5 Foundational Exercises we all need to master | Status Fitness Magazine Official Website

5 Foundational Exercises we all need to master

| Posted by AZIZA ABDUL QADER | comments
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Growing up, I have always been involved in martial arts. I found the love for Karate at a young age, and that paved my way to pursuing various arts such as Muay Thai, Taekwondo, and Jiu Jitsu. It wasn’t until I was 16 years old that I suffered an injury that discouraged me from performing any form of physical activity, including gym class in high school. In a span of 8 months I gained weight, lost conditioning, and started to develop body dysmorphia. Despite all those factors, the negative shift in energy and motivation that I experienced was the most significant indicator that I needed to make a change.

I decided I could either let this injury take over, or I could get a grip and regain my strength and positive self-perception. I got to work, and that was the first time I had ever stepped into a gym by myself

The first few months were filled with trial and error, falling off the wagon then jumping back on, and experimenting with new foods and new equipment. I finally decided it was time to see a personal trainer to learn about weight lifting and form. The trainer had mentioned the word “macronutrients” to me a few times during our first session, and I was intrigued by his outlook on dieting. In fact, he never used the word dieting, he always referred to it as tracking. Tracking my macronutrients became part of my vocabulary and soon enough I started to see major changes in my weight and body composition. I was most intrigued by the fact that I didn’t have to restrict very much and yet make incredible progress.

By the age of 17 I had dropped 40 pounds and finally felt like I had control over my fitness. There was, however, one thing that I still couldn’t grasp, and it was the fact that my energy didn’t get back to where it was prior to my injury. I started to research what that could be the cause of and quickly learned that although I was nailing the macronutrients, I was failing to fulfill my micronutrients. Around this point in my journey I felt a spark lit within me, and the more I researched micronutrients the more intrigued I was by how unique and different everyone can respond to nutrients, vitamins and minerals. It became clear to me that my diet was low in iron which contributed to my lack of energy. Soon enough, I became a regular at my gym, tracking my macros, and using high-quality supplements to add to my diet and support my micronutrients.

Today, as a fitness and health coach, I want to educate people on macronutrients because it taught me how amazing food can taste, and how flexible their diets can be while still achieving weight loss goals. I want to teach people about micronutrients because I learned how sensitive our systems can be and how energized, motivated, and good people can feel by only adjusting their vitamins and minerals.

Finally, I want to teach people how to move their bodies, feel stronger, shape their bodies into their dream physiques, and ultimately live a healthy lifestyle! All these lessons were taught through my personal journey, and it completely changed my life. The beauty of health and fitness is that every single person can pursue it. I am just like everybody else, and some days can be more challenging than others. You do not have to be perfect to achieve your goals, you just have to persevere and keep your eyes on the prize! I am stronger, leaner, and more motivated than I ever was and it is all because I became more conscious of my habits, and saw the benefits that I gained from investing in my health and fitness!

Exercise
Any great trainer will let you know that nailing the fundamentals to any movement is the key to success with form, technique, and more efficient progress. You can take a push-up to a clap push-up without injuries if your regular push-up form is impeccable. You cannot leave the ground to clap in the air if the basic components of the regular push-up are not met. That goes for any exercise and their progressive variations. There is a lot of information out there for the best exercises to perform for weight loss, muscle gain, toning, core strength, flexibility, agility, and the list goes on. Here are my top 5 exercises that I perform at home and with my beginner clients. I chose these exercises because each of them activates multiple muscle groups, focuses on different aerobic and anaerobic capacities, and can be relatively progressive and regressive.
 

1. Squats

The squat is a fantastic movement to strengthen the lower body. you must also use the trunk muscles for stability during the descend and ascend. Lastly, you must use your erector spinae which are muscles coating the spinal column to keep the spine from flexing or extending. We do this movement every single day starting from when we stand up from the side of our bed. There are many different variations to the squat such as a split squat (lunge), sumo squat, pistol/single-legged squat, and so on. The key form pointers I use for my clients are:

  • Push the hips back and down
  • Keep chest open back straight
  • Knees in line with the toes, pointing in the direction of the pinky toes
  • Shoulders back away from your ears
  • Thigh parallel to the ground
2. Plank
 

The plank is an incredible exercise that is able to activate almost every part of the body. You require your core to maintain a lift off the ground, your quads extend the knee, your chest, and back, and your glutes maintain the posterior pelvic tilt. On top of the muscular benefits, the plank helps improve muscular endurance so you’re able to hold an isometric contraction longer. This is a great exercise to perform in order to improve posture because often times our posture is poor due to tight chest muscles, weak upper back muscles, and a weak core. The key form of pointers are:

  • Shoulders back and away from your ears
  • Elbows right below the shoulder joint
  • Tuck the tailbone in or squeeze the butt cheeks together
  • Pull the belly button to the spine
  • Think of keeping everything in one straight line from the top of the head to the heels
  • Focus on deep belly breaths (shallow breathing reduces the amount of oxygen going towards the muscles which makes them fatigue sooner)

3. Glute Bridge

I stress the strength of the core to all my clients because it is the key component to posture, healthy lower back, stronger pelvic floor, and a supportive mechanism to any loaded exercise (Yes, you do use your core even during a standing bicep curl). The glutes extend the hips and tilt the pelvis backwards. Strengthening and growing the glutes aren’t just for looks! The gluteus maximus, the largest of the 3 gluteus muscles, is the largest muscle in the body and is the key contributor to our ability to stand up against gravity. Sprinting and moving uphill are among the many actions we perform with the help of the glutes. The form of key pointers are:

  • Feet hip-width apart and knees pointing in direction of the pinky-toes
  • When extending the hips, push through the heels
  • During extension, actively squeeze the glutes together to produce a tailbone tuck
  • At the top of the movement, you should be straight from the base of your neck to your knees
  • If there is any intense contraction or pain in the lower back, reduce the extension and focus on form

4. Push-up

This movement incorporates a dynamic feature to the plank. We want to strengthen the muscles involved in a push-up for the longevity of those muscles especially as we age so that we are able to catch a fall and push ourselves off the floor. There are many variations to the push-up such as knee push-ups, power pushups, one-arm pushups, wide grip, narrow grip, and many others. I always start my clients with a wide grip push up so they are familiar with the motion and can feel their chest and triceps equally. The key form of pointers are:

  • Palms slightly wider than shoulder-width apart
  • Shoulders back and away from your ears, spine straight and locked in with the hips
  • Leading with your chest, lower the body toward the ground as a plank
  • Point the elbows our and slightly behind you as you descend
5. Burpee
 

Many of you will see this word and immediately experience an increased heart rate! Hate to break it to you, but the burpee is an incredibly beneficial movement that incorporates strength, power, muscular and cardiovascular endurance, coordination, speed, and flexibility. With the vast amount of variations, I always tell my clients to stay within their range of motion, take their time, and think of the burpee as a multi-step process. First, lowering the hands to the ground requires a squat, jumping back into a high plank requires core and coordination, lowering the body into a pushup requires a straight back and upper body strength, jumping the feet back in towards the arms require coordination, core, power and strength, and jumping up towards the ceiling requires coordination, and full-body power. Key pointers:

  • Squat pointers on the descend
  • Plank pointers on the backward jump
  • Pushup pointers on the plank descend
  • When jumping in from the plank, try to land the heels below the knees and pop your hands off the ground at the same time
  • When jumping up treat it like coming up from a squat into a tall jump.
 

Aziza has been in the fitness industry since 2015 when her life changed after her mother underwent a liver transplant. Growing from the situation, she decided to help her mother with her rehabilitation program, while simultaneously becoming more involved and curious about the human body. Now, Aziza is a top Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor, Nutrition Coach, and Fitness Coach. She is also a current Kinesiology student, and her long term goal is to be a Manual Osteopath, and eventually a Physiotherapist. Aziza's goal in life is to be a fitness and healthy lifestyle influencer to her clients, friends, and family.