U is for Under/Over

Under/Over has a couple of different interpretations in fitness. My personal favorite, and the one I choose to showcase in this context is a side plank variation.

Step 1: Assume side plank. From side plank, you’ll weave the top arm through the gap between the torso and supporting arm. This will twist the spine and also strengthen the obliques on the bottom side.

Step 2: Return to side plank.

Step 3: From side plank, you’ll reach your top arm long overhead. Arch your body like a rainbow by hoisting your top hip bone high to the sky! This will stretch the side of your body on the top side, and strengthen the obliques on the bottom side.

Toggle between “over” and “under” for 30-seconds. Switch to side plank on the other side. Toggle between “over” and “under” for 30-seconds.

“U” is for Over/Unders.
Do 1-minute of this move…

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T is for Triceps

The muscles on the backs of your arms can give your arms major definition.  Unlike biceps, which only have two heads, triceps have three heads.  They are strong, mighty, and, if trained, can seriously firm up the look and feel of your arms.

My favorite do-anywhere exercises for the triceps are tricep push-ups and tricep kickbacks.  Tricep kickbacks are typically done with dumbbells, but if you really focus your mind on contracting the triceps muscles at the apex of the kickback, you don’t need any equipment at all!  Body weight alone works wonders if you use your mind to trigger the muscles to contract.  Trust me, in only 60-seconds, this series of bodyweight only triceps exercises will have the backs of your arms feeling a’flame!

Perform 4 Tricep Push-ups (on your toes or on your knees).  Next, to perform 4 Tricep Kickbacks, slide your knees and shins in; lean forward over your thighs with your torso; lift your elbows just higher than your back; and flex/extend your elbows in-and-out.  Stay stable through the shoulders on the tricep kickbacks, only moving at the elbows.  Make a concerted effort to really tighten the tris at the end of the extension phase of the kickback.

Continue to toggle between 4 tricep push-ups and 4 tricep kickbacks.

“T” is for Triceps!
Do 1-minute of these moves…

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S is for Scaption

Scaption is an upper body exercise that tones the fronts and backs of your shoulders and your upper back.  It can improve your posture as well as improve the function of your rotator cuff.  This move is commonly done with light dumbbells, but you will definitely still “feel the burn” with body weight alone.

Just stand upright with your arms long by your sides to begin this exercise.  Next, raise your arms out to a “V” position, thumbs facing up. Stop the movement and hold the position, momentarily, when your arms reach shoulder height. Make an effort to really squeeze in your upper back “posture” muscles.

“S” is for Scaption!
Do 1-minute of this move…

 

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R is for Renegade Rows

Renegade Rows are core and back exercises.  They are performed in plank position and can be modified to “all 4s.”  Try to avoid rotating your hips as you remove the one balance point and pull your elbow past your ribcage in the row.  This exercise is commonly done with dumbbells, but master it first with body weight alone.

R is for Renegade Rows!
Do 1-minute of this move…

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Q is for Quadriceps

Quadriceps (“quads”) are the four muscles that work together as a fierce unit of strong workers on the fronts of the thighs.  They work together with the gluteus maximus (ehem, your butt) in many exercises, including walking, jogging, lunging, cycling, rollerblading, skiing, and tons more!  But the exercise that first comes to mind when I think quads-and-glutes is a squat.  For toned quads and glutes, the squat is king.  There are many variations of squats, but a good place to start is just a standard body weight squat.  Master this move before adding extra load!

“Q” is for Quadriceps.
Do 1-minute of this move…

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P is for Push- Ups

Push-ups are more than an upper body strengthening exercise. Push-ups develop tone in the chest, shoulders, triceps, abs, and lower back. Performed on the toes, the challenge and benefit for each of these areas is enhanced! When performed on the toes, push-ups add static strength for the glutes and thighs, as well.

“P” is for Push-Ups.
Do 1-minute of this move…

It takes weeks of deliberate work to develop the strength and stability necessary for these muscles to support the full weight of your body and properly perform repetitive push-ups on your toes. Here’s an 8-week plan to get you there!

Need #1: Strong and stable core, engaged glutes and thighs
Solution: Plank Holds
HOW: Position your hands directly beneath your shoulders and curl your toes to grip the floor. Lift up. Gage with a mirror to be sure your body angle creates a straight diagonal line from shoulder to hip to heel. Squeeze your glutes tightly, brace through your abs, and hold tension throughout the body on the plank hold.

Need #2: Chest Strength
Solution: Pec Presses
HOW: Lay flat on your back on a mat or bench. Bend your elbows to 90-degrees. Exhale and press the dumbbells together over your chest. Inhale and return the dumbbells to starting position.

Need #3: Strong, Mobile Shoulders
Solution: Push-Ups on Knees
HOW: Lay belly-facing-down on a mat with your hands wider than shoulders-width, just below shoulders-height. Bend your knees and apply the pressure of your body weight to the bottoms of your quadriceps, not directly on top of your kneecaps. Exhale and lift up until your elbows are fully extended, but not locked out. Inhale and return to starting position.

Need #4: Strong abs
Solution: Hollow Rock Hold
HOW: Lay belly-facing-up on a mat. Turn your palms up. Engage your abs and lift your head, neck, and upper back off the floor; likewise, squeeze your legs together, point your toes, and lift your feet 24-36” off the floor. Depress your shoulders and reach your fingertips towards your feet.

Need #5: Strong wrists, stable shoulders
Solution: Push Planks
HOW: Assume plank position, described above. Bend your right arm to drop your forearm to the floor, then left arm- to position you in low plank. Extend your right arm, then your left to return to high plank. Repeat, bending left arm first. Continue alternating this sequence.

Need #5: Determination
Solution: Perform this prep-program every Mon, Wed, and Fri for 8-weeks
HOW: Make an unwavering commitment to the 3 day/week, 8-week program!

WEEK 1:
Perform…
• 4 sets of 15-second PLANK HOLDS, followed by 15-seconds of rest
• 10 repetitions of PEC PRESSES with a set of dumbbells, each weighing 15-20% of your body weight (collectively, pressing 30-40% of your body weight)
• 10 repetitions of PUSH-UPS ON KNEES
• 4 sets of 15-second HOLLOW ROCK HOLD, followed by 15-seconds of rest
• 4 sets of 15-second PUSH PLANKS, followed by 15-secons of rest

WEEK 2:
Perform…
• 3 sets of 20-second PLANK HOLDS, followed by 20-seconds of rest
• 12 repetitions of PEC PRESSES with a set of dumbbells, each weighing 15-20% of your body weight (collectively, pressing 30-40% of your body weight)
• 12 repetitions of PUSH-UPS ON KNEES
• 3 sets of 20-second HOLLOW ROCK HOLD, followed by 20-seconds of rest
• 3 sets of 20-second PUSH PLANKS, followed by 20-secons of rest

WEEK 3:
Perform…
• 3 sets of 20-second PLANK HOLDS, followed by 10-seconds of rest
• 14 repetitions of PEC PRESSES with a set of dumbbells, each weighing 15-20% of your body weight (collectively, pressing 30-40% of your body weight)
• 14 repetitions of PUSH-UPS ON KNEES
• 3 sets of 20-second HOLLOW ROCK HOLD, followed by 10-seconds of rest
• 3 sets of 20-second PUSH PLANKS, followed by 10-secons of rest

WEEK 4:
Perform…
• 2 sets of 30-second PLANK HOLDS, followed by 15-seconds of rest
• 16 repetitions of PEC PRESSES with a set of dumbbells, each weighing 15-20% of your body weight (collectively, pressing 30-40% of your body weight)
• 16 repetitions of PUSH-UPS ON KNEES
• 2 sets of 30-second HOLLOW ROCK HOLD, followed by 15-seconds of rest
• 3 sets of 30-second PUSH PLANKS, followed by 15-secons of rest

Week 5:
Perform…
• 2 sets of 45-second PLANK HOLDS, followed by 30-seconds of rest
• 18 repetitions of PEC PRESSES with a set of dumbbells, each weighing 15-20% of your body weight (collectively, pressing 30-40% of your body weight)
• 18 repetitions of PUSH-UPS ON KNEES
• 2 sets of 45-second HOLLOW ROCK HOLD, followed by 30-seconds of rest
• 2 sets of 45-second PUSH PLANKS, followed by 30-secons of rest

WEEK 6:
Perform…
• 2 sets of 50-second PLANK HOLDS, followed by 45-seconds of rest
• 20 repetitions of PEC PRESSES with a set of dumbbells, each weighing 15-20% of your body weight (collectively, pressing 30-40% of your body weight)
• 1 push-up on toes, followed by 19 repetitions of PUSH-UPS ON KNEES
• 2 sets of 50-second HOLLOW ROCK HOLD, followed by 45-seconds of rest
• 2 sets of 50-second PUSH PLANKS, followed by 45-secons of rest

WEEK 7:
Perform:
• 1 set of 55-second PLANK HOLDS
• 22 repetitions of PEC PRESSES with a set of dumbbells, each weighing 15-20% of your body weight (collectively, pressing 30-40% of your body weight)
• 2 push-ups on toes, followed by 20 repetitions of PUSH-UPS ON KNEES
• 1 set of 55-second HOLLOW ROCK HOLD
• 1 set of 55-second PUSH PLANKS

WEEK 8:
Perform…
• 1 set of 60-second PLANK HOLDS
• 24 repetitions of PEC PRESSES with a set of dumbbells, each weighing 15-20% of your body weight (collectively, pressing 30-40% of your body weight)
• 3 push-ups on toes, followed by 21 repetitions of PUSH-UPS ON KNEES
• 1 set of 60-second HOLLOW ROCK HOLD
• 1 set of 60-second PUSH PLANKS

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O is for Open Leg Rocker

An Open Leg Rocker is a Pilates Mat exercise.  
It strengthens the hip flexors and all through the core.  
It also improves hamstrings flexibility.

If you’re new to exercise or have tight hamstrings muscles, see the video below for a perfectly suitable modification.

“O” is for Open Leg Rocker.
Do 1-minute of this move…

 

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N is for Neck Stretch

A pain in the neck can be one of the most constant, painful grievances. Maybe that’s why it’s a metaphor for all things annoying! The bright side is, the next time this nuisance bothers you, you’re less than one-minute away from soothing ease.

Passively dropping your head to the side will provide some relief. Actively wrapping the opposite hand around your head and pulling down will provide more relief. Making an effort to relax your trapezius muscles on the lead side and create more distance between your earlobe and shoulder will provide the most relief.

The key is stacking these steps gradually. Your neck is fragile and those nerves don’t take kindly to being pulled aggressively. That’s why we spend 5-seconds at a time, gently intensifying the stretch.
Perform this 40-second stretch two or three times a day on any day your neck is feeling especially tight.

Step 1 Tilt your head to the side, taking your left ear towards your left shoulder. Hold 5-seconds before adding step two.

Step 2 Wrap your left hand over your head to grip around your noggin. Apply a little pressure. If that feels fine, apply a little more. Hold 5-seconds before adding step three.

Step 3 Depress your right shoulder blade and create greater distance between your right shoulder and right ear. Hold 10-seconds.

Return to neutral spine, then drop your head to the right side and repeat.

“N” is for Neck Stretch.
Do 40-seconds of this move!
(20-seconds each side)

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M is for Mountain Climbers

Mountain Climbers are a cardio exercise that also strengthen the shoulders, core, legs, and glutes. They improve hip mobility.

This exercise is somewhat challenging for beginners. To make it a little easier on the heart, lungs, and legs, slow down the rhythm of the movement. Try moving at about half the speed of the mountain climbers demonstrated  this video if you are new to exercise!

Step 1: Assume high plank position. Line up your shoulders, hips, and heels to form a diaganol line.
Step 2: Lift one foot off of the floor and pull your knee toward your belly. (You’ll seriously feel your abs turn on here!)
Step 3: Switch legs.
Continue toggling between Steps 2-3

 

M is for Mountain Climbers.
Do 1-minute of this move!

 

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L is for Lateral Lunges

Your body is capable of moving in three plates. Those planes are (A) sagittal, which divides the body into right and left halves, (B) frontal, which divides the body into front and back halves, and (C) transverse, which divides the body into upper and lower halves. Lunges in two of these planes tend to be pretty rough on the knees for people who live with knee pain. The good news is, there’s a third plane- and maybe you should be lunging in it!

Anything that involves straight forward or backward movement would be movement in the (A) sagittal plane. Sagittal plane lunge examples include Lunge forwards, Lunge backs, Split squats, and walking lunges. These are Lucifer to people with knee issues. So, we’ll pass on sagittal plane lunges!

Anything that involves rotational movement would be movement in the (C) transverse plane. A transverse plane lunge example is a curtsy lunge. These are also unpleasant for most people with knee pain. So, we’ll opt out of transverse lunges, too!

Anything that involves side-to-side movement would be movement in the (B) frontal plane. Movements in this plate tend to be kind on the knees! A frontal plane lunge example is a lateral lunge. This lunge tends to put less strain on parts of the knees common to knee pain sufferers. People who experience knee pain may find some relief in doing lateral lunges in place of any other lunges! So, we’ll give lateral lunges the green light!*

Lateral Lunges
Step 1: Stand upright.
Step 2: Abduct (step out) your right leg and plant your foot out to the side. Bend your knee and hips, drawing your butt out and back.  (The further you reach the hips back, the more body weight you’ll feel on the back of your foot and the less weight you’ll feel pushing forward on the knee).
Step 3: Return to “Step 1.”
Step 4: Abduct (step out) your left leg and plant the foot out to the side. Bend your knee and hips, drawing your butt out and back.

To intensify this move, add a leap in the air in Steps 1 and 3.
To modify this move, limit the range-of-motion at the knee in Steps 2 and 4 (limit the bend in the knee to just a shallow knee dip).

“L” is for Lateral Lunges.
Perform 1-minute of this move!

*The structures that support your knees are complex and not all knee pain has the same cause. It is a good idea to visit an orthopedic specialist (physician) if your knee pain has lasted 3-months or longer (qualifying it as “chronic pain,”) or is stopping you from doing things your everyday life requires, pain-free.

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