For new exercisers, squats are a great way to strengthen and shape your lower body, and they’re generally a safe, efficient exercise for everyone. To do a squat, start by standing tall with your feet hip-width apart. Be sure to squeeze your abs and dig your heels into the ground so that most of your weight is resting on your heels as you bend at the waist and knees to lower your butt towards the ground. If you’re trying this exercise for the first time, do not drop past the point where your knees bend past 90 degrees. Stay within a pain-free, yet challenging range of motion where you feel your legs working with limited stress placed on any joints.
When you return to start position where you’re standing tall with your feet still hip-width apart, you have completed 1 rep. Congratulations—aim for 7 more for a single set of 8 reps and work up to three sets of 20 reps. While doing the squat or any other strength exercise, remember to squeeze your abs and keep your back straight—this will not only support your back, but will also make sure you are working all the right muscles! If you feel any pain in your knees even when you’re using the right form or if you have a history of knee pain or injuries, be sure to check with your doctor and fitness coach to make sure your knees are healthy enough for squats and discover other variations of this traditional exercise that may be easier on your knees.
To strengthen your upper body, the push-up is an excellent bodyweight exercise, easily adaptable to any fitness level. If a traditional, straight-leg floor push up is too challenging, try placing your hands on the back of a bench with your legs straight behind you. Try to complete a single set of 8 reps, and once you can manage 3 sets of 15 reps, bring your hands closer to the ground by placing them on the front of the bench, gradually working towards the floor. For advanced exercisers, try placing your feet on the bench and your hands on the ground. To ensure proper push-up form, be sure to engage the core muscles by squeezing your abdominal and backside muscles and keeping your pelvis tucked in so that your back is straight. Lower yourself towards the ground until your elbows are bent 90 degrees. As you become more comfortable with the push up, try lowering yourself a little closer to the ground (or bench).
So if you’re a beginning or avid exerciser looking to enjoy nature as you get in a workout or if you’re just looking to add something new to your routine, give the outdoors a chance! Walk, run, throw in some squats and push-ups, and you’ll be on your way to a functional, refreshing workout.
© 2009-2015 Melissa Rodriguez
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