Back Bridge Glute Extensions

Starting off in the supine 1/2 leg position, fold the arms and raise the elbows forward to align the upper back and shoulders; brace the adbomen in so the bellybutton is drawn toward the spine . . .

.. . and contract the bum muscles so that your weight begins to lift. Try to leave the calves relaxed secure, and notice how the lower back plays a part in keeping the pelvis straight.

Going from the raised position is this neat little variant, the add-on of a leg extension. This nicely warms up the rotary core muscles if you concentrate on the weight shift of switching legs - in other words put an imaginary drink on your pelvis and try not to spill it.

It also builds deep hip stability, but can also influence knee ligaments so introduce gradually if you suspect a knee injury.

Abdominal Curls

Back to the supine position, settle your shoulder blades into the floor and prepare to “dive” into the ceiling.

Brace in the adbomen until you feel your lower back flatten to floor and . . .

. . . raise yourself, leaving the very last few of the vertebrae on the floor. When returning, lay each vertebrae in order from the low back upwards. Relax the hip flexors throughout, and for extra points keep the shoulder girdle nuetral.

Leg Raises

Warm in to the exercise by letting the knees “help out” by bending. As the front of the hips and thighs begin to warm, progress to the straight legged version.

For the straight legged version, the aim is to raise the legs smoothly - individually or, as here, together . . .

. . . now this for some people really pulls on the pelvic girdle, so brace your low back with your hands to either side of your tailbone; concentrate on the movement of the legs at the hip joint; less movement at the sacroiliac joint means better core muscle control - so keep that stomach firm and braced.

Box Arm/Leg Extensions a.k.a. “box kinetics”

Hands under shoulders, knees under hips, and we’re in the box position.

We can go a number of places from here, and one of them is arm and leg extensions; training the posterior kinetic chain can be achieved nicely by extending opposite limbs . . .

. . . the exercise is in keeping the spine level and neutral - so move the limbs, and only the limbs.

Beginners can warm to this really quickly by just moving one limb at a time - remember, the point is not in moving the limb, it’s in using the body’s deep muscles to maintain perfect balance DESPITE the limb moving!

The Squat - The Daddy of Exercises!

It’s easy to over teach this one; if you can sit on a chair and stand up again unsupported, then you can squat. If you need support, then a broom handle or even a chair can be used to hold on to.

Keep it natural. It should be smooth and controlled. The key rules are:

  1. Heels stay on the ground
  2. Knees track over toes

Different people naturally squat higher or lower than others; you can find out your limits by keeping the feet flat on the floor, let the knees track over the feet; the spine stays at the same curvature throughout . . .

. . . a neat trick to getting your feet positioned is to prepare for a big jump . . . a really big jump . . . but instead of jumping, look at your feet - and that’s probably the best foot position for you to use . . .

. . . heels down . . . line of the shin parallel to the line of the back . . .

. . . having the fingers touching the collar bones so that the elbows can be raised supports the thoracic spine and shoulder girdle from “caving in”.

Oblique Curls

A nice little exercise, I like to use this at the end of a session as well; concentrate on technique to reap the benefit with this one.

Using a crooked leg as resistance, twist and crunch; try to bring your elbow to your knee . . .

. . . don’t pull on the head/neck, and keep the tailbones in touch with the floor.

Side Plank

Can be held for a few seconds at a time as part of a warm up, and held for longer periods to test deep core strength.

Remember to keep the knees slightly bent with the legs straight, and for beginners try it on your knees rather than on the side of the foot.

Side Plank Stars

A more taxing variation should you wish to advance.

Prone Back Extension a.k.a. “Supermans”

Lay face down on the ground and make yourself ‘long’.

Beginning with the hands and feet, start ‘peeling’ your arms and legs off the floor. . .

. . . until only your tummy remains touching the ground.

Return under control, ‘switching off’ the outer arms and legs last.

Press Up (standard)

From the plank, with hands comfortably beneath shoulders, let the elbows fold and lower the body to near the floor.

Push the ground away and maintain a neutral spine to return.

Note that the spine needs to remain supported with good abdominal control.

This is a fantastic strength builder, and a healthy individual, male or female, should be able to do this. If you’re not quite there yet though, try . . .

. . . doing the press ups with the knees as the pivot point; for knee health, try to use the fleshhy part of the thigh above the knee cap to rock on, and don’t be afraid of padding the knees with pillows if necessary.

Single Leg Squat Thrusts

From the plank, bringing a knee up to the elbow and then returning it back again turns it into a prone leg raise. Taking the knee wide on its way to the elbow makes a nice hip-roll; very good for the outer thighs.

For variations, try bringing the same knee to first one, then the other elbow to get a nice twist into the exercise, and/or intersperse them with standard press ups.

Decline Press

Although the body is at an upwards angle, this is a decline press because the arms are pushing downwards as far as the shoulders are concerned.

You may well want your hands a little wider for this than with the standard press up position.

I don’t let beginners come to their knees for this, instead we raise the box to elevate the body and thus lower resistance.

For the advanced, this goes great in an endurance phase or in a chest superset.

Incline Press

As per the standard press up, but with feet raised.

Remember to breathe comfortably; this puts a lot of strain on the rib cage and not advised for hypertensives.

To increase intensity, raise the height of the bench.

For variations, try doing circles with your upper body - bring your chest down to one hand, hover across the floor to the other hand and raise up, as if drawing large circles with your head.

Med Ball Press Up

For a little fun, and also handy for overall strength, do a press up with the ball under one hand . . .

. . . and when you push up roll the ball . . .

. . . across to your other hand and repeat.