There are numerous exercises that can be done in the gym or at home with equipment or simply by using your own body weight. But when time is short or facilities are limited, which are the most important exercises that will give the most benefit for women to fit into your day?
These three exercises will target a large number of key muscles in your body and help to build strength and tone muscles. For best results do these exercises in conjunction with a cardiovascular workout such as running, walking or even dancing.
Doing squats can help to strengthen all the muscles in your thighs as well as increasing core strength and strengthening the muscles which support the spine. They are very simple to do and require no equipment, so can be done in any location. It is important however to do squats correctly in order to get the most out of the exercise and avoid doing yourself an injury.
To squat correctly, keep your feet approximately shoulder width apart, with feet flat on the floor and lower down in a slow controlled way. You can descend at different paces, but it should always be under control. The spine should be kept straight and you should only lower down to the point where you thighs are at right angles to the floor, with the knees not extending beyond the toes. Return to your starting position again with a controlled movement and avoid bouncing or moving whilst in the squat position. If you feel tired and are unable to maintain proper form, stop exercising as you are likely to injure yourself and remember to start with a small number of reps and build this as your body becomes stronger.
It is easy to increase the difficulty of a squat to push your body further by using dumbbells or weights to increase the weight or increase the reps for more of a challenge.
Doing squats may need to be avoided if you have a back or knee injury, however, when the injury is healed they are a great way to re-strengthen the knee joint and back that have been weakened due to the injury and consequent lack of use.
These are more effective than normal crunches as they engage more muscles, including the abs, obliques and hips. It is in fact one of the most effective abdominal exercises you can do when done correctly. As with squats, they are simple to do and require no specific equipment, although you may want to lie on something with a bit of give, so there is no excuse not to do them wherever you are.
The exercise should be done at a slow controlled pace, ideally holding the crunch for 1-2 seconds on each side before swapping over. If you do the exercise too fast, momentum is likely to kick in and this disengages your muscles and means the workout is much less effective. Concentrate on keeping your muscles engaged throughout this exercise in order to get the best results. You should also focus on your lower back and make sure it is
pressed to the floor during the up and down movement in order to prevent back injury.
To do this exercise correctly, lie on you back with your knees bent and hands behind the head. Engage muscles and raise your feet from the floor so that your knees are at a 90-degree bend. Curl your head and shoulders up using your abdominal muscles and bring the left shoulder to meet the right knee, whilst straightening the left leg, rotate your body to repeat the movement on the other side. The rotation should all come from the trunk of your body rather than the hips.
One arm dumbbell rows are a great way to work the muscles in the back, biceps and shoulders. Strengthening back muscles is particularly important as these are the muscles which support the body, giving good posture and preventing rounded shoulders. This can be of particular concern for women, who are the weight of the breasts pulling shoulders forward and often do ot have the back muscles to support this.
Although this exercise requires a dumbbell, this can be substituted with a heavy object such as a can of beans, especially when you are just starting out and do not require much weight. A set of dumbbells can be a worthwhile purchase as they can be used for a variety of strength building exercises at home, or if you already go to the gym use the ones there.
To do this exercise correctly, hold the dumbbell in one hand and place the opposite knee and hand on a bench or other flat surface of the correct height (make sure it can support you weight!). You can also use a fit ball for this, especially when you have practiced as bit. Your hand should be directly below your shoulder and knee directly below the hip. It is important to keep your back straight and strong with the support of your abdominal muscles and not allow it to arch.
Straighten the dumbbell arm towards the floor and then slowly pull it towards the side of your body keeping your arm close to your side. Continue to lift until you can go no further without rotating. You should not rotate your body or spine or you run the risk of injury. Return he arm to the starting position. It can be helpful to do this exercise in front of a mirror to start to make sure there is no back arching or rotating going on. Again it is important to start with a suitable weight and work your way up as you gain strength, rather than start with a heavy weight.