One of the most simplest yet effective bodyweight exercises, pushups are an easy way to build strength and tone your chest, shoulders and core. Plus, they don’t require any equipment. In fact, they’re a great way to get your workout in when you’re traveling or on the go.
But before you dive right into the move, make sure to master it with the proper form and technique. It’s easy to fall into the mistake of arching your torso, which can reduce the effectiveness of the exercise and lead to injury.
Instead, keep your head, neck and shoulders aligned with your spine, and make sure your hands are slightly more than hip-width apart. Placing them too far forward puts more pressure on your shoulders and increases the risk of sprains or strains in your arms.
Aside from building muscle, pushups are also a great calorie-burning exercise. Moderately paced standard pushups burn about 250 calories per minute, says Zetlin. But you can up the ante by adding variations that challenge your fitness level even more.
For example, try doing a modified pushup that positions your hands wider than shoulder-width apart to activate the pecs and triceps muscles. This variation will significantly boost your biceps size, tone, and strength, says Codio.
Alternatively, you can do a narwhal-style pushup that combines a twisting movement with a full extension of your arms. This variation will increase your biceps strength, and it can even help improve your flexibility.
Regardless of the variation you choose, be sure to practice with a lighter weight for the first few months to build up your strength before you try doing pushups with heavier weights, suggests Capritto. It’s also a good idea to modify pushups during pregnancy so you don’t place more stress on your abdomen or cause back pain.
Planks are a fantastic exercise for all-round core strength. They also help to improve your metabolism. This is because the plank exercises your abdominal muscles, which in turn helps to increase your muscle mass, which can lead to increased energy levels and a healthy appetite.
However, as with all exercises, it is important to do them correctly. This means that you should hold the position for as long as possible without letting your hips sink down or arching your back too much.
It is also essential to keep your abs tense as you are doing the exercise. This is because it helps to engage your deeper abdominal muscles.
As your core muscles become stronger, it is a good idea to try and hold the plank for longer periods of time. It is not always possible to do this, but it is worth trying as it can give you an indication of your core strength and fitness level.
The length of time that you can hold the plank will vary for everyone, but being able to do it for a couple minutes is generally a good indicator of your ability to build up core strength and endurance.
Another variation of the plank is the side plank. This is a great alternative to the standard plank and can be done on either your forearms or your elbows. This is particularly helpful for those with lower back pain, as it stretches out the obliques and helps to stabilize the spine.
The plank is a popular core-strengthening exercise and has several variations that can be used to increase the challenge or make it easier for beginners. These variations include arm and leg lifts and reverse planks, so you can mix things up with your workout routine.
3. Abdominal Crunches
Abdominal crunches are a popular core exercise that works the abs and oblique muscles. They also improve posture and increase mobility and flexibility.
However, crunches shouldn’t be your only core exercise. To get the best results, you should do them with proper form and incorporate other exercises into your routine to maximize your workout.
In addition to working the abdominals, crunches can help build strength in other muscles of the core, including the pelvic floor and oblique muscles along the sides of your trunk. These are the muscles that connect your spine to your hips and pelvis, which can help prevent back problems after pregnancy and childbirth.
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it is a good idea to consult with your doctor, midwife, or physiotherapist before starting any new exercises. This can ensure that you’re doing them safely and that they won’t cause any health complications.
It’s also important to remember that if you’ve had childbirth, it may take more time for your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles to heal. This includes women who had a caesarean delivery or suffered from an episiotomy or torn perineum during childbirth.
Regardless, prenatal care classes include several core-strengthening exercises. These moves can also help reduce the risk of pregnancy-related back and neck pain.
To perform an abdominal crunch, lie on an exercise mat and bend your knees so that they’re about 90 degrees. Hold the position for a count of one, then lower your body back to the floor and repeat for two sets.
There are safer alternatives to crunches that don’t place as much stress on your back and neck, including the bird dog, mountain climber, and plank variations. These moves engage multiple core muscles, so they’re a better choice for most women during and after pregnancy.
4. Leg Lifts
Leg lifts are an effective way to improve your core strength, especially when combined with other high-intensity workouts. Like crunches and planks, they can tighten your ab muscles and give you a slim waistline.
They also help improve posture by targeting the muscles of the core and lower back. This helps prevent easy posture-related back pain.
However, you should exercise with caution if you have lingering back pain and tightness. If this is the case, avoid putting unnecessary pressure on your back with leg lifts.
Instead, try a hanging leg lift. This type of exercise uses a pull-up bar or high bar to support your body as you raise your legs.
You can also use weights to add resistance and challenge your muscles. Choose a weight that is appropriate for your fitness level and needs.
You can start with small sets of 5 or 10 leg lifts, and increase the number of reps as you become stronger. It’s also important to make sure your form is correct so you don’t put any unnecessary strain on your body.
5. Leg Raises
Leg raises are one of the most effective abdominal exercises for improving core stability and strengthening the lower back. They also work the hip flexors and help develop posture.
This trending online pre pregnancy care class exercise is a good option for anyone who wants to get in shape and stay active throughout their pregnancy without leaving the comforts of home. They can be performed with no equipment and are a great way to strengthen your abs, hips and lower back.
There are several ways to perform this exercise, including hanging from a pull-up bar or gymnastic rings. You can also add ankle weights or hold a dumbbell or medicine ball between your feet to make it harder.
Hanging leg raises are a challenging bodyweight movement that helps you build core strength and stability. You can do them on parallel bars or in a captain’s chair.
Another popular variation of this movement involves gripping a bar with your hands wider than shoulder width, palms facing away from you and allowing your body to hang while you lift and lower your legs. This works the rectus abdominis muscle (the six pack muscle) more intensely, making it a good choice for advanced exercisers who want to increase their core strength.
While this exercise is great for strengthening your core, it’s important to keep your form as high as possible. The most common mistake that trainees make is letting their legs drop to the bottom of the exercise, which can lead to arched backs and prevent the ab muscles from working effectively.
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