To Your Health
February, 2011 (Vol. 05, Issue 02)
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Take Your Workout to the Next Level

By Chelsea Cooper, MPA, CPT

OK, so it's a new year and I'm sure fitness is on your list of resolutions - it's probably the most popular resolution people make every new year. Unfortunately, it's also right up there in terms of the resolutions people break shortly thereafter.

Here's another snag: You aren't looking forward to doing the same  exercises you did last year. Although squats, push-ups, lunges and pull-ups are the foundation for most, if not all exercises, they can get monotonous over time and your body could do the thing we don't want it to do: plateau. If your body plateaus, it means it essentially gets used to the exercises and figures out a way to burn less calories efficiently. That means a less productive workout for you, which is never a good thing.

I'm all for keeping things the same if it works; you know the saying: "If it's not broken, don't fix it." At the same time, if you can tweak a few things and infuse more excitement and fun into your workout, I'm all for it, too. After all, the key to sticking with an exercise plan is just that: sticking with it. The more fun you have and the more you challenge your body, the happier you'll be. With that said, let's change up some oldies but goodies and see how variations on common exercises can keep you mentally and physically challenged in 2011.


Uchimata Push-Up Variation

  • From a one-leg push-up position and squeezing the glute (buttock) of your support leg, slowly lower your body as one unit until your chest grazes the floor and pause for a count.
  • From there, use your glute to slowly raise your lifted leg as high as you can without overly hyperextending your lower back.
  • Then push back up to the starting position, switch sides and repeat for time.

push up - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark The one-leg lift really increases the demands on your core, lower back, glutes, and hamstrings; and since it shifts your weight forward onto your hands, it really challenges your shoulders, too.

Leg Kick Push-Up Variation

  • With tight abs, tight elbows and tight glutes, slowly lower your body as one unit until your chest grazes the floor.
  • From there, slowly kick one leg straight out to the side to form as close to a 90-degree angle as possible without bending your knee.
  • Pause for a count, then move your leg back to the starting position. Then push back up, switch sides, and repeat for time.

By pausing at the bottom position, you eliminate the stretch reflex (the natural bounciness and elasticity in your muscles), which makes your upper body work harder. Plus, the slow kicking action requires stellar strength and fabulous flexibility for your hip flexors, groin/adductors, hamstrings and glutes.

Alternating Grip Single-Leg Push-Up Variation

  • Assume a standard one-leg push-up position while squeezing the glute of your support leg.
  • Move the hand on the same side as your down leg a slight 1-2 inches forward.
  • With tight abs, tight elbows, and tight glutes, lower your body as one unit until your chest grazes the floor.
  • Pause for a count and then push back up to the starting position, switch sides, and repeat for time.

The alternating grip increases the demands on your lower abdominal and upper body muscles. More specifically, it activates the often-dormant serratus anterior muscles, key shoulder stabilizers that run from your chest along your rib cage to your shoulder blades. Thus, it's a great exercise to bulletproof your shoulders and improve posture.