Changing up your workout routine is great for progressing the body as well as keeping your head in the game.
Boring workouts get boring results. We've taken three common exercises and modified them to make them more challenging and more interesting -- the squat, the lunge, and the pushup.
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The overhead squat. Begin with feet shoulder width apart while holding a barbell overhead. To stabilize the bar in the overhead position, you must extend the arms while engaging the muscles of the upper back and shoulders.
Once the bar is stabilized overhead, you can move into the squatting portion. Slowly squat down as you inhale, ensuring that your heels stay heavy, while pushing your hips back and maintaining the natural curve in your low back.
Drop down to a comfortable and stable depth. Exhale as you stand back to the top, but don't lock your knees all the way out. Repeat.
With the bar overhead, it becomes a total-body exercise and requires much more balance, stability, and flexibility than a typical squat.
Common mistakes: Never let your knees travel forward of your toes and don't allow your elbows to bend.
Regression: If a weighted overhead squat is too challenging, grab a lightweight bar or stick and perform the same motion without a load.
The lateral lunge. Place feet wider than shoulder width and turn feet outward at a slight angle. With a dumbbell resting on each shoulder, shift your weight laterally and sit back on the heel of your bent leg while you allow your other leg to extend.
At this point, your bent leg should have a 90-degree bend as your opposite leg should be fully extended.
Return to your starting position and repeat on the other leg.
This lateral movement adds a new dynamic that will stress muscles differently than a traditional lunge.
Common mistakes: Never let either heel pop off the floor -- you must push your hips back and keep your posture upright.
Regression: If your flexibility doesn't allow you to drop into the lateral lunge, hold on to a stationary object so you can support yourself as you push your hips down and back until you can perform the lunge with the desired range of motion.
The hand release pushup. Take a traditional pushup position with hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart, feet together, and maintain a straight line from shoulder to ankle. Slowly drop down into the pushup until you feel your chest touch the floor. At this point, raise your hands off the floor so your weight is resting on your chest and toes. Push your hands hard into the floor as you return to the top of the pushup. Repeat.
The hand release pushup requires much more stability and power than a traditional pushup.
Common mistakes: Don't let too much of your weight rest on your hips or thighs. If so, your hips may sag as you try to push back up to the top position.
Regression: If you can't maintain proper form with the traditional hand release pushup, set up so your knees are resting on the floor rather than your toes. This position takes more weight off the upper body and also lessons the strain on the core. It should allow you to move through proper range of motion while maintaining safe and effective form.
So switch up a few common exercises and see how challenging they can be. For more exercise and nutrition tips, visit PushFitnessTraining.com for links to our blog, Facebook, and Pinterest pages.
• Joshua Steckler is the owner of Push Fitness, a personal training studio located in Schaumburg specializing in weight loss, muscle toning, and nutrition. Contact him at PushFitnessTraining.com.