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The Five Best Full-Body Exercises

Posted 8/31/2016 by UHBlog

Does your workout need a work-up? We can help.

Five Best Full Body Exercises

If you’re an athlete who is struggling to fit fitness into your schedule, don’t sweat it. You only need 20 minutes to maintain your strength.

“That’s enough time to get your heart rate up,” says certified strength and conditioning specialist Brian Magat, DPT, ATC, MS, CSCS. “When you do full-body exercises, you hit more than one body part per movement, so you fatigue much faster. You get more bang for your buck in less time as opposed to just isolating your leg muscles or back muscles, which is not as productive. Full-body exercises (compound exercises) rev up your heart and you burn more calories.”

Shorter training sessions discourage resting between moves, so you move quickly from exercise to exercise. That provides anaerobic elements to the workout, he adds.

Magat's suggests these five moves can provide you with the most benefit:

  • Lunges. Hit different lower body muscle groups by rotating through sets of front lunges, reverse lunges, lateral lunges, curtsy lunges and walking lunges. Adding hand weights, a weighted vest or barbell increases the intensity.
  • Horizontal row. Lay on your back and grab a suspended bar in a weight rack at waist high, rings or a suspension system (TRX device). Use your body weight to row upward. This is similar to a pull up in a horizontal plane.
  • Push-up. These can be performed with your feet on the ground or on your knees, as long as you move your body in one plane – as opposed to raising your tush to the ceiling. For a more advanced move, elevate both feet on a bench or place one foot on a bench and one on the floor. Changing hand positions is another option (wide, narrow or staggered).
  • Plank. Making sure your body stays in one plane and your wrists and shoulders are aligned, hold a plank on either your hands or forearms. For walk-up planks, continuously move between a hand plank and a forearm plank. For spiderman planks, hold a plank with your arms in a push-up position and take your right knee to your right elbow, then your left knee to your left elbow. Switch it up by moving opposite knee to opposite elbow. Another variation is a lateral plank – lay on your side supported by your elbow and feet.
  • Deadlift-to-overhead press. Holding a weight, fall forward from your waist until the weight comes just below your knees. Stand back up from your waist, keeping the weight close to your legs. Squat and lift the weight to your shoulders and then overhead as you stand. Squat again as you bring the weight back to your shoulders, then flip your wrist and release the weight close to your body as you stand back up.

Repeating the same workout often results in hitting a plateau, so Magat advises rotating among these variations:

  • Performing eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise.
  • Doing as many repetitions as you can in 30 seconds.
  • Working each exercise until you fatigue or lose form.
  • Holding planks for a minimum of 30 seconds and working your way up to longer periods.
  • Alternating variations of a move from round to round. For example, do reverse lunges, planks, push ups and horizontal rows in round one and lateral lunges lateral planks and deadlift-to-overhead press in round two.
  • Adding hand weights or a barbell when doing lunges or deadlift-to-overhead presses as your strength increases.

Always start your workout with a few minutes of brisk walking, jumping jacks, seal jacks, jump rope or pedaling on a stationary bike to warm your muscles and increase the heart rate. Perform each exercise, in succession, for a minimum of three rounds, but, ideally, for five or six rounds. End by bringing down your heart rate (casual walking will do) and stretching your muscles. Strive for three times a week, with recovery days in between.

Brian Magat, DPT, ATC, MS, CSCS, is a physical therapist at University Hospitals Rehabilitation Services. You can request an appointment with Magat or any other health care provider online.

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