Frankly, we are hard-pressed to think of someone who doesn’t aspire to be the proud owner of toned muscles and decent posture. Here, our resident physical trainer on four exercises to improve posture and increase strength, particularly in your glutes, hamstrings and those muscles between your shoulder blades. All important focuses for staying healthy, toned—and bathing suit ready. (Not that THAT is the point, but hey.)
Deadlifts This is the mother of all exercises. (In my opinion.) Using a heavy kettle bell, or even holding a dumbbell vertically, crouch down with your bottom back and keep your chest up. Grab whichever weight you decide to use with both hands, and drive your heels through the floor, engaging your back side and standing up tall. To start your descent, push your hips back as if you were trying to reach your bottom back towards a target and then sit down to reach your starting position. Focus on pushing your hips back and away from the weight you are lifting. Your goal should be to stand up quickly and lower the weight down slowly. Perform 3-4 sets of 6-10 reps. Upon completion of one set the weight should be such that you can do maybe 1-2 more.
Squats Start by bending the knees (not pushing the hips back!) and dropping toward your feet very slowly go as low as your body allows. Remember that those glutes activate most when your thighs are below parallel to the floor, so get those bottoms down! Once you reach the bottom, stand up as fast as you can. To increase the intensity, you can hold weights in up by your shoulders or even rest them on your shoulders. Perform 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.
Lying hamstring curls Adding these curls into your program will strengthen the knees and hip joints, as well as provide balance to the body. The hamstrings are fast twitch fibers, so feel free to go very heavy for as little as four reps up to as many as ten. Lower the weight for 4-5 seconds before pulling the weight up quickly, with the intent of kicking your butt with heels. This is a great exercise to super set with the deadlift; rest 30 seconds between each exercise.
Horizontal rows Focus on horizontal rows (instead of vertical rows) as one of the key exercises to improve posture (i.e. rid yourself of that slouched look we all fear). If you can stabilize yourself and keep a flat back when bent over, these rows are great for you to try. (If the flat back is difficult for you, then you can do seated rows, another horizontal row variation). Focus on driving your elbows back quickly and squeezing your shoulder blades for at least a full second before you release slowly to return to the start position. Perform 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps. This is a great exercise to super set with the squat; rest 30 seconds between each exercise.
Now, combining these four exercises, here is a sample workout to try:
- Deadlifts: 4 sets of 6-8 reps. Tempo: Slow down, up fast. Rest 45 seconds.
- Lying hamstring curls: 4 sets of 6-8 reps. Tempo: Very slow down, up fast. Rest 45 seconds.
- Squats: 4 sets of 8-10 reps. Tempo: Slow down, up fast. Rest 30 seconds.
- Seated row: 4 sets of 10-12 reps. Tempo: Pull fast, squeeze for 1 second, slow back. Rest 30 seconds.
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