I’m so excited to bring in our first guest blogger, Matthew Laurie. I first met Matt when I started my job at American Express last year. I joined the fitness center and in my eyes, it didn’t take long for Matt to stand out. He not only kicks employees’ butts every day, he makes such a positive impact upon them (locker room talk can attest to this and to their sore muscles). I now leave you in his expert hands! Take it away Matt…
Change It Up with Multi-Dimentional Moves
If you are lucky enough to find yourself reading this article in any kind of gym or fitness related setting, take a second to look away from your mesmerizing LED screen (difficult I know) and observe the other individuals within your surroundings. What do you see? If you’re like most and in a predictable and typical commercial gym, you wouldn’t be too hard-pressed to find some individuals either hammering away a few bench presses or working their way through some leg presses, movements all too familiar to the common fitness folk. Now that we’ve gotten our dose of people watching in for the day (done inconspicuously I’m sure), ask yourself the following questions; Of all the movements and movement patterns you have just observed, how many of them are functional, complex movements that truly incorporate multiple muscle groups? How many of those also include the core muscles needed to stabilize the torso during the movement itself?
Odds are, probably not a lot of them. This scenario, unfortunately, comes as no surprise to those of us who work in the fitness industry. It’s time to take strength training out of the staid, one-dimensional plane and usher it into the world of the challenging multi-dimensional universe, where things like balance, ankle and trunk stability, and core strength are put to the test. After much scrutiny, pondering, head scratching, and water cooler talk amongst my fellow fitness colleagues, I have compiled a list of 5 exercises that I thoroughly believe all avid exercisers should add somewhere into their program.
Remember to start small if you are just beginning to exercise and seek medical clearance from your physician. Try 1-3 sets for 10 repetitions for each exercise.
#1. The Deadlift
What some call “The Mother of all Lifts” and a backbone exercise within most training programs, the deadlift requires focus, technique, and a lot of muscle synchronicity to be performed effectively.
Stand shoulder width apart. Grab bar just outside the width of your feet with straightened arms (your arms should not bend), squat down to 90 degrees, and lift chest to keep back flat and neutral. Pull bar off the ground by extending the hips, ensuring that the bar moves as soon as extension begins. Return weight to the floor by shifting your hips back while bending your legs back to starting position.
#2. The Reverse Lunge into Knee Lift
This move challenges the leg and core musculature in every functional aspect possible. If you’re looking to improve ankle stability, balance, strength and dynamic stability, this is the move for you.
Stand tall with your chest up and take a deep step backward. Keep front heel down and front knee behind toe during descent. Extend up from the floor and lift back leg into a bent, 90 degree position in front of the body. Repeat.
#3. Dumbbell Squat Press
One of, if not the first compound movement that one should learn is the squat press. It targets all of the major leg muscles, core musculature, and the powerful extensors of the shoulder muscles.
Stand tall with your glutes engaged and dumbbells up by shoulders. Squat down with a neutral spine/flat back until 90 degrees of flexion (parallel to the floor) is reached. Once a parallel squat has been achieved, drive upward from the floor by extending your legs, exhaling strongly and pressing the weight over your head. Be sure to finish the press with your biceps even with your ears and your arms fully extended. For Beginners, be sure that you are able to perform a proper body weight squat first. If an appropriate body weight squat can be done, then you can begin squat pressing with light weights.
4.) Kettle Bell Swing
An excellent introductory power movement for beginners, kettle bell swings engage the entire posterior chain (that’s the back side) of the body all at once and can be effective way to practice hip hinging. They’ll also tire you out (sneaky cardio!) If you don’t have a kettle bell handy, you can use a dumbbell.
With a firm grip with both hands on the kettlebell handle, extend hips backward and descend into controlled squat keeping your back flat. Forcefully extend hips forward as you stand up, driving the kettlebell upwards as you squeeze your glutes together. As the kettlebell returns downward, allow the kettlebell to swing down and back through your legs (think of a pendulum). Control the descent by keeping your abdominal muscles tight. As the kettlebell lowers back into starting position, move fluidly into the next repetition by re-extending your hips forward as you stand up.
5. Side Plank
A movement that is becoming more and more of a cure-all for lower back pain, discomfort, and weakness, side planks can certainly make for a stronger midsection and will keep you up and moving
Come onto your forearm and side body. Align bottom shoulder, hip, knee and ankle. Lift upwards with the hips with the legs stacked. When off the ground, align top and bottom shoulder.
My hope is that anyone who has the opportunity to read this piece takes the exercise recommendations stated above as merely just that; strong suggestions in the defense of movements that can undoubtedly prepare you for real world activities. At the end of the day, there is truly is no use for being a muscular, strong individual (not including aesthetics) if you cannot truly apply any of it to a real life situation that can arise at any moment. It’s a jungle out there and only the strong survive, so if you’re going to be strong and fit, do it in the most functional (or dysfunctional) , unorthodox and quirky way possible.