For those who are new to exercise, and are not sure where to start, my Fitness Basics guide will give you the tools you need to begin.
Squats are a very basic movement that you will find are part of most fitness regimes. They are great for improving leg strength and hip mobility. Unfortunately, though, many people don’t quite get it right, losing out on the benefits from this really simple and effective movement.
Grab a sturdy chair. One without arms is best.
- Start with your feet about shoulder width apart – just outside outside your hips.
- Keep your back up straight and gently bend your knees to poke your bum out behind you. Aim for your bottom to just gently touch the top of the chair, but don’t actually sit – keep the load on your quadriceps. Raise your arms straight out in front of your body to help stabilise your centre of gravity so you don’t fall back.
- When you have gone as far as you feel comfortable with, squeeze your bum and legs to take you back up to standing.
Make sure your knees don’t lean in, engage the muscles on the inside of your knee to keep the knees in line with your toes.
Keep your back up straight the whole time. Try not to lean forward.
When you have done this comfortably with a chair a few times, try doing it without a chair.
Great for building upper body strength in a supported position.
You can do this with a coffee table or a park bench, using something easy to hold for a weight (dumbbell, full milk bottle, etc).
- Start with one hand and one knee on the bench, with your other leg straight down to the ground.
- Set your back and shoulders so they feel strong, and in a straight line from shoulders to hips. Engage your core so you are active and supported through the back.
- Press down into your bench as you pull the weight up towards your armpit.
- Lower it down slowly, without letting your shoulder sag down towards the ground.
Don’t raise the weight higher than your armpit, and don’t take your elbow out to the side.
Move deliberately and try to feel the muscles in your arm working.
To progress, use a heavier weight.
Lots of people hate push-ups, but they are one of my favourite exercises. There is a reason that push-ups are a staple of most Personal Trainers and exercise classes – they work. Having said that, there are plenty of people who struggle to complete a full push-up on the floor, and who would be better off starting in a more upright position. This builds the strength that is needed to progress towards the floor.
Find a sturdy elevated surface – the kitchen bench or dining table or a balustrade/hand rail are often a good height to begin with.
- Start with your hands shoulder width apart and your feet back far enough that you are leaning forward onto your hands, your arm straight.
- Carefully bend your elbows to lower your torso until your chest touches the bench.
- Engage the tummy and squeeze the bum to ensure all the muscles are working to support the movement and you don’t strain your back.
- Straighten your arms to push up to the starting position.
Keep your back straight – imagine you are a plank of wood. Try not to bend at the hips.
Keep your elbows into your sides, to prevent strain on the shoulders.
Be deliberate as you move up and down. As you develop upper body strength, you can lower your hands a coffee table, or the arm of a couch and eventually the floor!