By: Andrew Wolf, Exercise Physiologist M.ED, R.C.E.P.
Amp up your workout by simply tweaking these five common movements. Burn more calories and more effectively target the muscle groups which will lead to better results.
1. Plank = GOOD
The plank is a good, all-purpose core strengthening exercise but by the time you can proudly hold a plank for 2 minutes straight it is not helping much. You are basically getting better at holding the plank but you are not getting stronger.
Plank with row = BETTER
By simply taking the plank and widening the foot stance to about double shoulder width and grabbing a resistance band even the most hardened plank masters can be brought to submission in about 15-20 seconds. When a core exercise brings fatigue in a short period of time (15-20 seconds) you are actually getting stronger not just getting better at gym tricks.
2. Side plank=GOOD
As with the plank the side plank is a good core exercise that has the ability to engage the oblique muscles of the core.
Plank with row=BETTER
Throw a resistance band into the mix and not only does it increase the difficulty but you get a decent bicep and latissimus workout at the same time. This is why I incorporate bands when I can. Anything with a band suddenly involves more muscles than the original exercise ever could.
The squat is a key exercise for everything from basic function to high level competition but it generally does not do much to improve balance and you do not get as much glute involvement until you get pretty deep into the squat.
Step up with high knee=BETTER
Find a stable platform that is 8-16 inches high (the higher the step the harder it is). Stand with one foot on the platform and one on the ground. Now check your form. The knee of the leg that is on the platform should be bent quite a bit so your hips are square and you are not bent over. Now make sure the toes of the foot that are on the ground are flexed up so they are not touching the ground. In one swift motion straighten the knee of the foot that is on the platform while bringing the other knee up so it is bent at 90 degrees. This is a more functional exercise that created left/right symmetry, works on balance and creates a powerful glute contraction.
4. Bent over row=GOOD
Old standby that is good for the bicep and back while reinforcing posture.
Standing one arm row=BETTER
When you have the handle of the band in one hand and you are standing this creates a rotational torque that the muscles of your legs, back and abs all have to resist in unison while your biceps and lats pull the band.
5. Opposite arm leg = GOOD
Great low back and glute exercise appropriate for most of my clients.
Opposite arm leg on half rolls=BETTER
For this exercise put your right knee and left hand on half foam rollers. If you can do this make sure the toes on your right foot are not touching the ground. Now extend your right arm and left leg so they stretch straight out in front and behind you. Now bring your right elbow and left knee together under you so they touch while keeping the toes of your right foot off the floor. The instability of this exercise turns a very easy exercise into a humbling experience.