For a fitness novice, the gym can be an intimidating place, and the idea of committing to a 45-minute workout DVD can seem overwhelming. If you’re ready to get moving, but don’t know where to start, follow these four easy moves.
Nothing symbolizes fitness quite like the simple push-up. It tests your entire body by engaging every part of it — arms, chest, abdomen, hips and legs. Doing them is the easiest, fastest and most effective way to get fit. They are the gold standard. You may need to start with a modified push-up (on your knees), but eventually, you’ll build up to the full push-up.
How to do a full push-up: Make your entire body straight, like a plank, with your toes and the balls of your feet on the mat, and hands directly under your chest. Using your arms, go down to the count of 4, and back up to the count of 4. Do 12-15 reps.
#2 The plié squat: This version of the squat focuses on the inner thighs, a problem area for many women, especially.
How to do a plié Squat: Stand with feet wider than hip distance apart. Turn toes out and heels in. Slowly bring your body weight back onto your heels as you bend your knees out toward your toes, to the count of 4, and squat down while pushing your butt out. For both squats, never tuck your tailbone in. That puts too much stress on knees.
#3 The plank: This is an incredibly hard, but Zen-like, position that is one of the most effective exercises you can do, because it works your entire body.
How to do a Plank: Hold your body in a “plank” position, simulating the “up” part of a push-up, but stay there, holding perfectly still, for 30-60 seconds. Keep your abs tight and your back flat the entire time. Try to lengthen your whole body, reaching back through your heels and forward through the top of your head. Your heart will be pounding, your arms will be shaking, but try to make it to 60 seconds (or more).
#4 The sit-up: Our abs are getting a good workout by doing the push-ups and the plank, but it’s still smart to spend a little time doing an exercise just for them. Strong abdominal muscles look good, but they will help maintain good posture and take a lot of the pressure off our backs as we age.
How to do a Sit-Up: Lie completely flat on your back, hands behind your head, pull your belly button down into the floor, and using your abdominal muscles, pull yourself up, and then lower yourself down. Exhale as you go up, and inhale going down. Keep your legs and feet flat on the floor, and see if you can do 20 in 60 seconds.
Start with one set every day, and then build up to three sets (or more) with a 15-second “breather” in between each set. Not only will you be strengthening your muscles, but you’ll be getting a solid cardio workout, as well.