Adding resistance training to your exercise regime is a great way of toning and sculpting your body to achieve a firm and defined look. Yet for women, the fear of “bulking up” takes over and the visualization of a professional body builder comes to mind when I say “resistance training.” Unfortunately most of the women who look this way are on anabolic steroids, testosterone and a host of other drugs to help them achieve this muscular look.
There are many perks to resistance training; firstly it will NOT push your body into a catabolic state as aerobic training does. Rather, it will push you into an anabolic state, this means the body is making lean healthy muscle instead of breaking it down. Resistance training is also linked to metabolic benefits, such as better insulin sensitivity. One of the main reasons why we store fat around the middle is due to high insulin levels in our body.
Performing a compound exercise, such as a push-up to tone and strengthen the body, is far better than an isolated exercise such as a bicep curl.
Firstly, you are using up more energy and more muscle to move your body weight against the object or the floor when performing a compound exercise. So, it is much more effective than just isolating that muscle and doing a small single movement with dumbbells curled in your hands for instance.
Push-ups emphasize the chest, shoulders and triceps but every muscle in the body has to do its part for a proper push-up to take place, including your core!
Place your hands on the floor about chest width apart from your shoulder. Place your feet a hip’s width apart.
Exhale drawing your belly button in, keep your body in a straight line as you lower yourself towards the floor.
Return to the starting position, again keeping your body in perfect alignment.
It is important NOT to let your hips drop during this exercise as then you will not keep your core muscles activated and will produce more strain on your lower back.
For ladies this can be done on the knees, again keeping your body in straight in line. This can be done until you build up the strength to perform full push-ups.
I generally don’t put a number of repetitions on how many you should do as I believe whenever exercising, quality over quantity is the key! The moment you catch or feel yourself performing the exercise with bad form, you must stop. You are wasting energy when you do this. Less is more in this case.
The Supine Bridge
This exercise activates the Gluteus Maximus (the biggest muscle in your body), which is responsible for actively stretching the opposite muscle groups that you make tight while sitting down all day due to a sedentary lifestyle.
Begin in the supine position (on your back) with your knees bent and feet flat on ground.
Place the arms by your sides, palms face up.
Posteriorly tilt your pelvis underneath then “bridge upward” by pushing through the heels and lifting the hips off the ground.
As the hips come up, try to squeeze your gluteus muscles for a few seconds, then slowly lower the hips and repeat the exercise.
Be sure to keep your head on the floor at all times.
Most people suffer from dysfunctional TVA muscles. This means these muscles are only working slightly, or not at all.
The deep abdominal wall TVA is ideally suited to perform a girdle-like supportive function (around your lower abs like a belt) allowing you to have a flat belly.
This exercise is very important because it links the glutes and the core with each other, helping you achieve that flatter stomach.
Now, bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms.
Your elbows should be directly beneath your shoulders, and your body should form a straight line from your head to your feet.
Hold the position for as long as you can.
It is very important that the back is not arched or swayed while doing this. A good trick for beginners is to squeeze your butt muscles to ensure that your glutes and core work together.
Since many of us sit all day, the final two exercises I have mentioned will account for the imbalance our bodies have created from muscle tightness in the anterior chain (the front side of the body). If performed correctly, with a pre-stretching routine prior to this, then these two exercises will help prevent injury caused by a sedentary lifestyle. Activating those muscles we hardly recruit in our daily lifestyles will go a long way in getting you the body you want.
Vahdaneh Vahid is a UK-based personal trainer who recently moved to Dubai. She has had an interest in fitness from a young age. Her motto is now "Train Don't Drain" and teaches her clients that a balanced understanding of their physical, mental and emotional wellness is key. She can be found on Twitter: @vvfitness