Ok, so it might be time to admit that summer is coming to an official close. With chillier weather comes sweaters, a new school year, usually a busier work schedule, and most likely a lax workout routine. I mean it’s not as easy anymore as throwing on a pair of shorts and shoes and heading out for a run as you can do in the warm weather. Which is why we have put together a short, simple, but seriously toning workout series to get you through the next month!
We all know how to plank and we all know what a squat is, and the two combined make for a quick and challenging workout routine that can be done anywhere. Below is a guide for the next 30 days to kick your glutes and obliques into tip-top shape!
Why Planks Are Great To Get You Fit
#1 Strengthens Your Core
Who doesn’t like to have strong core and washboard abs? Planks help you flatten your belly and strengthen your core muscles to make them visible. Your abdomen stabilizes your upper and lower bodies together, giving your body the balance you perceive. When you plank, your core muscles contract tremendously to keep you in that position for longer times. Without your core muscles, your body will fall down on the ground.
The best way to train your abdomen to endure such contraction is to actually train it under these conditions. Crunches and sit-ups do help you build a strong core, but in half of the motion of any other abs exercises, your ab muscles get to relax. On the other hand, planks put constant tension on your core muscles, making them stronger.
#2 Improves Posture & Balance
As you become disciplined while doing planks by maintaining a straight line, planks help you have a proper posture as it keeps your chest, back, abs, and shoulders in the balanced posture.
Whether you are suffering from lazy shoulders or rounded back, planks will fix both issues as your shoulder blade muscles will become stronger and you will feel more comfortable in contracting them while standing. The same goes to you straightening your back. It just requires stabilizing muscles development.
#3 Helps Alleviate Back Pain
As we mentioned earlier, planks do incorporate other muscles than the abdomen. One of those incorporated muscles is the back muscles. It strengthens your abdominal belt and helps you reduce the lower back pain. Back pain arises from weak lower back muscles, so strengthening them will actually help in reducing the pain.
The balance of your body in this position requires strong core muscles and lower back muscles as well. Think of planks as an exercise that puts constant tension on your abdominal belt to make it stronger the next time it gets to endure such pain.
#4 Enhances Flexibility
Planks can help you in increasing your flexibility and strengthen some of your secondary muscles like shoulder blades, shoulders, collarbone, and legs. The plank position requires you to put your elbows on the floor, making a right angle between your arms and shoulders. Such a position requires upper body strength too. For instance, your stabilizing shoulder muscles are put under constant tension to make your body stay in this position for a long time without having to fall.
Flexibility is enhanced by improving the strength of your shoulders and shoulder blades. You might not see it, but you will actually feel that your shoulders and shoulder blades are tensed after a session of planks, which indicates that your stabilizing muscles are getting stronger.
Tips For The Perfect Plank Form
#1 Lock-In Your Shoulders
Drawing your shoulders into your body, known as ‘packing’ can greatly benefit your exercise by limiting the involvement of your upper traps – this is what gives you neck pain. It will also create a stronger base for the duration of the exercise.
#2 Find Stability In Your Glutes
Squeezing your glutes hard also allows for a stronger foundation when planking. It also helps to lower excessive arching at the lower back and allows the abdominals to work in their most aligned position.
#3 Don’t Forget Your Hands
Most of you plank with most of the pressure going on your wrists. But to spread the load and ensure you’re activating the whole body it’s better to froms fists with your hands, placed on the mat pinky side down.
If you see people putting their hands in a flat position, they’re trying a more advanced move, designed for experienced plankers who have already mastered their form—perhaps you could try it in a few weeks when you’ve clocked up some practice.
#4 Position Your Feet
Playing around with the distance your feet are apart can make the exercise easier or harder by changing the base of support. Wider feet = easier, closer = harder.
#5 Remember To Breathe Through It
Ensuring your breathing is consistent and focused can make huge differences to your plank. Breathing into your abdomen and forcefully breathing out through your mouth can really fire up the resistance.
Why Squats Are Great For Your Fitness
Squats are a compound movement, meaning they involve multiple joints. In this case, squats specifically work the hip and knee joints. Contrary to popular misconceptions, they are not just a “leg exercise”, they utilize multiple muscle groups and work the whole body. Also, squats improve the strength of your muscles, joints, bones and increase flexibility. This will make you less prone to injuries both in training and in everyday life activities such as picking stuff up, sitting down, etc.
Plus, research shows that compared to other machine weight exercises using similar lower-body movements such as the leg press, free weight squats promote greater anabolic hormone response. This transfers to faster muscle growth and fat loss.
Different Squat Types
#1 Standard Squat
It’s important to remember how to perform a basic squat correctly to make sure you get the full benefits of each variation without putting yourself at risk for injury.
- Keeping your back straight, feet hip-width distance apart, hinge your hips back and bend your knees, lowering your butt down as if sitting into a chair.
- At the bottom of your squat, make sure your knees are in line with your feet, not bowing outward or caving inward.
- Check that your knees aren’t coming too far forward over your toes (shift more weight into your heels if this is the case).
- Press through your heels as you stand back up.
#2 Sumo Squat
The trick here is to recruit abdominal and back muscles to keep your chest from being pulled forward from imbalance.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and your feet turned out at 45 degrees.
- Holding a dumbbell in each hand, let your arms hang directly in front of you between your legs.
- Bend both of your knees and lower yourself down so that your butt is slightly lower than your knees. You’ll look (and probably feel) a bit like a sumo wrestler.
- Drive through your heels and return to standing.
#3 Jump Squat
Squatting can actually improve your jump height, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. So why not take that a step further and incorporate jumping into your squat routine?
This plyometric variation is a bit more advanced, so make sure you’ve completely mastered basic squats and have healthy knees before attempting.
- Assume the same stance as a regular squat.
- Squat back and down from your hips and bring your arms back behind you for momentum.
- Drive through your heels and jump straight up into the air from the bottom of your squat, arms swinging up overhead or at your sides.
- Land with knees bent to absorb the impact and go straight into your next squat jump.
#4 Air Squats
These air squats are not only great for strengthening muscles deep within your glutes, but they also help loosen up some tight muscles around hip flexors, shins, and ankles!
- Assume a stance wider than shoulder-width, with toes slightly facing sideways.
- Pull the shoulders back and keep the back straight.
- Stretch your arms out in front so they are parallel to the floor or place them behind the head.
- Inhale then bend the knees and lower the butt as if you’re going to sit on a chair. Keep the back straight and look forward throughout the set.
- Squat as low as your hip mobility allows. To get the most out of it you should squat until the thighs rest on the calves. But this might not be possible for most beginners since they lack hip flexibility.
#5 Kick Back Squat
The Kick Back Squat is more dynamic than your standard squat because of that addition kicking movement at the end. So, if you are really looking to tone up your glutes adding in this exercise is great way to up your game.
- Begin with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward.
- Perform a squat and as you come up, kick your right leg back like you’re trying to push open a door behind you.
- As always, be sure to keep that core engaged for balance and control.
- Bring the right leg down as you lower back down into a squat position.
- Now, perform a kickback on the left side. This counts as one rep.
Lunges can help you develop lower-body strength and endurance. They’re also a great beginner move. When done correctly, lunges can effectively target your lower-body muscles without placing added strain on your joints.
- Stand tall with feet hip-width apart. Engage your core.
- Take a big step forward with your right leg. Start to shift your weight forward so heel hits the floor first.
- Lower your body until right thigh is parallel to the floor and right shin is vertical. It’s OK if knee shifts forward a little as long as it doesn’t go past right toe. If mobility allows, lightly tap left knee to the floor while keeping weight in right heel.
- Press into right heel to drive back up to starting position.
- Repeat on the other side. Once repeated, this counts as one rep.