Five exercises to never miss in the gym
Getting in shape simply means ensuring your body is strong enough to do what you need to do, day after day. We all have different goals and expectations for our bodies. For example, CrossFit athletes have very different goals to marathon runners or gymnasts, but these athletes have more in common than you think! They all require, strength, cardiovascular fitness and flexibility to maintain health and performance. Whether your goal is to lose weight, increase muscle or improve endurance, these five important exercises should never be missed in the gym.
Exercise 1: Stretching
Flexibility training is often overlooked by weightlifters most likely because stretching is thought to decrease muscular size. After a workout muscles are pumped and even appear bigger, so the last thing you want, is to lose this feeling by stretching, right? But as we all know this pumped feeling doesn’t last for long. The blood and lactic acid leave the body a few hours’ after exercise and by not stretching you will leave the muscles in a semi-contracted state, which in turn very slightly decreases your range of motion.
Think about it this way, a few years ago you might have been able to use your arm to scratch your back, but nowadays you find yourself up against the wall trying to scratch the middle of your back. This isn’t because you have gained muscle, but it’s because you have lost flexibility.
To increase flexibility, you must stretch regularly during the day and especially after a workout. Stretching will help increase your range of motion, assist with gym technique and enhance muscle growth. Five stretches to include at the end of each workout are:
- Quadriceps (quad) stretch
- Hamstring stretch
- Chest stretch
- Back stretch
- Calf stretch
Exercise 2: Squat
The squat targets many muscles in the body with particular emphasis on the core, legs and the glutes. Incorporating variations of the squat helps to target muscles more specifically. The front squat (barbell in front of the face – resting on your chest) focusses more on the quadriceps, whereas the back squat (barbell placed behind the head) focusses more on the glutes and hamstrings. Changing the width of your stance will also affect the use of the muscles. A narrow stance uses the quadriceps more, whereas a wide stance concentrates on the glutes and hamstrings. The sumo stance targets the adductors.
Exercise 3: Deadlifts
One of the most popular exercises in the gym is the Deadlift. It is also one of the key exercise in many strength & conditioning programs. A Deadlift occurs when you load a bar with weight, then stand up, lifting the bar until your arms, legs and hips are fully extended.
One of the biggest benefits is that you can quickly and easily gain muscle with this exercise. This is because this exercise allows you to lift heavier weights than other exercises. In addition, this exercise releases testosterone, which has been shown to promote muscle growth. This strength gain is also practical. This is because it works the muscle groups that you use most when you lift heavy objects. It will also help you improve your grip strength.
Another important benefit that you gain from performing the deadlift is an increase in your core strength. This exercise works your back, hips and abs. In fact, studies have shown that this exercise works more muscle groups than any other form of exercise. The muscles strengthened through deadlifting are key to having a healthy posture and reducing the risk of encountering future back problems. It will also help you strengthen your joints to reduce the chances that they will be injured. Additionally, working this muscle group is key to generating maximum power when training.
Exercise 4: Core
Your core refers to your abdominal muscles, back muscles and muscles around your pelvis. The core muscles are responsible for many movements in your body. The group of muscles making up our core help us to bend forward, stretch backwards, move sideways, twist the hips and even stabilise the body while sitting still on a chair.
Strong core muscles are essential for many activities, including swinging a golf club, carrying shopping, running, walking and kicking a football. Weak core muscles can lead to poor posture, lower back pain and muscle injuries.
When you mention core exercises most people think of the basic abs crunch, they grab a mat, lay on their back and start contracting the abdominals. When people are doing crunches, they aren’t just wanting a stronger mid-section but they are also looking for fat loss and the elusive six pack. While core exercises are important for achieving defined abs, it takes aerobic activity (cardio) to burn abdominal fat and reveal the hidden muscles known as the six pack.
Exercises such as the plank, focus on preventing movement rather than creating it. Basic abs crunches are hard on your back, they push your curved spine against the floor and work your hip flexors. If your hip flexors are too tight lower back pain is caused.
At the beginning of each workout, include the following core exercises:
– Plank (hold to fatigue)
– Side plank (hold to fatigue – each side)
– Reverse curls
Exercise 5: Interval training
For those of you who are striving for that perfect beach body and a glowing six pack it is important to include cardio. You must have heard millions of times ‘to have a six-pack you need to reduce body fat’ this is true. Most of us have a six pack, but not many of us have one that is visible through the layers of belly fat.
First of all, a six pack starts in the kitchen – you can have the best training program of all time, but if your diet isn’t on track then your abs will remain hidden. One serve of Musashi Shred and Burn 30-minutes prior to a workout can help to burn fat while also assisting with muscle tone. Musashi 100% Whey added to a smoothie or breakfast cereal post-training can help to keep hunger at bay and reduce the chance of over eating throughout the day.
Cardiovascular plays an important role with results, most people believe the best way to burn fat is by doing long duration cardio at a slow to medium pace. This can work but it is time consuming and there is a much better way. Interval training i.e. fartlek or HIIT training help to burn fat – this means less time in the gym.
Benefits of interval training
- Working at a high intensity helps to burn more calories.
- High intensity workouts including HIIT training with weights boost growth hormone levels.
- Interval training elevates the metabolism and leaves it working hard for hours post-training.