Two Underrated Exercises You Should Be Doing
There’s a constant focus on what is new, flashy and trendy. And, to a certain extent, that’s fine. But in pursuing the new, the cutting-edge and the fresh, we can sometimes overlook the basics. As the summer schedule winds down and we transition to the slightly more stable fall, you may find your clients have a renewed focus on fitness. Here are a couple of old-school movements to train some fundamental movements well.
I remember doing these in gym class in elementary and middle school. All we did was lie on our backs and jerk our shoulders rapidly from side-to-side while kicking—more like flailing—the legs in and out, all at a pace that was way too fast. There wasn’t much ab work going on and we didn’t get tired until we did them for a long time.
Here’s the modern, updated version of the Bicycle Crunch from my book, Abs Revealed.
With this modern, updated version, you move more slowly and perform spinal flexion with rotation. And, no, your spine will not explode if you do crunches. The anti-crunch dogma is overblown, to say the least. Crunches are far from the most amazing exercise ever invented, but they have their place. (For more info on this topic, see the ACE articles When Pigs Crunch and Get Off the Pendulum.)
Adding these to your routine will target all of the abdominal muscles effectively so, unlike the old-school version of this exercise, you don’t need a ton of reps to get tired.
Keep reading, gentlemen. The glutes are perhaps one of the most important muscles in the body to train. All of my clients get glute work—female and male, young and old. The glutes are sometimes described as the brain of the lower body because they control everything that happens in your legs. Here are the basics of how to do a Glute Bridge from the ACE Exercise Library:
I’m taking you beyond the basics to make sure the glutes are the muscles actually doing the work on this exercise.
Over the years, I’ve had many people perform a glute bridge and inform me that they feel it in their hamstrings, low back and sometimes even the quads—everywhere but the glutes. If the glutes cannot create the desired movement, other muscles will jump in and take over to create what is expected.
In this case, I’ve found this systematic, thoughtful 4-step approach to performing the exercise to be very effective. Once this is mastered and your client begins to “feel” it in the glutes, the more fluid, standard technique can be used effectively.
- Posterior pelvic tilt (A helpful cue I have used is “Move your belly button toward your chin and your butt toward your heels.”)
- Lift butt off the floor
- Lift low back off the floor
- Lift middle back off the floor
At the top, position the hips slightly higher than the line connecting the shoulders and knees. This provides more glute action because it adds hip hyperextension. To return, just reverse the steps, 4-3-2-1. Quick cues are “Tilt – Butt lift – Low back lift – Mid back lift.”
Another factor here can be the reciprocal inhibition caused by tight hip flexors. The solution is to perform static stretching for the hip flexors immediately before performing the glute bridge. Here’s the most effective way to stretch the hip flexors: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqH8Rmeu1fs
Some have stated, incorrectly, that static stretching should not be done before strength training because it temporarily weakens muscles. Once again, extreme viewpoints are wrong. In this case, some weakening of an overactive muscle group is precisely what we want as it allows more neural drive to the glutes (rather than neural inhibition if we do not address potential hip-flexor hypertonicity prior to glute strengthening).
New ideas are great, but what has come before can often be effective if we know how to effectively use them and how to do the basics well. Fitness need not be dazzling to be effective. Effective exercises make the results dazzling.