For anyone who has followed me for awhile knows that I am intrinsically a bit lazy. I don’t particularly hold a fondness for exercise nor do I particularly detest exercise. I nothing exercise in the sense that it is just something I have incorporated into my life in order to stay healthy. It’s kind of like kids and high school. There are those who spring out of bed everyday with a ear-to-ear smile who truly adored high school. There are those who absolutely hated every waking moment of high school. Then there are those of us mucks who endured it because it was a necessary milestone to endure. Fitness to me is just that – a necessity to staying healthy – not a choice.
This is the primary reason that my personal fitness motto is ‘biggest bang for my workout buck!’ (BBWOB) Essentially, I want to do the bare minimum in the least amount of time. I need an exercise which will build muscle, tone / define, and can be accomplished in as few movements as possible. And let me just toss out a disclaimer that I am not certified personal trainer nor am I any sort of fitness expert. I do however, am a little nerdy and spend hours in researching the latest & most efficient workout trends so that I can always maximize the results with minimum effort. This BBWOB approach is just what has worked for me in not only keeping the near 40lbs off for 2+ years but it has given me body definition I never thought possible. So please keep in mind what works for me may not be the right answer for you.
Now that is out of the way …
When I was transitioning from weight loss to maintaining, I slowly shifted my workout from all cardio to cardio with some form of strength training. Now when I hear strength training, my knee-jerk reaction is to think of traditional weight lifting; which sucks the happiness right out of my soul! Not because I hold any malice inclination towards the activity but because I know enough to comprehend the amount of time required to invest in it (refer to first sentence). I have always found the ‘heavy / serious’ lifting section of any gym to be very intimidating. It just makes me feel absurdly out-of-place, awkward, and reminiscent of being back in junior high school at that very first boy-girl dance. You know the one where all the girls tries to play it cool making small talk on one side of the gym while the boys awkwardly contemplate the distinct possibility of a public ‘no’ on the other? YES – that level of awkwardness. I can’t even tell you why but the minute I step on to the thick rubber mats in the free weight section of any gym I immediately feel like a fish out of water.
Aside from a major case of the inept, for the Ordinary Jane / Joe who is only looking to tone and define, who is not looking to bulk & exponentially increase muscle mass, enter physique/body competitions, or have any aspirations to be a serious weight lifter, the abundant time investment seem to be a bit of an overkill. However, the core concept of working muscle groups was a good one and it inspired me to look for exercises which targets the largest muscle groups in one or two movements.
Enter compound exercises. Compound exercise is defined as “… any exercise that involves the use of more than one major muscle group at a time. Typically, there is one larger muscle group that ends up doing the majority of the work, and then one or more smaller muscle groups that are recruited secondarily” (Source: A Workout Routine). One of the major benefits of many staple compound exercises can be done equipment free also known as bodyweight strength training. The dynamic dual allows me to work multiple muscles at once and no or very little equipment required was a natural win-win for me.
So here is a sample of my typical workout:
- WHAT: Elliptical in various squat positions
- DURATION: 30 minutes on high resistance. When the resistance gets too easy I bump it up. Started at Level 2 now I am at Level 6.
- MUSCLE GROUPS: Quads, Hamstring, Glutes, Calves, Heart (cardio)
- BBWOB TIP: No Time to Read – This exercise should never be easy enough to leisurely read while on the elliptical. If you can then it’s time to bump up the resistance to the next level!
- WHAT: Three forms of Push Ups (Tricep, Regular, Wide Arm)
- DURATION: As many as I can pump out without falling on my face. Typically I do about 30-65 push ups in total.
- MUSCLE GROUPS: Chest, Shoulders, Back, Bicep, Tricep, Abs
- BBWOB TIP: Quality over Quantity – In order to maximize the benefits form matters. For the first few workouts, do push ups long ways of a mirror to check body positioning. Generally in the upright push up position, visually the body, arms and floor should form an almost right angle (See fitness model photo above).
- WHAT: Three forms of Planks (Regular, High, Arms Up)
- DURATION: 1 minute hold between each Push Up set
- MUSCLE GROUPS: Abs, Chest, Shoulders, Upper Back, Bicep, Tricep, Quads, Hamstring, Glutes, Calves
- BBWOB TIP: Form Matters – Again form is key. In addition to planking in front of a mirror try positioning the hands face down or face up.
- WHAT: Three forms of Pull Ups (Bicep Curls, Shoulder Width, Wide)
- DURATION: As many as I can pump out without falling on my face. Typically I do about 10-30 pull ups in total.
- MUSCLE GROUPS: Lats, Shoulders, Back, Bicep, Tricep, Abs, Quads
- BBWOB TIP: Quality over Quantity – Instead of trying to do a gazillion mediocre pull up, try doing 3 perfect ones. Pull up fast then release slowly for an extra umph to the lats.
TOTAL WORKOUT TIME: 45 – 55 minutes (depending if I have to wait for the pull up bar). Six times a week with one rest day.
As you can see, there is not one exercise where I am not working multiple major muscle groups. This is how I get the BBWOB.
P.S. Will be phasing out the planks and replacing with this in the next few weeks:
- WHAT: Full Hanging (Knee) Leg Raise (Progression Goals: Hang for 20-30 seconds → Knee raise → Eventually full leg raise → Add twist for extra oblique focus)
- DURATION: As many as I can pump out without falling on my face. Reps is TBD.
- MUSCLE GROUPS: (Core) Upper & Lower Abs, Oblique, Lats, Hip Flexors, Quads, Back, Grip Strength
GOAL #1: Modified Hanging Leg Raise
- Questions to Ask Before Starting Any Exercise Routine
- Reasons to Consider Bodyweight Strength Training
- More Reasons to Consider Bodyweight Strength Training
- 10 Basic Bodyweight Exercises
- Exercise to Muscle Group Database (Great resource – don’t let the title of the site scare you)
- Why I’m Going to Give Hanging Leg Raises A Go