hands into the ground as you press your back up into your shoulder blades (this opposing motion will create the tension to activate more muscles) while squeezing the muscles in your thighs and glutes to maintain stability. Breathe normally as you hold this position for at least 20 seconds; add 5 seconds per week until you reach 50 to 60 seconds. Once you can hold a high plank for at least 50 seconds, you can increase the level of difficulty by raising a leg and pointing your toes. Hold for 3 to 4 seconds, alternating legs. Correct Your Form If you notice your back or hips start to sag, it is time to end the exercise. It is much better to rest than to do a plank with poor form. As you get stronger, try to add 5 seconds every week; however, the longest you want to work up to is 50 to 60 seconds. Holding a plank any longer than that is not necessary. It’s very important to relax and breathe normally during this exercise. If you hold your breath, your heart rate could unnecessarily increase. [image: ] Side Plank Benefits This variation of the plank engages the muscles that provide lateral stability of your hips and spine, which is important for maintaining a tall posture and reducing the risk of injury in the lower back. Instructions Lie on your left side and place your left hand directly under the right shoulder so that your fingers are pointed up, away from your feet. Stack your legs and feet on top of one another and squeeze your thighs together to help increase stability. Think about squeezing a coin between your legs. While holding this position, push your left hand down and right hip up. This will create tension that activates the muscles that stabilize your pelvis and spine. Your trunk should be straight so that your right shoulder is stacked directly over your left. Hold the position for at least 20 seconds or until you can no longer maintain a straight line between your hips and shoulder. Alternate sides before moving to the next exercise. Add 5 seconds every week or so until you are able to hold this position for 50 to 60 seconds on each side. Once you can hold this position for 50 seconds, you can increase the difficulty by lifting and holding the top leg for 2 to 3 seconds at a time. Correct Your Form If fully extending your arm is uncomfortable, then bend your elbow and place it directly under your shoulder to reduce the leverage. Another option is to bend your knees so that your left elbow (directly under the left shoulder) and left knee (with both knees bent so your lower legs are behind you) are the points of contact with the ground. To increase stability, think about squeezing your hip and thigh muscles. This will help create stability through your entire core region. Having one side much stronger than the other could be a cause of low-back pain. If you notice that one side is stronger than the other, perform this exercise for the same amount of time on both sides to help correct the imbalance. [image: ] Glute Bridge Benefits Tight hip flexor muscles and weak glutes could be a cause of low-back pain. The gluteus maximus is the primary muscle responsible for extending the hips and moving the lower body; this exercise can help improve strength in the glute muscles while stretching the hip flexors. This exercise teaches the foundational movement pattern of hip flexion and extension in a position that is safe for the spine, allowing you to improve the strength of your glutes so you can perform other exercises like squats and lunges more effectively. If you spend a long time in a seated position, this exercise is an excellent dynamic stretch that can help reduce tightness and restore range of motion (ROM) in your hips. The more mobility you have in the hips, the better it is for your low back. Instructions Lie on your back so that your feet are flat on the floor with your knees pointed up to the ceiling. Your feet should be about 18 inches (46 cm) or so away from your glutes. Keep your arms along your side with your palms rotated up to face the ceiling, which helps stretch your shoulder muscles. Pull your toes up toward your shins so that you are resting on the heels of both feet. To perform the movement, press your heels down as you squeeze your glutes and lift your hips up toward the ceiling. (Think about squeezing a coin between your glute muscles to increase the muscle activation.). Push up for a count of 1 to 2 seconds and lower for a count of 3 to 4 seconds. Start with 8 to 10 repetitions and add 2 reps per week until you are doing 20 reps at a time. Correct Your Form If you notice your hamstring muscles (along the back of your thighs) cramping, simply move your feet forward a little bit. If you feel a little discomfort in your lower back, move your feet back toward your tailbone. Focus on squeezing your glutes to increase activity in those muscles and improve extensibility of the muscles along the front of your hips. [image: ] Single-Leg Balance With Arm Reach Benefits The muscles along the front of your core are designed to work best when standing in an upright position. This exercise stretches these muscles under resistance to help increase strength while your body is in the position in which it is designed to move. Lengthening muscle can help improve the strength by adding collagen fibers parallel to the muscle fibers, which could reduce the risk of injury from a strain or tear. If you’ve been stuck in a seated position for a long time, this exercise can also help strengthen the core muscles while stretching the hips to reduce lower-back tightness. Instructions Stand on your left foot and keep your right foot off the ground by bending your right knee. Hold your right arm directly overhead with your palm facing the midline of your body and your thumb pointing behind you. Hold your left arm directly out to your side at shoulder height. Extend your right leg behind you. Think about pushing back through your heel, while moving both arms backwards; you should feel the pull along the front of your body. Perform 8 to 10 reps, then switch sides. Add 2 reps per week until you are doing sets of 20 reps. Correct Your Form If balancing on one leg is hard, place the toes of your lifted foot on the ground behind you like a kickstand. Keep most of the weight in your stance leg and focus on moving your arms for the exercise. To increase stability in the stance leg (the left leg in the instructions), press the foot into the ground while squeezing the glute muscle in the left leg. If you feel tightness in your lower back, work on keeping your spine straight while moving your arms and legs slowly in a limited ROM, moving your limbs too fast or too far could place strain on the lumbar spine, causing the soreness. As your arms and leg move behind you, they lengthen the fascia along the front of your core; and movements that lengthen the fascia can be an effective method of strengthening it. [image: ] Lateral Lunge With Trunk Rotation Benefits Moving your shoulders over your hips is one of the most effective ways to lengthen and strengthen all of the muscles that connect the upper- and lower-body segments together. Instructions Begin in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart. Step your left foot directly to your left toward the three o’clock position. As your left foot hits the ground, make sure it is pointed straight ahead so that it is parallel to your right foot. As your left foot hits the ground, push your left hip back and maintain a long spine as you rotate to your left while keeping both arms extended in front of your body. (Think about turning your right shoulder to point toward the wall to your left.) Rotate your trunk back to the center and push off the ground with the left foot to return to standing, then alternate to the right foot. Perform a total of 8 to 10 lunges (4-5 on each leg). This places a lot of strain on the connective tissues between your hips and shoulders, so starting with a lower number of reps allows you to improve your strength without overstraining the muscles. After the first 2 weeks, add 2 reps per week until you are doing 10 on each leg (20 total). At that point, if you want to gradually work up to doing 20 on each leg, go for it! Correct Your Form To reduce the strain on your knees, it is important that both feet are parallel when you plant your stepping foot on the ground. Keep the pressure on the outside foot (the left in the instructions); this will ensure the rotation comes from your thoracic spine and hips, the joints that are designed to rotate. [image: ] Reverse Lunge With Overhead Reach Benefits This exercise strengthens the abdominal and lower-body muscles from a standing position. Reaching overhead during a lunge lengthens the abdominal and hip muscles at the same time, which can help improve overall integration and coordination of how the muscles of the lower body and core work together. Instructions Stand with your feet hip-width apart and with both arms by your side. Step back with your left leg to lower yourself into a lunge while reaching overhead with both arms. Lower yourself to a comfortable depth while keeping your spine long. Pause for a moment at the bottom, then press your right foot into the ground as you pull yourself back to standing while lowering both arms. When you are back to the starting position, pause at the top, then repeat with the right leg. Alternate legs for a total of 8 to 10 repetitions (4-5 on each leg). Once that becomes easy, add 2 reps every 2 weeks until you are doing 16 to 20 reps (8-10 on each leg). Once you can easily do 20 total, start adding more reps until you are able to do 15 to 20 repetitions on each leg. Correct Your Form If the knee of your planted leg (the right leg in the instructions) collapses toward the midline of your body, reduce the depth of the lunge and focus on pressing the front foot into the ground. The strength to return to standing should come from your front leg (the right leg in the instructions) as you press it into the ground. Like the previous exercise, this movement will use your muscles in ways they haven’t worked before, which is why it is better to start with fewer reps and gradually add reps as you progress through the workout. [image: ] Squat With Forward Reach Benefits Squats can help strengthen all of the muscles in the lower body; reaching forward during a squat can increase hip flexion to enhance activation of the hip extensor muscles (the gluteus maximus). Instructions Start with your feet approximately hip- to shoulder-width apart and parallel, with your toes facing forward (pointed in the twelve o’clock position). Hang your hands along the sides of your body with the palms facing inwards. Keep your spine long, and lower into the squat by pushing your hips back as though you are sitting in a chair. As you lower yourself, raise both arms in front of you to about chest height and reach in front of your body. This increases the length of the muscles along the entire backside of your body. At the bottom of the squat, both arms should be reaching out front. As you return to standing, bring your hands back down by your side. Start with 8 to 10 reps, and add 2 reps every 2 weeks until you can do 20 reps. Rest for 30 to 45 seconds after each set. Start with 2 sets, and once you feel comfortable, gradually progress to doing 4 sets. Correct Your Form Emphasize pushing your hips back before your knees move forward to ensure that your hips are doing most of the work. If your knees move forward before your hips move backwards, it could create strain on the front of the knees and be a potential cause of pain. If you feel your heels coming off of the ground, don’t go so low. Only lower your hips part way and keep your focus on pushing both feet into the ground. If you feel your knees collapsing inward, externally rotate your feet toward the outside of the body so your feet are pointed in the eleven and one o’clock positions). [image: ] STABILITY BALL EXERCISES FOR CORE STRENGTH Exercising on an unstable surface could help increase the number of muscles used for a particular movement because the body has to create the stability that the surface lacks. The stability ball creates an unstable surface so muscles have to work harder to maintain control of any specific exercise. In addition, in many exercises the ball creates a fulcrum for the body to move as a lever; changing the position of the ball can increase the challenge and level of difficulty of a particular exercise. Please note that for a number of years, fitness professionals have advocated using stability balls instead of a bench for certain weightlifting exercises such as chest presses or pullovers. However, now the manufacturers and distributors of stability balls warn users to not lift weights on the stability balls for safety reasons. Stability balls are still an extremely effective tool for bodyweight exercises because they can create a number of unique challenges that strengthen both the contractile and elastic components of muscle tissue. When selecting a stability ball, use a 55-centimeter ball if you’re 5' 7" or shorter. Select a 65-centimeter ball if you’re between 5' 7" and 6' 4". Select a 75-centimeter ball if you’re taller than 6' 4". The ball should be inflated until it’s firm and you can sit on it so your knees and hips can comfortably hold a 90-degree bend. Exercise Sets Repetitions Hip bridge to hamstring curl 2 6-8 Stir-the-pot 2 5-6 each direction Supine hip rotation 2 4-5 each side Pike 2 6-8 Russian twist 2 3-4 each side Hip roll to knee tuck 2 3-4 each side One-leg squat 2 4-6 each side Crunch 2 6-8 Perform this workout as a circuit with little-to-no rest between each exercise, rest for 90 seconds to 2 minutes after completing all exercises. Hip Bridge to Hamstring Curl Benefits This exercise strengthens the muscles along the back of the body responsible for extending the hips and controlling stability of the spine in a safe position that is not directly affected by the downward pull of gravity. Instructions Start by lying flat on your back with your arms by your side and your heels on top of the ball with your toes pulled up toward your shins. Squeeze your glutes and lift your hips in the air. Press both arms into the ground to create stability. Once your body is in a straight line, pull your heels up to your tailbone, bringing the ball closer to your body. Slowly extend your legs back to a straight position before slowly lowering your hips to the ground. As you learn the exercise it should be a single, fluid motion to raise the hips up as you bring your heels toward your tailbone. Start with 6 to 8 reps, and add 2 reps every 2 weeks until you reach a total of 16 to 20 reps. Correct Your Form If you feel your calves tightening and cramping up, make sure you are pulling your toes up to your shins. This increases the length of your calf muscles, reducing the risk that they become overtight during the exercise. If you feel a strain in your lower back, move the starting position of the ball closer to your body so the backs of your calves, instead of the heels, are resting on the top of the ball. To increase stability with your hips off the ground, place your arms wider and keep them pressed into the ground. [image: ] Stir-the-Pot Benefits This unique exercise is essentially a plank on an unstable surface; maintaining stability on the ball requires the deep abdominal and hip muscles to work together to create and control stability of the core region. Instructions Place your elbows on the top of the stability ball with both hands clasped together. Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart and squeeze your glute and thigh muscles as you move into a position where your toes are on the ground and your elbows are on top of the ball. Keep your hip and thigh muscles squeezed to maintain stability throughout the exercise. While holding this position use your elbows to move the ball counterclockwise for 5 to 6 circles, then create circles in the opposite direction for a total of 10 to 12 circles. Add only 1 or 2 reps every 2 weeks until you can easily do 18 to 20 reps in each direction. Correct Your Form If you have a hard time maintaining a straight body during the exercise, you can reduce the lever arm by dropping to your knees. Once you can do 12 to 14 circles in each direction, you can move back to the fully extended position. The wider you have your feet as you hold the plank, the more stability you will have. If you want to make the exercise harder, you can move your feet and legs closer together to create a narrower base of support. [image: ] Supine Hip Rotation Benefits The obliques (both external and internal) work together to create rotation through the trunk and hips. The right-side external obliques work with the left-side internal obliques to rotate your trunk to your left, and the left-side external obliques work with the right-side internal obliques to rotate your trunk to the right. The ball creates a unique fulcrum for rotation that causes both sides of the obliques to work together like they do when you walk or run. Instructions Start by lying flat on your back with your arms out by your side and the backs of your lower legs on top of the ball with your toes pointed straight up into the air. Squeeze the ball into the back of your glutes and press both arms into the ground to create stability, keeping your hands wide. Rotate your hips and drop both legs to your left while keeping your shoulders on the ground and your arms pressed down, allow your legs to drop as far as they can to your left before rolling your knees back over to your right side. Perform 4 to 5 rotations in each direction for a total of 8 to 10 repetitions. Once you can control movement during this exercise, add 2 reps every 2 weeks until you can perform 8 to 10 reps in each direction for a total of 16 to 20. Correct Your Form Keeping the ball closer to your tailbone so the backs of your calves are on top of the ball gives you more control of the movement. To ensure that the rotation comes from the thoracic spine, keep your shoulders, upper back, and arms pressed solidly into the ground. [image: ] Pike Benefits This move strengthens all of the abdominal muscles along the front of the body in addition to your chest, shoulder, and upper-arm muscles, making it an excellent option for improving strength. Because you will be using so many muscles, you will also be burning more calories. Instructions Start facing the stability ball so that your chest is on the top of the ball. Walk forward with your hands until the tops of your thighs are on the ball. Keep your hands directly under the shoulders, with your elbows rotated back toward your feet, and keep your hands pressed into the floor throughout the exercise for stability. With your thighs on top of the ball, lift your tailbone up in the air so the ball rolls along the front of your legs. Pause for a moment at the top before allowing your legs to slowly lower back to the starting position. To increase the level of difficulty, roll the ball all the way until the tips of your toes are on the top of the ball. Begin with 6 to 8 repetitions. Once you have control, add 2 repetitions a week until you are able to do 16 to 20 repetitions in a row. Correct Your Form At the start and end of this exercise, your body should be a straight line from the shoulders through the ankles. If your hips drop, start with the ball closer to your waist to shorten the lever arm. Throughout the movement, think about holding a coin between your thighs. This will help create stability in your legs through the entire ROM. If you find that the position bothers your wrists, you can use dumbbells to hold on to for handles, which can reduce the stress on your wrists. [image: ] Russian Twist Benefits This rotational exercise strengthens the muscles between your trunk and hips, helping to improve strength and coordination between your upper and lower body. Instructions Start in a seated position on the top of the ball. Slowly walk forward, allowing your back to roll down on the top of the ball until the widest part of your back (between your shoulders) is directly on top of the ball. Clasp the fingers of both hands directly over the top of your chest and press your hands together. Move your shoulders by dropping your hands to the left and lifting the right shoulder so that you roll on to your left shoulder. As you do this with your upper body, push your left foot into the ground and right hip into the air to create stability. Pause on your left shoulder before rolling your back over the top of the ball to move over to your right shoulder. As you move to your right shoulder, pick up your left shoulder and allow the top of your right arm to roll on to the ball. Again, push your right foot into the ground and left hip into the air to enhance stability. Start with 3 to 4 reps on each side, for a total of 6 to 8. Once you can do those with control, start adding 2 reps every week until you can do 8 to 10 reps on each side, for a total of 16 to 20. Correct Your Form This is a challenging exercise that requires a lot of control from your hips and lower body. Pressing your feet into the ground and squeezing your glute muscles throughout the entire movement will help create stability and allow you to rotate your upper body with more control. Keeping your arms straight with both hands pressed together will create more stability through your upper body, allowing it to roll over the top of the ball. [image: ] Hip Roll to Knee Tuck Benefits Pressing your hands into the ground while rotating your hips over the top of the ball helps enhance the strength of your shoulders and the muscles responsible for rotating your trunk, making it an effective exercise for strengthening both your internal and external obliques at the same time. Instructions Start by facing the stability ball so that your chest is on the top of the ball. Walk forward with your hands until the tops of your thighs are on the ball. Keep your hands directly under the shoulders, with your elbows rotated back toward your feet, and keep your hands pressed into the floor throughout the exercise for stability. With your thighs on top of the ball, squeeze your legs together as though you are holding a coin in between them. To start the movement, press your hands into the ground while lifting your right hip so that the side of your left hip rolls on to the top of the ball. Once the side of your left leg is on the ball, keep your legs squeezed together and pull both knees closer to your waist, pause for 2-4 seconds then extend the legs, and roll to the other side. Pick up your left hip as your right side rolls on to the top of the ball. When your right side is on top of the ball, bring both knees to your waist, then straighten the legs and return to the starting position with the tops of both legs on the ball. Start by alternating between 3 to 4 reps on each side, for a total of 6 to 8. As you get stronger, add 2 reps per week until you are able to do 8 to 10 repetitions on each side, for a total of 16 to 20. Correct Your Form This is a challenging exercise but one that is great for developing core strength. When on the side of your left leg, think about lifting your right hip into the air, and vice versa. Pressing your hands into the ground and squeezing your legs together can enhance stability, which is essential throughout this exercise. [image: ] One-Leg Squat Benefits This balance-based move strengthens the muscles in the front leg while stretching the hip muscles of the leg that is on top of the ball. Balancing on one leg can help engage the muscles of the deep core to enhance stability of the pelvis and spine. Instructions Start standing with the ball directly behind you. Pick up your left leg and place the top of your left foot and lower leg directly on top of the ball. Press your left shin and foot into the top of the ball and lower yourself into your right hip while extending your left leg directly behind you to perform a lunge. Keep your right foot pressed into the ground to help create stability during the movement. During the movement keep your spine long so that your hips are doing the work. Start with 4 to 6 reps on each leg. Once you can do that with control, add 2 reps every week until you can do 10 to 12 reps on each leg. Correct Your Form If balancing with one leg on the ball is a challenge, do this exercise next to a wall so you can use it to help maintain balance. The side of your body with the leg on top of the ball should be next to the wall (the left side in the instructions). When learning the exercise, don’t worry about going down too low. Instead, focus on maintaining balance while extending the leg on top of the ball. As your balance improves, slowly start lowering yourself into your right hip. [image: ] Crunch Benefits Even though the natural function of the abdominals is to control movement of the pelvis and rib cage when standing, doing crunches uses the ab muscles in a way that can help improve definition. Crunches on the top of the ball allow you to achieve full extension of the spine, which is not possible when lying on the floor. This helps strengthen the muscles all the way through the ROM. Instructions Sit on the top of the ball, then slowly walk both feet forward until your rear end is hanging off the ball and the curve of your low back is resting on the curve of the ball. Press both feet into the ground and place the backs of the fingers of both hands on the front of your forehead (keeping the hands on the front of your head will reduce the temptation to pull your head forward, which could strain your neck). Note: as your ab muscles get stronger, you can move your arms further from your waist to increase the lever length, which can add resistance. The core muscles respond to resistance; therefore, increasing resistance could improve strength and definition of the ab muscles. Exhale as you slowly roll your spine off the top of the ball. Think about pulling the bottom of your rib cage to the top of your pelvis. Pause at the top before slowly lowering back to the starting position. Start with 6 to 8 reps. Once you can do them under control, add 2 reps per week. Once you can do 12 to 14 reps under control, change the position of your arms from the front of your chest to the top of the head, then to extended completely overhead. Correct Your Form It is not necessary to do a high number of repetitions. If you want to work harder, change the length of the lever by changing the position of your arms and hands. This exercise is for your ab muscles, not your neck. Your head should remain in a neutral, stable position throughout the ROM. Think about squeezing an egg between your chin and throat to maintain a stable position. If you feel your neck becoming sore, press your tongue into the roof of your mouth to activate the muscles that stabilize your neck. [image: ] MEDICINE BALL EXERCISES FOR CORE STRENGTH Moving a weight through gravity while standing in an upright position challenges a number of muscles to work together to generate the forces that create and control those movements; this is one of the greatest benefits of using a medicine ball for core strength training. You can use a medicine ball to perform pushing and pulling movement for upper-body muscles, rotational movements where your hips and shoulders counterrotate to involve a majority of your core muscles, and hinging, squatting, and lunging movements to strengthen lower-body muscles. Exercise Sets Repetitions Hip bridge with pullover 2 8-10 Romanian deadlift 2 6-8 Standing rotation 2 5-6 each direction Vertical chop 2 8-10 Diagonal low-to-high lift 2 6-8 each side Reverse lunge to chop 2 4-6 each leg Transverse plane lunge with lift 2 4-6 each side Perform this workout as a circuit with little-to-no rest between each exercise, rest for 90 seconds to 2 minutes after completing all exercises. Hip Bridge With Pullover Benefits This move will strengthen the muscles responsible for controlling extension of the hips and spine from the glutes to the upper back and shoulders. Instructions Lie face-up on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Hold a medicine ball between both hands with your arms extended directly over your head so they are resting on the ground. Pull your toes up toward your shins, and push your heels into the floor. Squeeze your glutes and push your hips up toward the ceiling. As you hold your hips in the up position during the exercise, your upper back and shoulders should remain on the floor. While holding your hips in the air, lift your arms up until the medicine ball is directly over your chest. Pause, then slowly lower the medicine ball back to the floor. Start with 8 to 10 reps. Once 10 is relatively easy, add 2 reps a week until you can do 18 to 20 reps in a row. Correct Your Form If the hamstring muscles along the backs of your legs start tightening or cramping up, move your heels a little further away from your tailbone. [image: ] Romanian Deadlift Benefits This exercise strengthens the muscles responsible for extending the hips and spine. Doing so from a standing position helps the body become stronger against the downward pull of gravity. Instructions Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Hold the medicine ball between both hands directly in front of your hips. Keep your spine long, and push your hips back in a hinging motion as you lower your upper body toward the floor. Pause briefly at the end ROM. To return to standing, press your feet into the floor as you push your hips forward and lift your upper body back to a full standing position. Begin with 6 to 8 reps. Once that becomes easy, add 2 reps a week until you can do a total of 18 to 20. Correct Your Form Keep your spine long and straight during this movement and focus on moving from your hip; the motion for this exercise should come from your hips, not your lower back. Think about pushing your tailbone toward the wall behind you as you lower yourself. As you return to standing, focus on pressing your hips toward the wall in front of you. [image: ] Standing Rotation Benefits This exercise strengthens the muscles of the hips, core, and upper shoulders by using all of them together during this movement. Instructions Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Hold the medicine ball between both hands directly in front of your chest. Keep your spine long as you push your left foot into the floor to rotate to your right. As you turn your hips and shoulders to the right, keep your right foot pressed firmly into the ground as you rotate your left foot toward the midline of your body. At the end ROM, quickly push your right foot into the floor and rotate to your left as you turn your shoulders and hips to face to your left. The goal is to move quickly from side to side by turning the feet and the hips. Perform 5 to 6 rotations on each side, for a total of 10 to 12. Once you can do that under control, add 2 reps—one to each side—per week until you are doing a total of 9 to 10 on each side, for a total of 18 to 20. Correct Your Form Rotation comes from your feet and hips, so to perform this movement correctly—and to protect your knees and spine—focus on turning your feet and hips quickly during this exercise. Your feet should rotate on the ground like you’re putting out a cigarette (that someone else left burning). Your spine should remain long and straight as you move your feet, hips, and shoulders. TIP To increase the intensity of this exercise, extend your arms forward so the medicine ball is farther away from your center of gravity. [image: ] Vertical Chop Benefits This exercise uses the resistance of the medicine ball when the arms are fully extended to lengthen the abdominal muscles, which can be the most effective way to strengthen the muscles while improving coordination between the hips and shoulders. In addition, because you are doing a squat during the movement, you will be using the muscles of the thighs and glutes, which makes this effective for strengthening most of the muscles in your lower body. Instructions Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Hold the medicine ball between both hands directly in front of your waist. Keep your spine long as you push your hips back to lower into a squat. Keep your arms straight so the medicine ball comes down between your knees; this should be the lowest part of the squat. To return to standing, press your feet into the ground and your hips forward as you swing your arms directly overhead, keeping your elbows straight. At the top position your arms should be directly overhead so you feel your abdominal muscles lengthened. Start with 8 to 10 repetitions. As you get stronger, add 2 repetitions per week until you can do 20 repetitions straight. Correct Your Form When doing a squat, it is important that the first movement be from your hips as they move backward. It doesn’t matter how deep you squat as long as you are moving from the hips first. When standing up from the bottom of the squat, pressing your feet into the ground activates most of the muscles in your legs and hips. Keep your spine long during the movement to ensure the hips can do their job. [image: ] Diagonal Low-to-High Lift Benefits This exercise creates coordinated movement between your hips and shoulders, which is how they are designed to function during the gait cycle. The diagonal pattern of the medicine ball places a majority of the force from the exercise into the oblique muscles (both internal and external), which connect your pelvis to rib cage in a similar diagonal fashion. Instructions Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, your knees slightly bent, and your right foot slightly in front of your left. The heel of the right foot should be even with the toes of the left. Hold the medicine ball between both hands by your left hip. Keep your spine long and push your hips back so you sink into a quarter-squat with most of your weight in the left hip. Push your left foot into the ground as you raise the medicine ball across the front of your body toward your right shoulder. As the medicine ball passes the midline of your body, allow your left foot to rotate (like putting out a cigarette someone left on the ground) and shift your weight into your right hip. The medicine ball should end up over your right shoulder. As you bring it down in the same diagonal line, allow your left foot to rotate back so it points straight ahead, and sink back into both hips as the ball returns to your left hip. Start with 6 to 8 reps moving from left hip to right shoulder, then switch sides for a total of 12 to 16 reps. As you get stronger add 2 reps per week until you can do 16 to 20 reps on each side. Correct Your Form The rotation comes from your hips and feet, not your spine, which should stay long and straight through the duration of this movement. When rotating the foot as you lift the medicine ball (the left foot in the above example) think about pushing it into the ground as you shift your weight to the right—when the ball is at the end of the movement over your right shoulder, most of your weight should be on the right leg. [image: ] Reverse Lunge to Chop (Over Forward Leg) Benefits This exercise strengthens the muscles that stabilize the spine while strengthening the muscles that control movement of the hips, shoulders, and upper back. Instructions Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a medicine ball in both hands directly in front of your chest. Keep your left foot planted on the ground as you step back with the right foot, placing the toes of the right foot on the ground. Lower your right knee toward the ground (do not let it hit the ground) to sink into your left hip, and bring the medicine ball down to the left side of your left thigh, which should be almost parallel to the ground. Press your left foot into the ground to pull yourself back to standing as you raise the medicine ball back to the front of your chest. Perform 4 to 6 reps on the left hip, then switch legs for a total of 8 to 10 repetitions. As you get stronger, add 2 reps per week until you can do 16 to 20 reps on each side. Correct Your Form Keep your spine long and straight during the lunge. As you bring the medicine ball across the front of your body, you can hinge forward at the hip, but do not allow the spine to bend. When returning to standing from the bottom of the lunge, press your foot into the ground to pull yourself forward using the muscles in the back of your leg. [image: ] Transverse Plane Lunge With Lift Benefits Rotation is one of the most important movements the hips are designed to perform—specifically, the rotation of the pelvis over the thigh bone (femur) when the foot is fixed on the ground, and the rotation of the femur under the pelvis as the feet are rotating during a movement. Rotational lunges take a hip through a full ROM to strengthen the muscles that control the movement as well as the bones and joint capsule where the movement occurs. Lifting a weight overhead at the end range of the transverse plane lunge lengthens the tissues along the front of the body, helping strengthen these core muscles while at the same time improving strength and mobility of the hips. This exercise could be challenging to learn and could cause some soreness because the muscles will be working in new and different ways, but it is so effective that it will soon be one of the exercises you like to dislike. Instructions Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a medicine ball in front of your waist with both hands. Keep your left foot pressed into the ground as you step back with your right foot, and turn to your right so you place your foot on the ground, pointing in the three or four o’clock position. When your right foot is planted on the ground, keep your spine long as you raise the medicine ball directly overhead. Pause for a moment at the top before lowering the medicine ball back to your waist. To return to the starting position, push off with your right foot while pressing your left foot into the ground to use the inner thigh muscles to bring your body back to the starting position. Perform 4 to 6 reps on the right hip, then switch legs for a total of 8 to 10 repetitions. As you get stronger, add 2 reps per week until you can do 16 to 20 repetitions on each side. Correct Your Form While stepping back and to the right with the right leg, squeeze the muscles of your left thigh and keep your left foot pressed into the ground to help stabilize and protect the left knee. Most of the movement should come from your left hip joint. Keep your spine long so that as you step back and plant your foot on the ground (the right in the instructions) you have the ability to raise the medicine ball directly over your head without any restrictions. [image: ] SANDBAG EXERCISES FOR CORE STRENGTH Controlling the movement of a weight through gravity while standing in an upright position challenges a number of muscles to work together to create and control the movements, which is one of the greatest benefits of using a small, handheld sandbag for core strength training. Like a medicine ball, you can use a sandbag to perform pushing and pulling movements, rotational movements, and hinging, squatting, and lunging movements. A significant difference between a medicine ball and a sandbag is that the softer, more pliable surface of a sandbag allows for an easier way to grip the weight because your hands can squeeze the surface while moving the weight, helping to improve grip strength. Exercise Sets Repetitions One-leg hip bridge 2 6-8 each leg V-sit with press 2 6-8 Reverse lunge with rotation (over forward leg) 2 5-6 each leg Single leg Romanian deadlift 2 5-6 each leg One-arm bent-over row 2 6-8 each arm Lateral lunge with forward press 2 5-6 each leg Transverse plane lunge reach to ground with overhead press 2 5-6 each leg Perform this workout as a circuit with little-to-no rest between each exercise, rest for 90 seconds to 2 minutes after completing all exercises. One-Leg Hip Bridge Benefits Strengthening the muscles responsible for extending the hip on one leg at a time in this position can help improve strength for standing one-leg exercises such as lunges, single-leg Romanian deadlifts, and single-leg squats. The cyclic action of one hip flexing while the other extends is also effective for improving ROM of the joint during extension exercises. Instructions Lie flat on your back with your left leg extended and right leg bent so the heel is on the floor. Pull the toes of the right foot up toward the shin. Place the sandbag on top of the right hip, and keep your left leg along the floor. Keep your upper back flat along the floor as you push your right heel into the ground while pressing your right hip up toward the ceiling and pulling your left knee toward your chest (your left knee should be moving up toward your chest as you press your right foot down to extend the hip). Pause at the top of the movement before lowering yourself back down with the right hip. Perform 6 to 8 reps with the right hip, then switch legs, for a total of 12 to 16 reps. As you get stronger, add 2 reps per week until you can do 16 to 20 reps on each side. Correct Your Form To increase activation of the glute muscles that extend the hip, focus on pushing your heel into the ground and hip up to the ceiling as you lift your hip off the ground. When placing your heel on the ground, it should be approximately 18 inches (46 cm) from your hip. Too far and you could use more of your back muscles; too close and it could cause cramping in the hamstrings. It may be necessary to hold the sandbag on your hip. For example, use your right hand when using the right hip. Keeping the toes pulled up toward the shin will help improve strength of the muscles along the front of the lower leg while stretching the muscles on the back of the lower leg. [image: ] V-Sit With Press Benefits This exercise coordinates muscle actions between the shoulders and hips while strengthening the muscles responsible for stabilizing the spine to help improve posture. Instructions Start in a seated position with your feet in front of your hips so that your knees are bent. Keep your spine long and straight, and hold the sandbag in front of your chest. Contract your abdominals by bracing your core muscles. (Think about getting punched in the stomach to contract all layers of muscle together.) Pick your feet up off the ground and balance on your tailbone while slowly pressing the sandbag away from the front of your body, hold at the end of the movement before slowly pulling it back to your chest—it should be 2-3 seconds in each direction. Perform for 6 to 8 reps. As you get stronger, add 2 reps per week until you can do 16 to 20 reps. Correct Your Form When starting, keep your feet close to your body. As you increase your strength and ability to hold the position, start straightening your legs away from your body. The purpose of pushing the sandbag in front of your body is to change the leverage and increase the workload on the muscles. If it is too challenging, keep the sandbag close to your body. TIP To increase intensity, straighten your legs in front of your body to increase the lever arm, which adds resistance to strengthen the muscles while holding the position. [image: ] Reverse Lunge With Rotation (Over Forward Leg) Benefits Your shoulders and hips counterrotate over one another as you walk and run. This exercise uses your muscles the same way to improve core strength in a standing position. This exercise helps improve the strength of the external and internal obliques as they work together to rotate the trunk. Lying on the ground to perform normal oblique crunches uses only the external obliques in the front of the body, creating a possible muscle imbalance. Instructions Stand with your feet approximately hip-width apart as you hold the sandbag directly in front of your chest with both hands. Keep your elbows tucked next to your rib cage and your spine long as you step back with your right foot and sink into your left hip. At the bottom of the movement, make sure not to let your right knee hit the ground, and keep your spine tall as you rotate to your left over your left leg. Return to center. To return to the starting position, press your left foot into the ground and swing your right leg forward. Perform 5 to 6 reps with the left hip, stepping back with the right leg, then switch legs for a total of 10 to 12 reps. As you get stronger, add 2 reps per week until you can do 16 to 20 reps on each side. Correct Your Form Keep your front foot planted on the floor as you step back with your other leg. When stepping forward, press your foot into the ground and think about pulling from the back of your leg. Keep your spine long and straight as you rotate over the forward leg. TIP To increase your strength, extend your arms in front of your body before making the rotation. The further the sandbag is from your body, the harder the muscles will have to work. [image: ] Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift Benefits Exercising on one leg can improve balance and coordination while also focusing all of the strength into the working muscles on the stance or balance leg. Exercising on one leg can engage a number of core muscles to maintain control of posture and balance during the movement. Instructions Stand with your feet hip-width apart, your spine lengthened, your right foot pressed firmly into the ground, and your left knee slightly bent so that the toes of your left foot are resting on the ground. Hold the sandbag in your left hand directly in front of your thigh. Push your hips back as you begin to lift your left foot off the ground. Keep your spine long as you straighten your left leg and point your left foot directly behind you. Continue hinging forward from your hips to a comfortable distance. Allow the sandbag to lower to the floor in a straight line directly in front of your body. To return to standing, pull the bottom of your right pelvis down toward the back of your right thigh while swinging the left leg down toward the floor. Perform 5 to 6 reps standing on the right leg, then switch legs for a total of 10 to 12 reps. As you get stronger, add 2 reps per week until you can do 16 to 20 reps on each side. Correct Your Form When hinging forward on the right leg (as in the instructions), keep your left leg straight and point your toes. Straightening your left leg will help you control the hinge on your right. Keep your spine long and straight throughout the movement. [image: ] One-Arm Bent-Over Row Benefits Doing a one-arm row in a hinged position—without supporting yourself with the other arm—can recruit more of the deep stabilizer muscles that control your spine. This exercise will help integrate the strength of the muscles connecting the hips and upper back. Instructions Keep feet hip- to shoulder-width apart. Hold the sandbag in your left hand. Keep your spine long and straight as you hinge forward at your hips. Stop at a point where you are leaning forward, and plant your feet into the ground for stability. Keep your right arm by your side; try not to use it to brace yourself. Keep your left elbow close to your rib cage and pull the sandbag toward your waist, then slowly lower it to the starting position. Perform 6 to 8 reps with the left arm, then switch arms for a total of 12 to 16 reps. As you get stronger, add 2 reps per week until you can do 16 to 20 repetitions on each side. Correct Your Form Hold the sandbag with your hand, but as you pull it toward your body, think about pulling from your elbow. This will use more of your back muscles. Hinging forward without bracing yourself (the right arm in the instructions) will challenge you to use more deep muscles to help stabilize an unbalanced load in your spine. [image: ] Lateral Lunge With Forward Press Benefits The sideways movement of this lunge variation strengthens the hip muscles to enhance control and stability. Adding the forward press increases leverage to activate more muscles of the posterior chain, including the spinal and hip extensors. Instructions Stand with both feet hip-width apart. Grip the sandbag in both hands and hold it in front of your chest so that your elbows are tucked in close to your body. Maintain a long spine as you step directly to your left with your left leg. Keep your right foot planted on the floor and squeeze your right thigh to help stabilize your knee. As your left foot hits the floor, push your left hip back to hinge into your left hip as you press the sandbag directly in front of your chest. At the bottom of the lunge, pause and pull the sandbag back toward your chest while pressing your right foot into the floor and pushing off with your left foot. Complete 5 to 6 reps on the left leg before switching to the right, for a total of 10 to 12 reps. As you get stronger, add 2 reps per week until you can do 16 to 20 reps on each side. Correct Your Form When stepping to the side (to the left in the instructions), keep your right foot pressed into the ground and make sure that both feet are parallel as the left foot hits the ground. While lowering into the lunge, think about pushing your tailbone directly behind you to create the proper movement. If pushing the sandbag forward is too challenging, keep it close to your chest. As you become stronger (and you will), begin pushing it forward for only a couple reps at a time. [image: ] Transverse Plane Lunge Reach to Ground with Overhead Press Benefits The transverse plane lunge takes the hip through all three planes to help improve joint mobility as well as enhance strength of the muscles that control joint motion. The reach to ground with overhead press lift helps involve the extensor muscles of the posterior chain to improve postural strength as well as the coordination between the hips and shoulders. Instructions Stand with your feet hip-width apart, and hold the sandbag in front of your waist with both hands. Keep your left foot pointed straight ahead (the twelve o’clock direction). Step back with your right foot and place it facing in the three or four o’clock direction. As your right foot hits the ground, push your weight back into your right hip while reaching for the ground in front of your foot with the sandbag (keep your left foot pointed straight ahead). To return to standing, push off the ground with your right foot as you press your left foot into the ground to pull yourself with the inner thigh muscles of your left leg. As you return to standing, push the sandbag directly overhead, then lower it and begin the next rep. Complete 5 to 6 reps, including the overhead press, on the right leg before switching to the left, for a total of 10 to 12 reps. As you get stronger, add 2 reps per week until you can do 16 to 20 reps on each side. Correct Your Form If you are not able to comfortably reach all of the way to the ground, reach to the level of your knee. When doing the overhead press, keep both elbows pointed to the front of your body. [image: ] TWO-ARM RESISTANCE BAND EXERCISES FOR CORE STRENGTH In a gym or health club, the adjustable cable machine is often one of the most underutilized pieces of equipment, and when it is used, it is not to the best of its ability. A two-arm resistance band allows for a number of cable machine–type exercises to be performed anywhere you can identify a secure anchor point for the band. The benefit of using either a two-arm resistance band or cable machine is that you can perform pushing, pulling, or rotating movements from a standing position, which will engage most of the muscles responsible for controlling both stability and mobility. These exercises can be some of the most effective movements for developing the core strength that can help you to enjoy all of your favorite activities. Exercise Sets Repetitions Standing crunch (facing away from anchor point) 2 8-10 High-to-low band chop 2 5-6 each side Lunge to one-arm pull 2 5-6 each side Split squat with trunk rotation 2 5-6 each side Two-hand forward press 2 6-8 each side Squat-to-row 2 6-8 One-arm press 2 6-8 each side Perform this workout as a circuit with little-to-no rest between each exercise, rest for 90 seconds to 2 minutes after completing all exercises. Standing Crunch (Facing Away From Anchor Point) Benefits The abdominal muscles help control movement between your rib cage, spine, and pelvis as you walk. This exercise strengthens your RA muscles the way they are designed to function. Instructions Place the end of the resistance band at head height or higher (up to 12 inches [30 cm]). Stand facing away from the anchor point with both feet hip-width apart while keeping your pelvis level and your knees slightly bent so that you are pulling against the resistance. Hold both ends of the band in both hands and keep them directly over the top of your head. Both of your elbows should be pointed forward. To perform the movement, draw your belly button in to your spine and shift your rib cage down toward the top of your pelvis. Focus on rolling your rib cage down against the pull of the band, then slowly return to the top. Perform 8 to 10 reps. As you get stronger, add 2 reps per week until you can do 18 to 20 reps. To increase the intensity, move farther away from the anchor point. Correct Your Form The abdominals attach from the front of your rib cage to the bottom of your pelvis, so the movement should focus on pulling these two parts together as opposed to bending or rounding forward from the spine. Once you can do 18 to 20 reps, add some variety: Place your right foot approximately 18 inches (46 cm) in front of your left for 8 to 10 reps, then place your left foot forward for 8 to 10 reps. [image: ] High-to-Low Band Chop Benefits The rotation of your trunk combined with the lateral shift of the hips uses the muscles responsible for controlling both stability and rotational mobility of your spine and hips, respectively. Instructions Anchor the resistance band at or slightly above (up to 18 inches [46 cm]) shoulder height. Step away from the anchor point until you have a minimal amount of tension when holding both handles in your hands. Stand so that the right side of your body is facing the anchor point with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart. Grip both handles with your right hand first before placing your left hand on top; start with your hands in front of your right shoulder and your weight in your right leg. Push your right foot into the ground as you rotate your hands in front of your body while shifting your weight into your left leg. Keep both arms in front of your body and rotate your torso while lowering your hands from shoulder to hip height. Keep your spine straight the entire time. At the bottom of the movement, your weight should be in your left hip and your hands in front of your left leg. To return your hands to their initial position above your right shoulder, push your left foot into the floor as you slowly rotate both hands in front of your body. Complete 5 to 6 reps moving from right to left, then switch directions. (When you switch, your left hand should hold the handles and your right hand should be on top.) Perform the same number of reps, for a total of 10 to 12 repetitions. As you get stronger, add 2 reps per week until you can do 16 to 20 reps on each side. Correct Your Form If holding both handles is too challenging, use just one handle, but stand further from the anchor point for more resistance. Keep both feet parallel. Rotate from the trunk as you shift your weight from your right to left hip (in the instructions). Press your feet into the ground to create stability so that you rotate from both hip joints. [image: ] Lunge to One-Arm Pull Benefits Pulling from a single-leg balance requires using most of the muscles that control spinal stability as well as the muscles that control motion of the hip to hold the balanced position. Balancing on the one leg while pulling with the opposite arm strengthens your core muscles the way they function when walking or running, making this one of the most effective core exercises that you will love to dislike. Instructions Place the anchor point at or above head height. Stand facing the anchor so that your right foot is forward and your left leg is back, with the ball of your foot on the ground. Grip one (or both if the band’s resistance is not that hard) of the handles in your left hand so that your palm is facing the midline of your body. Stand far enough away from the anchor point so that there is tension on the band with no slack. Lower yourself into a static lunge so that your left knee moves closer to the floor while you continue to hold your left arm straight out in front of you. At the bottom of the movement, push your right foot into the floor as you pull back with your left hand, keeping your left elbow close to your body while lifting your left leg off the ground to swing it forward as you balance on your right leg. Hold the standing position balanced on your right leg with your left hand back by your chest. Pause for one second before slowly extending your left arm and lowering yourself back into a lunge position with your left leg behind you. Perform 5 to 6 reps with your left hand and right leg, then switch to the other limbs for a total of 10 to 12 reps. As you get stronger, add 2 reps per week until you can do 16 to 20 reps on each side. Correct Your Form Having more tension on the band helps you keep control of your body, so you want to start with the band already slightly stretched. If you need more resistance, hold both handles in one hand. When pulling back on the band, think about pulling from your elbow. This is the attachment point for your upper back muscles and will help increase the fluidity of the movement. As you lower yourself in to the lunge, stop before your knee hits the ground. [image: ] Split Squat With Trunk Rotation Benefits This exercise creates rotational strength of trunk muscles while maintaining a neutral, static position with your hips. It also improves coordination between your upper and lower body. Instructions Place the anchor point of the resistance band at approximately shoulder height. Stand so the right side of your body is facing the anchor point, and place your left leg forward and right leg back to hold yourself in a static lunge position. You should be far enough away so that there is a slight amount of tension on the band with no slack. Hold one handle in both hands with the left hand down first and the right hand on top. Extend both arms straight in front of your body, and lower yourself so that you are sinking into your left hip. Hold the bottom position and rotate over your left leg. Pause for 1 to 2 seconds at the end of the rotation, then rotate back to the starting position and raise yourself up to the starting height. Perform 5 to 6 reps with your left leg forward, then turn around and switch to your right leg forward so that you are rotating to the right. Complete a total of 10 to 12 reps. As you get stronger, add 2 reps per week until you can do 16 to 20 reps on each side. Correct Your Form Stand far enough away so that there is tension on the band at the start of the movement. Keep your front leg pressed into the ground to increase stability, and maintain a tall, long spine during the entire movement. If you need more resistance, first move further away from the anchor point, then grab both handles in your hands. [image: ] Two-Hand Forward Press Benefits This exercise is a progression from the front plank, which takes place in a face-down position, to increase the strength and coordination between your hips and shoulders. You will also strengthen the muscles that stabilize your spine. As they become stronger, they can give the appearance of a flatter stomach. Instructions Place the anchor point of the resistance band at approximately shoulder height, and stand with feet hip-width apart and with the left side of your body facing the anchor point. Keep your pelvis level, with your knees slightly bent during the exercise so that you are anchoring yourself with your hips and feet—the harder you press your feet into the ground, the more you engage and activate your core muscles. Stand far enough away from the anchor point so that there is tension on the band. Grip a handle in both hands so that your fingers are laced together. Begin with your elbows in by your sides so they are touching your rib cage. Keep your spine tall and long as you press the handle forward. Pause at the end of the movement for 2 to 3 seconds before slowly pulling your elbows back to your sides. Perform 6 to 8 reps with your right side facing the anchor point, then turn around and switch so that your right side is facing the anchor point, for a total of 12 to 16 reps. As you get stronger, add 2 reps per week until you can do 16 to 20 reps on each side. Correct Your Form For optimal stability, keep both feet pressed into the ground while squeezing your thighs and glutes. To add more resistance, step further away from the anchor point to increase the tension, or hold both handles in your hands. [image: ] Squat-to-Row Benefits Pulling movements from a standing position can integrate both the large muscles of the upper back, with the larger muscles responsible for extending the hips and legs. Using more muscle mass can increase energy expenditure while improving strength. Instructions Place the anchor point of the band at approximately chest height, and stand facing the anchor point far enough away so that there is tension on the band. Hold one handle in each hand so that your thumbs are pointed up to the ceiling and your palms are facing each other. Keep both feet hip-width apart and your spine tall and long. Lift your chest, hold your arms straight in front of you, and push your hips back to lower yourself into a squat. At the bottom of the squat, continue to keep your arms extended, and hold your spine long as you push your feet into the ground to return to the standing position. While you’re standing up, pull the handles toward your body, keeping your arms parallel to the floor and elbows close to your side. Your hands should reach the front of your body as you reach the standing position. Pause and slowly extend your arms as you drop down into the next squat. Perform 6 to 8 reps. As you get stronger, add 2 reps per week until you can do 18 to 20 reps. Correct Your Form For optimal resistance, stand far enough away so there is tension on the band when you start the exercise. To increase stability, keep both feet pressed into the ground. Work on the timing so that your arms are moving forward as you lower yourself into the squat and so they are moving back toward your body as you return to the standing position. [image: ] One-Arm Press Benefits Pushing from one side of your body can help recruit more muscles to generate and maintain stability through your hips and spine. Chest presses from a standing position allow more motion through the shoulder blade when compared to normal chest presses on a hard bench, which can restrict motion of the shoulder blade. Instructions Place the anchor point of the band at approximately chest height. Stand facing away from the anchor point far enough away so that there is tension on the band. Hold one handle in the left hand (if the band is lower resistance, grip both handles to increase the level of difficulty). Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and with your right foot slightly forward. The heel of the right foot should be even with the toes on your left. Hold your pelvis level and your spine tall and long, with your knees slightly bent. Press both feet into the floor as you press your left arm forward. Pause at the end for 1 second before slowly bringing your arm back to the starting position. Perform 6 to 8 reps with your left arm, then switch to use your right, for a total of 12 to 16 reps. As you get stronger, add 2 reps per week until you can do 18 to 20 reps on each side. Correct Your Form Keep your spine long, and lift your chest as you press your arm forward. To increase resistance, move further away from the anchor po