Hey Angels and Alphas,
We all know there’s no shortage of exercises you can do to target any and every muscle group you want to work in the male and female fitness world. Just turn to Google, and you will instantly find a plethora of the best moves for abs, a bazillion lunge variations, and thousands of new planks you never knew existed… all of them attached to a fun new Instagram challenge for you to try.
And while it’s never a bad thing to have options, all of these exercises can make it seem like the only way to really work your muscles the right way is to do it through countless bizarre ways and complex moves.
But fitness doesn’t have to be – and actually shouldn’t be – that complicated.
The more complicated an exercise is, often the less muscle engagement you’re actually going to have. When you favor such moves, you tend to forget about all the “old-school” exercises such as squats and pushups that have been the golden standard for years because they work really well.
Simple stuff works better than anything if you’re doing it correctly.
Today, we’re here to talk about three of the simplest exercises that are more effective than you would initially think. You’ll be surprised at how difficult they are to complete when you perform them properly. But that’s where their beauty lies.
#1 THE PERFECT SQUAT
Squatting is an essential functional movement. You do it all day without even thinking about it. Whenever you pick up your kid, lift a heavy bag of groceries, or sit in a chair, you’re doing squats. Since we squat so often in our day-to-day life, squatting in the gym could yield some benefits. And contrary to what most people will tell you, squats strengthen the muscles around your lower back and your knees.
If you want to do a perfect squat, start off with just your bodyweight until you reach perfect form. In both cases, here’s how the movement is performed:
Start by engaging your abs – this will stabilize your low back.
Push your glutes back, hinging at the hips initially, then go ahead and bend your knees to lower toward your feet. Allow your knees to freely travel forward. It’s completely OK if they move a bit past your toes, but make sure you don’t overextend too far — your torso and lower leg should stay parallel.
Then simply lower as far as you can without compromising this alignment in any way.
Pushups simply have all the criteria necessary to be an incredible exercise. You can do them anywhere, anytime, and you can even modify them in countless ways.
They work for any gym-goer from beginner to advanced, they are a compound movement meaning they work multiple muscle groups in the same exercise, and they’re effective for building strength.
And if that wasn’t enough, experts point to the fact that many people tend to focus on how much they can lift off the rack or floor, but during the negative part of an exercise (in which you lower the weight) people tend to let gravity do the work for them instead of controlling the movement.
Pushups will force you to move more slowly throughout an exercise, helping you build more strength.
To do a perfect pushup, go slowly and maximize your muscle engagement.
Perform pushups in which you don’t bang out tons of reps but instead lower yourself to the count of 3 or 4, then go back up to the count of 1 or 2. Focus on getting great range of motion. Begin the exercise at the top with your elbows almost locked and lowered. Then push back up.
3. GLUTE BRIDGES
If you suddenly decided to stop doing your glute bridges because you weren’t feeling them in your glutes enough, you’re just not doing them correctly. That’s no reason to abandon the exercise altogether.
Glute bridges are to lower body exercises what your usual pushup is to upper body exercises. They’re an essential strengthening movement. They teach the body to move with the glutes as the “boss” of all the lower-body movements.
To do the perfect glute bridge, peel yourself off the mat slowly rather than lifting yourself up. Here are the four steps to a perfect glute bridge:
- Start by tilting your hips to eliminate the space between the mat and your lower back.
- Lift your glutes slowly off the floor without lifting your back.
- Now lift your lower back off the mat, putting yourself at the top of the glute bridge.
- Return to your starting position by simply reversing through all four steps.