Wall Sit

Wall Sit

Can you get a great workout while sitting down? That sounds way too good to be true.

It’s not too good to be true at all, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy! The Wall Sit isn’t anything like sitting in a chair. In fact, you might start to wonder how your chairs manage to do the hard work of holding you up all the time. 

This exercise works the quads hardest, but it uses most of the other major muscle groups as well, at least a little bit. 

Two Rights Make it Right

The foundation of the Wall Sit are the two right angles that body must form to do it properly. That’s one right angle between the thighs and the torso, and another between the thighs and the calves. This is incredibly simple for an exercise, and with those two right angles, perfect form is easy. Knees should be directly above the ankles, and the back should be flat against the wall at all times. 

To do a Wall Sit, all you have to do is sit against a wall!

  • Stand with your back against a wall, feet shoulder width apart and around two feet out from the wall, legs straight.
  • Tighten the core muscles as you slowly slide your back down. Stop when you form the two right angles between the lower legs and upper legs, and between the upper legs and the torso.
  • Move the knees carefully so that they are directly above your ankles, never over the toes. 
  • Hold the position, back flat against the wall, for fifteen to sixty seconds. 
  • Gently push back up the wall, ending in a standing position.  
  • Rest for one minute and then repeat. 

This right angle position puts a great deal of focus on the knees, so fitness enthusiasts with knee problems should be aware and not push too hard with this exercise.

The Benefits of Sitting

It turns out that sitting against a wall is a beneficial exercise for a wide variety of reasons. 

It might be the opposite of and exotic exercise, but this simple exercise burns a whole lot of calories. Unlike other exercises in which the muscles contract and release, in a Wall Sit, the muscles stay contracted for the duration of the exercise. Sitting down in a Wall Sit will cause your heart rate to increase! It’s an unexpected and positive side effect of this exercise. This boosts the metabolism during the exercise, burning calories and giving the fitness benefits you’re looking for. 

Increased endurance is another major benefit of the Wall Sit. This goes hand in hand with the increased heart rate. It’s not a strength exercise really, but rather one that pushes the heart rate up and offers a whole lot of other benefits. For this reason, it’s great for distance runners, cyclists, and athletes.

This exercise works the entire lower body. It’s a static exercise, but it still forces a lot of muscle groups and joints to work together. The glutes, the hamstrings, and the quadriceps are all getting attention here. The Wall Sit can be maintained more easily over time, There are lots of variations on the Wall Sit, using weights or adding curls, even using only a single leg. While it might look just like sitting, it’s far more than a rest! Doing Wall Sits is a great way to make your body work hard and work for you.

Tuck Jumps

Tuck Jumps

Jump for joy! There are very few exercises that bring a spontaneous smile to the face of the person doing them. Imagine smiling through Sit-ups or Dumbbell Rows. Tuck Jumps, for all their powerhouse strength building, are fun to do. Maybe it’s because there are reasons to jump besides working the core, where there’s no reason to do a Side Plank except exercise.

Tuck Jumps aren’t just jumps though. They might look like a video game, but they’re more than that. Good form is still important to get the fitness benefits you’re looking for. Tuck jumps come from plyometric training, which is essentially all about jumping. It was popularized in the 1970’s as a form of intense muscle extension and contraction. It’s primarily used by athletes because it specifically improves movement so wonderfully.

Jump for a Better Rump

The benefits of Tuck Jumps are pretty amazing. 

This exotic exercise works the entire body, which means they burn lots of calories in a short amount of time. Every major muscle group is worked with the Tuck Jump, from the calves all the way up to the neck. The lower body does get the bulk of the benefits, strengthening the glutes and shaping that rump. It’s an incredible booty lift exercise. An added benefit is that the Tuck Jump shapes the hips, which can be a challenge to get to with other exercises. 

This is a cardiovascular exercise. Tuck Jumps elevate the heart rate, and with consistency can be done with enough repetition to contribute tremendously to cardio fitness.  

The Tucky Jump is a good exercise to build bone mass. Plyo in general is an effective way to build bone density in the lower back and hips. This is important for everyone but especially women, who are at higher risk for osteoporosis as they age. Learning to land properly with a Tuck Jump helps to maintain knee stability and prevent injury, not just during exercise but also during daily activities. 

Air Time

It’s particularly important to get the form correct for this exercise, as it is an impact movement. Improper form, repeated over time, can lead to jump injuries. 

What’s the proper form for a Tuck Jump? Here are the steps to do this exercise.

  • Start with feet hip’s distance apart, arms by your side. Pull those shoulders back and down while straightening the spine. Tighten the core.
  • Begin the downward motion by shifting the hips back, then down, while bending the knees. Keep moving down until the heels are about to come off the floor, keeping the back as flat as possible. Use your arms to balance, but keep elbows in as much as possible. 
  • Pause for just a moment at the bottom, then push with great strength up through the lower body. The ankles, knees, and hips should all push through and extend. As you go into the air, pull your knees up to your chest so that the heels are as close to your bottom as possible. Feet are level with each other and with the floor.
  • The landing is the most important part of the exercise as far as injury prevention. Feet should hit the ground at the same time, on the middle of the foot but then rolling back onto the heels to compensate for the force. Hips should always come down and backwards to absorb the force. Don’t lock the knees or the quads as this puts the most risk for knee injuries. 

Focus on form when learning Tuck Jumps, and take it slow to begin with. Speed and height will come with practice!

After a few jumps, it’s easy to feel the whole body workout from this exercise. Don’t push to the point of fatigue with this one, as tired bodies are more likely to sustain injuries. Other than that, feel like a kid while getting closer to those fitness goals with Tuck Jumps!

Sit-ups

Imagine yourself lying on the floor, knees bent and feet flat. Your hands are behind your head, and your face is turned towards the ceiling, eyes closed. It’s relaxing. Suddenly, you hear a voice yell loudly “Hey you! Get back to your Sit-ups. This is P.E., not naptime!” 

Most of us can remember gym class in school, where Sit-Ups were a staple of peer pressure and adolescent torture. They have a reputation for being among the most difficult and unpleasant exercises, but while Sit-ups are hard work, they also provide a major fitness payoff. 

Proper Sit-up Form

Though everyone seems to think they know how to do a Sit-up, learning the proper form is important for getting the most out of the exercise. The simplicity of this exercise is deceptive. With more exotic exercises, it seems easier to learn the right way. However, with an old standby like the commonplace Sit-up, it’s easy to assume you’ve already got it right. 

The basic form of the Sit-up takes only a few steps. Lie down, knees bent and hands behind the head. Tighten the abdominal muscles and pull the torso up to the knees. Then lower back down to the starting position. 

This simple process requires attention to detail in order to get it right and get the most out of this exercise. Here are a couple of important points for proper Sit-up form.

  • Move slowly and with control. 

Getting up isn’t the point, because that can happen with momentum. Muscle control is the goal, and that’s improved when you slow down. It’s much easier to get up by using momentum, but it’s counterproductive. 

  • Foot position 

Though it might seem like the feet aren’t part of the abs, they are actually part of the chain of muscles that runs from the abs down through the upper thighs to the feet. Try flexing the feet while doing a Sit-up for more active engagement of the core.

Being conscious about form, even in the mundane Sit-up, takes this exercise out of the P.E. classroom and onto the next level.

Mix-up the Sit-up

There is more to the Sit-up than the standard movement that we all know and dread. There are many, many variations on this classic exercise that slightly change the muscles being used or increase the resistance. Note here that Sit-ups are distinct from Crunches. In a Crunch, the head and shoulders only rise halfway, not all the way up to the knees as in a Sit-up. Crunches are considered a variation on the classic Sit-up though. 

Other variations on the Sit-up include:

  • Reverse Crunch, where the legs go up into the air instead of the torso going up.
  • Russian Twist, in which legs and torso are in the air, with the upper body twisting side to side.
  • V-Ups, with both the legs and torso coming up to form a “V” shape.
  •  Scissors, where the head and shoulder come off the floor and then one leg at a time comes up to the center.
  • Inverted Sit-ups, which happen upside down with legs hanging over a bar but everything else stays the same.
  • Weighted Sit-up, where the individual holds a weight while performing a classic style Sit-up.

Each variant on the Sit-up targets different parts of the body, but all types of Sit-ups engage the core and build strength. This exercise is a long-time staple and ultimately a cliche because it works!

Side Plank

Turn your head to the side. Don’t be shy! Pull that ear towards your shoulder. Now, imagine seeing the world from that same angle, except also getting an amazing workout for your whole core. That’s what a Side Plank does. 

The Side Plank originates in yoga, where it’s called Vasisthasana. Vasistha actually means “the best ever” and is traced back to the lords of creation in Hindu beliefs. The name is well deserved for this exercise, which has spread out from the yogic tradition to now be a part of the strength and balance training for athletes and novice fitness enthusiasts everywhere. This exotic exercise isn’t exotic anymore. 

Rise up right now

The Side Plank is one of those exercises that is all about balance. There are many variations of this exercise to accommodate beginners who aren’t ready to balance on their own yet. Balance comes with progress and consistency. Starting out with the basic, beginner version of the exercise is only a starting place. Eventually, it’ll be easy to move to the full Side Plank.

To do a Side Plank, you’re going to rise up off the floor, being supported by one arm and one leg, with the opposite arm and opposite leg being in the air. No equipment is needed for the Side Plank.

Here are the step-by-step instructions for doing a Side Plank.

  • Lie down on one side with knees straight. Feet are stacked on top of each other, sideways.
  • Pull the core in, tightening the muscles to brace for the movement.
  • Prop your body up on the lower hand, pushing up with the body braced on the outside of the lower foot and the palm. Hips should come up off the floor.
  • Raise the other arm high until it’s perpendicular to your body from the shoulder joint. The body should form a T. 
  • Hold this position for fifteen to thirty seconds, breathing deeply.

A variation on this position, for those struggling with balance, is to push the feet into a wall for added stability. Beginners can also prop up on the lower elbow rather than pushing all the way up onto the hand, keeping the higher arm on the hip. 

Be sure to repeat the exercise on the other side for balanced growth.

Top Ranked Plank

Of all the variations on the simple plank, the Side Plank is the best for overall core strength, though it’s often overlooked. 

In particular, the Side Plank is good for preventing back pain. That’s because this exercise forces you to engage part of the posterior abdominal wall that’s integral to back support. These muscles are difficult to target with other core exercises, but they get the main focus with the Side Plank. 

For even more of an intense workout, there are variations on the Side Plank including the Ball Side Plank, the Side Plank Crunch, the Raised Side Plank, and even the Side Plank with Lateral Raise. The last one adds free weights to the Side Plank, lifting them with the upper arm. 

All variations of the Side Plank have one thing in common – they engage all of the lateral abdominal muscles and require the use of muscle groups all over the body. This is truly a whole body exercise! No wonder its name means literally “the best ever!”

Single-Leg Deadlift

“Are you doing ballet at the gym?”

“No, I’m just building my balance and stability with Single-Leg Deadlifts.”

“Oh. It looks a heck of a lot like ballet.”

The Single-Leg Deadlift is one of the most challenging and downright awkward looking weightlifting exercises. It’s a perfect exercise for building whole body fitness, but it looks like one of the most exotic exercises in the gym. Balancing on one leg, no matter how much you might be committed to your fitness journey, almost always feels odd. It’s best to just get over the awkwardness though, because this exercise works.

One-Legged Weightlifting

Though this weightlifting exercise may look strange, it actually imitates many more organic movements like running and swimming. The Single-Leg Deadlift teaches you to develop force through a single leg while you learn to effectively carry the weight through the leg as well. All of this is going to increase your stability when external factors press in. 

The Single-Leg Deadlift targets the glutes, so much so that it’s known anecdotally as the “non-surgical butt lift”. It’s a remarkable exercise because it not only improves muscle tone, it is widely reported to smooth out the glutes, giving these muscles a more pleasing and even appearance. Though it is closely related to the traditional, two legged deadlift that keeps both feet on the ground, raising one leg in this variation proves to add a whole lot of power to the exercise. 

By separating each side, the Single-Legged Deadlift teases out imbalances that you probably didn’t know were there, no matter how much fitness you’ve focused on. You get to fully appreciate how beautiful balance is, even if these exercises are a hugely challenging in the beginning. With time, each side of the body learns to work on its own without either over compensating or favoring one side over the other. 

The Mechanics of the Single-Leg Deadlift

Dumbbells, kettlebells, or even bags are all appropriate depending on individual taste to use for weight when doing this exercise. However, experts recommend that fitness enthusiasts master the form of the exercise before adding weights in. As with any weight training exercise, proper form is key to preventing injury and getting the best results. 

To perform a Single-Leg Deadlift, first root the foundational foot on the ground by spreading out all five toes and planting the heel firmly in the ground. Obviously all of the weight is going to go here, so it’s got to be solid. Slowly lift the other leg, hinging it back until it’s parallel with the floor. The back must remain flat during this entire process! Keep the knee of the moving leg as straight as possible. Don’t let the chest drop below the hips, but do bend the weight bearing knee for balance.

Keep your head up and looking forward throughout the process. This will help to prevent the back from rounding. If you’re going to use weights, now is the time to reach down and pick them up. Hinge the hip forward to reach the weight, then pull the shoulder blades back once you have the weight in your hand. This movement is repeated backwards, putting the weight down between each rep. 

Keep in mind that form is critical to this exercise. Again if you’re starting off, just use the movement without adding weight until the form is perfect. 

One final tip – the Single-Leg Deadlift is a great way to start a workout! It’s an exercise that is more common to lead to injury if fatigue has already set in. It is actually a great exercise to start with, as it engages a wide variety of muscles across the body and will get them nice and warm.

Don’t be afraid to go for one leg! Balance and whole body fitness are on the other side of this intense and challenging exercise.