Maximum Strength Exercises!

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Unfortunately, most days are not about refining fitness but more likely are about maintenance. I try to figure how much workout I can get out of 54 minutes, including time to change clothes. We asked Pure Austin Fitness Specialist Tiziana Gann which strength exercises she would pick for maximum benefit. In these demos, Gann chose to use a type of foam roller to add some bang for the buck. In most cases, any type of “unstable” prop like a stability ball or a BOSU could be substituted for the foam roller. In some, the prop will create extra instability (more muscle recruitment); in others, it will add in some myofascial release (a more “pointed” type of massage). A foam roller such as this can be found at Pure Austin Fitness or purchased online.

One of the most universal resistance training movements is the squat. The squat calls to action the large frontal thigh muscles named the quadriceps and the powerful gluteus (otherwise known as the butt muscle). Here Gann demonstrates a wall squat with the foam roller positioned behind her back, though a stability ball or soft medicine ball would also work well. The prop provides her some additional feedback, giving her something to press against while she draws her core into her back body, engaging her abs. It also can provide a little back massage (nice!) this can also be per- formed as a squat and hold–start with 30 seconds and work up to a minute or longer. Youch! That’s tough stuff that you will definitely feel the next day. Gann says to start with 3 sets of 20 reps each. Every day deserves a squat or 50!

Push-ups are another universal resistance exercise, which primarily build your chest and shoulders but also work your core. It’s critical to concentrate on distributing your energy throughout your entire “planked” body–think of pushing energy out through your feet! This will help get your whole body involved instead of just exhausting the arms. Gann chose to add a foam roller under one hand–this will both in- crease the instability and work one arm harder at time. Start with your hands shoulder-width apart; keep your back straight (i.e. don’t stick your butt into the air); and lower yourself towards the ground until your upper arms are parallel with the floor. Push up and exhale as you do. You can start on your knees and work towards a full push-up. Do two sets, as many as you think you can do, then add two more. But keep good form the entire time!

Next, Gann shows us how to tone the backs of our legs with a hamstring lift, feet on the foam roller. This can also be performed with feet on a medicine ball, stability ball, or BOSU. Place your heels on the prop and lift your booty to the sky by pressing your heels into the prop. Press the glutes, but don’t clench. Repeat 30 times, take a break, then do it again! You should start to feel a deep burn right where you want to build some muscle. For added bonus, lift one leg up at a time.

One look at Gann’s abs will verify she’s a credible source of abdominal exercise info. Here she shows us a variation of the crunch, using the roller for added benefit. Again, a BOSU or stability ball can be used to add some extra oomph to this crunch exercise.
Raise your upper back a few inches off the floor while slowly exhaling. You can take your right elbow to left knee and vice versa to target the oblique abdominals (sides of your abs). The key with these is to make sure that your abs are doing the work; don’t strain your neck.

Gann reminded us of the myriad of reasons that 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity as often as possible (every day!?) is critical to long-term health and overall happiness. Add some of these great fundamental exercises into that program. See you in the gym!

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