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8 Resistance Band Moves for Muscle and Strength

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Think resistance bands are just about saving space? Or that they’re “too easy” to score you the results you want? Think again.

Whether you’re looking to add resistance training to your regimen, or want to build on the strength gains you’ve already made, exercise bands can be a valuable tool in your muscle-building repertoire.

Resistance Bands vs. Weights

Resistance bands work the body differently than free-weights do, explains Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S., Beachbody’s senior manager of fitness and nutrition content. Unlike dumbbells and barbells, exercise bands create constant tension throughout a movement. “In so doing, they increase the time that the working muscles are under tension,” Thieme says, adding that “time under tension” is a powerful growth stimulus. “They also alter an exercise’s resistance curve.”

The point in each rep when the exercise feels hardest is the curve’s peak. In the biceps curl, that’s typically the mid-point of the movement (when the elbow is bent 90 degrees), for example. As you bring the weights closer to your shoulders, the exercise becomes easier. “But performing the exercise with a band changes that,” says Thieme. “Not only does the band keep your muscles under constant throughout each rep, but it also maximizes the resistance at the point in each rep when it’s typically the lowest — at the top,” says Thieme.

 

[monkeytools msnip=”http://monkeyplayr.com/playr.php?u=4275&p=16874″]

 

Another key difference between free weights and resistance bands is the direction of the resistance. With barbells or dumbbells, you’re essentially limited to fighting the downward pull of gravity. But with resistance bands, that resistance can come from almost any angle. As a result, bands can challenge your muscles in unaccustomed ways, hitting the refresh button on adaptation and growth.

How to Choose Exercise Bands

If you currently belong to a gym, it’s worth checking to see if it has any resistance bands that you can try out. Or, if you’re ready to take the plunge and create your home gym, you’ll be glad to know that resistance bands are some of the most cost-effective pieces of fitness equipment that you can buy.

Flat vs. tubed exercise bands

Beachbody Resistance Bands Moves for Muscle and StrengthFirst, consider whether you want to use flat resistance bands, tubed ones, or some combination of the two types. Flat exercise bands are simple, two-dimensional ribbons of latex, and are incredibly light, making them great space savers and travel companions. Thanks to a more equable distribution of pressure, they’re also less likely to leave red marks compared to tubes, making them ideal for any exercise in which the band will wrap around or press against a body part.

Some flat resistance bands come in loop form, allowing you to you wrap them around your knees when performing the clamshell, or your ankles when doing the lunge, for example. Others come in individual strips, and are ideal for exercises such as push-ups (although these too can be turned into a hoop with a simple knot).

Because wrapping tubed bands, which are made of dense rubber compounds, around your hands would be uncomfortable, tubed bands have handles or other attachments at each end. When performing exercises in which hand position is important (do you want an overhand, underhand, or neutral grip?), the handles are very helpful in maintaining the correct orientation. Try them for rows, biceps curls, and chest presses.

Level of resistance

When shopping for exercise bands, you’ll also want to weigh (see what we did there?) what levels of resistance you want — 5 to 15 pounds, 15 to 30 pounds, the options are almost endless. (Remember, you can always make small adjustments to a band’s resistance level by positioning yourself closer to or farther from the anchor point.)

Anchor point

You’ll also want to think about what you’re going to use as an anchor point for your resistance band when performing moves such as rowspresses, or chops. Do you have a pole or post around which you can loop the band? Or do you need an attachment kit to secure the band to a door?

8 Must-Try Moves Using Resistance Bands

Once you’ve got the right resistance bands, it’s time to put them to use with these exercises straight from Beachbody On Demand‘s most popular programs.

Bent-Over Row

Benefits: This staple compound move hits your upper-body’s biggest muscle (your lats), plus your traps, rotator cuffs, and rear delts.

Appears in: The 20s – Rachel’s Workouts – I Do: Strength

• Lay a resistance band on the floor, stepping your feet onto its center hip-width apart (you can loop the band around each foot if you need less slack). Hold the left handle in your right hand and the right handle in your left hand so that that the band forms an “X.”

• Keeping your back flat, core braced, and arms extended toward the floor, push your hips back and hinge forward, bending your knees slightly as you lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor. This is the starting position.

• Row the handles to the sides of your ribs, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement.

• Pause, and then lower the handles back to the starting position.

Incline/Decline Chest Press

Benefits: This one-two-punch move strengthens your chest muscles from multiple angles.

Appears in: 10 Minute Trainer – Upper Body

Incline press:

• Anchor a resistance band at chest height. With your back to the anchor point, hold the handles at shoulder height with your palms facing forward, and walk forward until you feel tension in the band. Step your right foot back into a staggered stance. This is the starting position.

• Keeping your core braced, extend your arms up in front of you at a 45-degree angle.

• Pause, and then slowly reverse the movement to return to the starting position. Do all of your reps, and then switch to a decline press.

Decline press:

• Bring the handles to the sides of your torso, and flip your hands so that your palms are facing up.

• Keeping your back flat and core braced, press the handles forward, so that your arms are angled toward the floor when fully extended.

• Pause, and then slowly reverse the movement to return to the starting position.

Alternating Shoulder Press

Benefits: In addition to helping strengthen your shoulders, this exercise will also work your triceps and emphasize core stability.

Appears in: Slim in 6 – Ramp it Up

• Lay a resistance band on the floor, stepping onto its center with your right foot, keeping your left foot behind you in a staggered stance. Grab the handles and bring them to shoulder height, palms forward, with the band running along the backs of your arms.

• Keeping your torso erect and your core braced, press the handle in your right hand directly above your shoulder until your right arm is fully extended.

• Lower it, and repeat with the handle in your left hand. Continue alternating sides.

Anterior Delt Raise With Lift

Benefits: Show the sides of your shoulders some extra love with this creative move, which includes a glute kickback to help build your backside and boost balance.

Appears in: TurboFire – Sculpt 30

• Lay a resistance band on the floor, and step onto it with your left foot slightly left of center.

• Grab a handle in each hand. Bring the right one to your right hip and raise the left one to hip level in front of you with your arm straight.

• Shift your weight onto your left leg, and touch the floor with the toes of your right foot behind you. This is the starting position.

• Keeping your back flat, abs engaged, and your left arm and right leg straight, simultaneously raise the left handle to shoulder height in front of you, and lift your right foot off the ground behind you.

• Reverse the move to return to the starting position.

• Switch sides, performing equal reps on each.

Bird Dog Press

Benefits: If regular bird dogs are no longer challenging enough, take your core and glute work to the next level with the addition of a resistance band.

Appears in: 21 Day Fix Extreme – Pilates

• Lay a resistance band on the floor, and step your feet hip-width apart onto its center. Loop the right end of the band around your right arch and repeat with the left.

• Grab the handles, and get on all fours, with your hands directly under your shoulders, and your knees under your hips. The band should run along the outsides of your legs.

• Keeping your back flat and core braced, extend your right arm in front of you and your left leg behind you.

• Slowly reverse the move to return to the starting position, and repeat for reps.

• Do all of your reps, switch sides, and repeat.

Biceps Curl

Benefits: With this variation, you’ll maintain constant tension in your biceps for the entire set, increasing your burn and muscle-building potential.

Appears in: The 20s – Rachel’s Workouts – I Do: Strength

• Lay a resistance band on the floor, and assume a staggered stance with your right foot on the center of the band. Grab a handle in each hand, and raise them in front of you with your elbows at your sides until there is tension in the band. This is the starting position.

• Keeping your elbows tucked, curl the handles toward your shoulders as far as you can.

• Pause, and then return to the starting position. Switch legs halfway through each set.

Triceps Kickdown

Benefits: This triceps-strengthening exercise pulls double duty as a great core and lower-body stability drill.

Appears in: P90 – Sculpt A

• Secure a resistance band on the top of a door or anchor point of comparable height.

• Grab the handles, kneel on one knee, and straighten the other leg in front of you.

• Pull the handles to your shoulders, so that your palms face back and your elbows are by your sides. This is the starting position.

• Keeping your elbows tucked, your back flat, and your chest up, extend your arms fully, pulling the handles toward the floor. Pause, and then return to the starting position.

• Switch legs halfway through each set.

Circle teaser

Benefits: This pilates-inspired core move rolls the advantages of a plank, a sit-up, a superman, and more all into one.

Appears in: 21 Day Fix Extreme – Pilates

• Sit on the floor with your knees bent, feet together. Place the resistance band over the tops of your feet, and then loop it around each arch, pulling the handles up between your legs.

• Bring the handles to the center of your chest (knuckles touching), lift your legs off the ground (shins parallel to the floor), and balance on your sit bones. This is the starting position.

• Keeping your back flat, abs engaged, and heels off the floor, extend your legs straight in front of you as you lower your torso to the floor.

• Extend your arms out to your sides, and then sweep them toward your knees before pulling the handles back to your chest as you raise your legs and torso to return to the starting position.

Beachbody Resistance Band Weight Levels

High on the list of questions people ask about Beachbody exercise bands is their equivalent dumbbell weights. While a lot hinges on how you use them — the shorter you make the band, the greater resistance — there are general weight thresholds associated with each color.

Using approximately three feet of band (or stepping onto the center of it), the following resistance bands are the equivalent of using the corresponding weight of dumbbell.

8 Resistance Band Moves for Muscle and StrengthTeal (B1): 5 pounds
Purple (B2): 10 pounds
Pink (B3): 15 pounds
Magenta (B4): 20 pounds
Orange (B5): 25 pounds
Red (B6): 30 pounds
Yellow (B7): 35 pounds
Green (B8): 40 pounds
Blue (B9): 45 pounds
Black (B10): 50 pounds

Exercise Programs

How to start running again (after a hiatus)

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Sharing my tips for getting back into a running routine after an injury or break. 

Hi friends! Happy Monday! I hope you had an amazing weekend. We met up with our friends Betsy and Jeremy to celebrate Betsy’s birthday and had a lovely Valentine’s Day with our little valentines. Exciting news: Organifi is free shipping sitewide today!!! They also have some new exclusive products which aren’t listed on the main site: the chocolate bars (!), the 14ct Go packs of the green juice, and the 14ct Go packs of gold powder. (I use the green juice every day in my water bottle and loooove the gold powder with warm almond milk at night to wind down.) Use the code FITNESSISTA for 15% off in addition to free shipping.

For today’s post, I wanted to share some tips on how to get back into running after a hiatus or injury. These are also great tips for beginners if you’re considering adding running into your routine! I’ve been a fair-weather runner for many years now, and tend to go in phases where it’s a huge part of my life and a small piece of my fitness pie. I haven’t sprinted in about a year – my last Orangetheory class was about one year ago exactly – and I realized how much I missed the challenge and free feeling of running. It’s always been a form of moving meditation for me and thought I’d bring it back once a week into my routine. I’ve gone on a few walk-runs and they’ve felt surprisingly cathartic and energizing.

Here are some ideas if you’re looking to get back into the running game.

How to start running again (after a hiatus)
1. Get new shoes. (I always love a reason to get new shoes)
If you haven’t ran in a while like yours truly, chances are that you need new sneakers specifically for running. It’s a good idea to have a pair of sneaks that are solely for running purposes, because other activities will wear out the soles differently. Also, if you haven’t ran in a while, there’s a chance that your sneakers are old and need to be refreshed.

Many running stores will offer complimentary fittings to ensure that you have the proper support and fit.

I’ve used a handful of different running sneakers over time but my last pair was the Brooks Levitate 2. I’m trying out the Brooks Adrenaline and will definitely report back!

2.) Make sure you can walk for a solid duration (30-45 minutes at a steady pace) before you start to add runs.
Walking is a great precursor to running because it includes similar movements and muscle groups. It’s a solid way to build up your endurance and strengthen the muscles in your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves before you add the additional impact of running. Walking is an excellent starting point for so many individual fitness routines if you’re a beginner and want to build up your cardio endurance (and positivity impact your heart health and mood!).

3.) Start with run-walk intervals and in time, days, and intensity from here. 
DON’T go straight into full runs when you aren’t conditioned. This is something I see allllllll the dang time: when people get excited about fitness and literally hit the ground running after being sedentary for months. I love the enthusiasm, but unfortunately, this is a recipe for injury and burnout. Walk-run intervals are a smart way to get the hang of running and prepare the body in smaller doses. I recommend starting out with a double walk to run ratio and decrease the amount of walking time from there. For example, walk for 1 minute and run for 30 seconds, repeat for 20 minutes total. From here, increase your run time to 1 minute and walk for 2 minutes. Once this feels good, take the walk time down to 1:30, then 1 minute, and then 30 seconds. Or gradually ADD onto your run time while keeping the walk time the same. Eventually, you’ll feel the need to take walk breaks less and less, and then you can run for a solid block of time.

I’m personally only starting with one day per week because I like to do ALL THE THINGS, but if you want to run more consistently, I wouldn’t do more than 2 or 3 days max (with breaks in between) if you’re just getting back into it or just getting started.

4.) Make strength training a regular part of your routine. 
This is so important for any type of cardio endurance activity, like running, cycling, walking, hiking, dancing, kickboxing, etc. A balanced strength training program will not only strengthen your muscles, support joints, and help prevent injury, but it will also make you stronger for your main activity. Strength training can help to increase lean muscle, strength, endurance, power, speed, and lead to measurable performance gains. If you’re looking for ideas on how to combine strength with running, check out this post!

5.) Don’t compare your previous times and records to your current status. 
This is SUCH a tricky one. When you get back into the swing of running, it’s so tempting to compare your current times to your previous PRs. Set new PRs! Like this is my “postpartum PR,” “my post knee-surgery PR,” or “my first Rona PR!” <— me

Be proud of yourself for setting NEW goals for yourself and cheer for any progress along the way!

6.) Seek out extra resources and communities for help. 
There is a whole internet world of resources and fitness communities out there! Thank you for stopping by this one today and I’m always here for you. <3 For some of my favorite run-specific blogs, check out Amanda’s site, Teri’s, and Janae’s.

7.) Consider signing up for a race for extra accountability and motivation. 
I’m not quite sure what the race climate is like with everything going on right now (I know there are virtual races out there?) but something to put in your pocket for later! I’m nowhere near taking out my race face right now, but maybe I’ll consider trying something in the fall. If anything, I just can’t wait to make it back to Orangetheory and crush a 30-minute treadmill block again. 😉

So tell me friends: do you run as part of your weekly fitness routine? If not, what’s your #1 favorite fitness activity?

With alllllll the things I enjoy, barre, spin, strength, and yoga are tied in the #1 spot.

Runner friends: tell me about any awesome new gear you’ve found lately! I was looking for a new flip belt and found this one. It has a water bottle that fits flesh to your back and you don’t hear a whoosh whoosh as it bounces around – it stays put! Pretty handy.

Happy Monday, friends!

xo

Gina

More:

How to train for a half marathon while strength training 

Tips for running faster

Back in running action

Running tips for Amanda from Run to the Finish

Track and strength workout

The post How to start running again (after a hiatus) appeared first on The Fitnessista.

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The 12 Best Compound Exercises for Beginners (How to Train Efficiently)

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It’s time to discover the best compound exercises for beginners!

Compound exercises are the most “bang for your buck” when it comes to working out, so I’m super excited you want to learn more about them!

In our 1-on-1 Online Coach Program, we prioritize compound exercises when building workout routines for our clients. We’ll explain why today.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What are compound exercises? (How to train efficiently)
The 5 best compound exercises (bodyweight)
The 7 best compound exercises (barbell)
Start training with compound exercises (Next steps)

Also, if you’re in a hurry, we’ve compiled all our strength and weight training content into one handy guide called (appropriately): Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know. 

Grab it for free when you join the Rebellion (that’s us!) below:

Download our comprehensive guide STRENGTH TRAINING 101!
Everything you need to know about getting strong.
Workout routines for bodyweight AND weight training.
How to find the right gym and train properly in one.

Alright, cue the music. Let’s do this thang.

What are Compound Exercises?

Let’s compare “compound exercises” to “isolation exercises”:

Compound exercises require more than one muscle group working together to complete the movement. This replicates the way your body naturally moves.
Isolation exercises more or less train one specific muscle group. For example, the leg extension machine focuses on your quads, so it “isolates” training that muscle.

Front squats would be an example of a compound exercise, because it engages your entire  lower body and core, and quite a bit of your upper body too, as you perform the movement:

As opposed to biceps curls, which more or less just trains your biceps:

As we explain in our Guide to Functional Fitness, whenever possible you want to focus on compound exercises.

Why?

Because in everyday life, you don’t use your muscles in isolation!

When you’re placing luggage in the overhead bin, hoisting a bag of dog food from the floor, or hauling your kid to bed, you’re using your muscle groups together. 

Just like you would with a compound exercise.

Plus, since you’re using multiple muscle groups at once, you’re taxing your body more when training. This can provide more efficient use of your time in the gym. 

In other words, why do three different exercises when you can just do one?

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get to working out.

The 5 Best Compound Exercises (Bodyweight)

1) The Push-up: The best exercise you could ever do for yourself when it comes to using your bodyweight for “push muscles.”

Muscles trained with the push-up:

Pectoral 
Triceps
Deltoids
Abs

Here’s our video on how to do a proper push-up:

Easier Variation: Knee Push-up

Tougher Variation: Decline Push-up

2) The Bodyweight Squat: This exercise serves a dual purpose – it is the foundation for building strength AND helps build proper mobility. If you are going to ever do barbell squats, you need to work on hitting proper depth with a bodyweight squat first! 

Muscles trained with the squat:

Quads
Glutes
Hamstrings
Core muscles

Easier Variation: Assisted Bodyweight Squat

Tougher Variation: Goblet Squat

3) The Inverted Bodyweight Row: Until you can get your first pull-up or chin-up, these exercises are GREAT to start building your pull-muscle strength.

Muscles trained with the inverted row:

All of your back muscles (Latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapezius)
Biceps
Forearm muscles (dorsal, ventral)
Your grip

Easier Variation: Incline Inverted Row

Tougher Variation: Elevated Feet Inverted Row

4) The Pull-up and Chin-up: Once you can support your body’s weight above the bar, the world becomes your playground. No strength training routine should be without pull-up or chin-up work! (Can’t do a pull-up yet? We got you.)

Muscles trained with the pull-up:

All of your back muscles (Latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapezius)
Biceps
Latissimus dorsi (Lats)
Trapezius (Traps)
Abs
Your grip

Here’s how to perform a proper pull-up:

Easier Variation: Negative Pull-ups

Tougher Variation: Weighted Pull-ups

5) The Bodyweight Dip: As you start to get stronger with push-ups and need to find a way to increase the challenge, consider doing dips.

Warning: these are very advanced, but are incredible strength-building exercises. 

Muscles trained with the dips:

Pectoral 
Triceps
Deltoids
Rhomboid (Back muscles)
Abs

Easier Variation: Assisted Dips

Tougher Variation: Weighted Dips

These 5 compound exercises will propel you into the world of bodyweight training. 

For more ideas on how to train without a gym, check out The 42 Best Bodyweight Exercises (Work Out Anywhere).

Now, it’s barbell time![1]

The 7 Best Compound Exercises (Barbell)

After getting comfortable moving your own bodyweight around, it’s time to start training with barbells!

To up the difficulty with these compound exercises, simply add more weight. 

The fun thing about barbells: you can almost always add more weight (disclaimer: provided you do it safely). 

Here are The Best Barbell Compound Exercises: 

6) The Barbell Squat: Probably the best compound exercise when it comes to building strength and muscle throughout your whole body. 

Show me somebody who squats heavy and I’ll show you a great physique. This is a MUST.

Here’s how to perform the barbell back squat:

Muscles trained with the barbell squat:

Quads
Glutes
Hamstrings
Core muscles

7) The Barbell Deadlift: Maybe the best exercise of all time. 

It’s certainly the most primal: “pick the weight up off the ground. Done.” 

Here’s how to perform the deadlift:

Muscles trained with the barbell deadlift:

Glutes
Erectors (Spinal muscle)
Hamstrings
Pretty much every muscle in your body

8) The Barbell Romanian Deadlift: Think of this as the top half of a conventional deadlift (imagine you’re a “drinking bird” bending over at the waist):

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to perform the Romanian deadlift:

Muscles trained with the Romanian deadlift:

Hamstrings
Glutes
Erectors (Spinal muscle)
Rhomboid (Back muscles)

9) The Barbell Overhead Press: Press a barbell above your head. 

Muscles trained with the overhead press:

Pectoral 
Triceps
Deltoids
Rhomboid (Back muscles)
Abs

All the muscles in your chest, shoulders, and arms are engaged in order for you to lift the weight over your head. As a bonus, you need to really flex and brace your core, which gets those muscles working too.

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to perform the overhead press:

10) The Barbell Bench Press: Lie on a bench, and lower a barbell until it almost touches your chest. Pause, and then press it back up towards the sky. 

Repeat! And get strong. 

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to perform the bench press:

Muscles trained with the benchpress:

Pectoral 
Triceps
Deltoids
Rhomboid (Back muscles)
Abs
Pretty much every muscle in your upper-body

11) The Barbell Bent-Over Row: Bend your torso over and hoist a barbell up.

Muscles trained with the bent-over row:

All of your back muscles (Latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapezius)
Biceps
Forearm muscles (dorsal, ventral)
Your grip

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to perform the bent-over row:

12) The Barbell Lunge: Have the bar across your upper back and step out with your right leg. Lower your hips until your back leg’s knee almost touches the ground. Explode up and back by pushing off with your front leg. Repeat on your other side.

Muscles trained with the barbell lunge:

Quads
Glutes
Hamstrings
Your core (as you stabilize yourself and the weight)

Note: The above might be tough if gyms are closed around you. If that’s so, here’s how to build a gym at home (using household equipment).

Start Performing the Best Compound Exercises (Next Steps)

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: commit to trying ONE of these compound movements in the next week. Use 20 seconds of courage, recruit a friend who has lifted or trained before, and try your best. 

We all start somewhere! 

Speaking of starting out…

Have you yet to do ANY of these compound exercises?

Always start out with bodyweight moves and make sure your form is correct!

If it’s a barbell movement, use a broomstick (or PVC Pipe). 

When it comes to movements like squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, bench press, etc. – your form is crucial.  Develop good habits with lighter weight and you will save yourself months of frustration later and will protect you from injury.

If you’re struggling with certain elements of a movement, don’t get frustrated! Just understand that you’ll have areas in which you can improve.

When I started, I really liked practicing all of the movements at home because I could watch a video online at the same time as I was watching myself do it in a mirror.

Film yourself and compare it to our videos, or post it to the form check section of the Nerd Fitness Forums.

Still uncomfortable with the movements after that? Look around at some local strength and conditioning gyms and see if you could hire a coach (here’s how to find a good trainer) for one or two sessions just to go over the basic movements (or consider working with an online coach).

No matter what path you take, the most important thing you can do: START NOW!

Don’t overthink it. Just pick a compound exercise and learn how to do it. We can add more exercises to your routine down the road.

Want a little help getting going? The perfect next step to start your strength training journey!

You got it. 

Option #1) If you want a coach in your pocket, who can do video form checks, provide feedback, and adjust your workouts based on your progress, check out our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program! 

I’ve had an online coach since 2015 and it’s changed my life. You can learn more by clicking on the box below: 

Option #2) If you want a daily prompt for doing compound exercises at home, check out NF Journey. Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

Plus, you get to build an awesome superhero in the process!

Try your free trial right here:

Option #3) Join the Rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.

Sign-up below and receive our free guide Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know. It includes step-by-step instructions for the Best Compound Exercises covered in today’s guide. 

Download our comprehensive guide STRENGTH TRAINING 101!
Everything you need to know about getting strong.
Workout routines for bodyweight AND weight training.
How to find the right gym and train properly in one.

Alright, enough from me. Your turn:

Do you agree with my list of best compound exercises?

Am I missing any?

Any tips or tricks for a newbie just getting started?

Let me know in the comments!

-Steve

PS: Make sure you check out the rest of our Strength Training 101 series:

5 Best Strength Training Workout Routines For Beginners
How Much Weight Should I Be Lifting?
Finding the Right Gym

###

GIF Source: Weighted Dips, Biceps Curl, Will Ferrell,

Photo Source: lightfieldstudios © 123RF.com, Workout, LEGO bench press,  Lance Cpl. Tayler P. Schwamb, 101, 102, 103

Footnotes    ( returns to text)

My favorite time.

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Sit Ups vs. Crunches Which One is Better and what is the difference?

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Flat stomach and good abs are probably the pinnacle of fitness achievement for anyone who has started with a diet and workout regimen. Although it goes beyond saying that a trim and slim core is far more appealing than those unflattering stomach rolls, a strong core will also improve your posture and make your exercises more efficient while remaining injury-free. Having said that, it is fair to say that the abs are probably the most stubborn and most difficult muscles to tone (especially for women!) and that a six-pack comes at a serious price of watching your diet and training to your limits. So how do you square the debate between sit ups vs. crunches?

Sit Ups And Crunches

Presuming that youve
cut down on all the food that makes your tummy chubby and you are now looking
for a way to see those attractive ab-delineating lines, it still goes without
saying that you need to be prepared for some serious sweating. The reason
behind the sweat? Lots of and lots of sit ups and crunches!

Although all
forms of exercise tend to make your core stronger, you wont see that six-pack
of yours without ab-targeted workouts. Youve all probably heard of sit ups and
crunches, but youll be surprised how many people either confuse them and think
of them as the same exercise or are not quite sure what makes them different. If
you are one of them, stick around while we take a closer look and compare these
two ab-splitting exercises. Its time for the sit ups vs. crunches duel.

What is the difference between crunches and sit ups?

When it comes to crunches vs. sit ups, the main difference is the muscles they target. Although they are both ab-working muscles, sit ups, unlike crunches, target multiple muscles at once. Unfortunately, neither of them targets belly fat directly (you need to stay out of the kitchen and go though the hell of cardio for that!).

The good thing about your core is that you will target some of the muscles with virtually every other bodyweight workout. Take for example squats or lunges both contribute towards a stronger core, beyond their primary purpose.

What muscles do
sit ups work?

Sit ups work the abs and a range of other muscle groups like the chest,
lower back, hip flexors and neck. However, you shouldnt dread building
additional muscles, as muscle cells, due to their higher metabolic activity
compared to fat cells, will make you burn more calories (and consequently fat)
even when you are resting, which will bring you a step closer to a shredded
abdomen.

What muscles do
crunches work?

Crunches work by the principle of intense muscle isolation. They only work
the abdominal muscles, therefore making them the most popular exercise for
those trying to get a six-pack. They are also a perfect exercise for developing
a strong core, which includes the lower back muscles and obliques. And a strong
core translates into better posture and improved balance.

The sit up
vs. crunches discussion inevitably breaks over the benefits of each of these exercises,
which (and this cannot be stressed enough) will be significantly reduced if
proper form is not maintained. So let me get back to the opening question:

Sit ups vs. crunches
which one is better?
Well, lets have a
closer look at how these exercises work and then compare them one against the
other.

What are the benefits of crunches and how to do a proper
crunch?

Sit Ups Vs. Crunches 1

The crunch works by strengthening the rectus abdominis by flexing it. Although in performing crunches you dont go as high as with the full sit up, this primary abdominal muscle activates during the first 30-45 degrees of movement, or just at the point when you lift the shoulders off the ground.

The crunch has a smaller range of motion compared to the sit up, but that is not necessarily a bad thing as it works your core without putting stress on your back.

One study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found out that the Ab-slide exercise shows higher electromyographic activity across the external oblique, upper rectus abdominis and lower rectus abdominis, and is therefore slightly more effective than the crunch. However, the study also concluded that the crunches show significant activity as well, and should therefore not be excluded.

Of course, you
wont see any of the benefits of crunches if you fail to do them correctly. So
in order to maintain proper form, follow the steps below.

Crunches also
build endurance in abdominal muscles. By being an isolated exercise, they help
achieve abdominal endurance faster and more effectively when compared against
other ab exercises. As the purpose of your abs is to stabilize your
mid-section, help you have a good posture, and support you when lifting heavy
objects, one of the best benefits of crunches is that they help you achieve exactly
that which makes them quite the functional exercise.

How to do a
proper crunch?

  1. Lie down on your back and bend
    your knees
  2. Put your hands behind your head
    or cross them so that palms are touching opposite shoulders
  3. Draw in your belly button towards
    your spine and lift your head, neck and shoulders off the floor (no higher),
    exhaling while going up.
  4. Pause, inhale, and return to the
    staring position. Make sure that your feet, low back and tailbone never lose
    contact with the ground as you roll up and down.

What are the benefits of sit ups and how to do a proper
sit up?

Crunches Vs. Sit Ups

As I already mentioned, sit ups work more muscles in your body as opposed to abs only. They are a bodyweight exercise, just like crunches, but the fact that they engage multiple muscle groups means that they are more beneficial for toning your body and developing functional strength compared to crunches. Another of the great benefits of doing sit ups is that they do a great job at stabilizing your muscles and strengthening your core while protecting your spine.

Doing sit ups
will help you increase your range of motion and flexibility, which will in turn
help you maintain a good posture and reduce the risk of back injury or strain.

Here is how to perform
a full sit up:

  1. Bend your knees and place your
    feet flat on the floor
  2. Put your hands behind your head
    or cross them to opposite shoulders
  3. Draw in your belly button
    towards your spine
  4. Lift your upper body pulling up
    from the floor until your elbows reach the knees. Exhale while lifting up.
  5. Pause for a second, and then
    slowly bring your upper body back to the floor. Inhale while lowering.

How about different varieties of each?

When considering each exercise, it is important to note that the crunch offers a far more versatile training program if you know how to vary the basic movement. We published an entire article, with a free video from our workout program, where you can gather some ideas on doing a variety of crunches or a palate of other ab exercises, so make sure to take a look.

Ab exercises

The sit up, on the other hand, is not an easy movement to modify. You can hold one dumbbell in your hand in order to increase the resistance on your abs and lower back, or perhaps extend your arm as you reach the highest point going upwards. Another option would be to make a slight twist with your core and therefore target your obliques too.

If you need a comprehensive program that includes some of the most advanced abdominal workouts incorporated across a number of bodyweight training sessions, make sure to check our platform Fitness Updated, where you can find complete nutritional breakdown, recipes, and smart bodyweight training videos.

Sit ups vs. crunches the verdict

While sit ups engage more muscles, they undoubtedly put more strain and stress on your spine, including the neck. However, if not done with proper form, crunches can also lead to back pain, especially in beginners.

As for their
input in achieving the desired flat belly, they are both excellent for
developing and strengthening core muscles. But, if you are still looking for a
definite answer to the question Sit ups or crunches for flat stomach, the
answer goes beyond the crunches vs. sit ups debate. No ab exercise burns fat,
and getting a flat tummy requires combination of these exercises with a
healthy, low-calorie diet as well as regular cardio exercises.

As part of a comprehensive exercise routine, both the crunch and the sit up can help you lose body fat by contributing to an increase of your metabolic rate, as well as a slight but significant increase in muscle tissue around your abdomen. They alone wont shrink your tummy, but will speed the weight loss process dramatically and as you lose belly fat, your newly strengthened abs will start showing.

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