How to do a pull up
The more you weigh, the harder it is to do a pull up – so getting nice and lean through a good diet is a good way to start out before even attempting your first pull-up. It’s also a good idea to start working on your back strength. This can be done through exercises like bent over dumbbell rows and body weight rows. Once your back is nice and strong, you can attempt an assisted pull up. Most gyms will have an assisted pullup machine, otherwise you can use a chair or a partner to take some of the weight when starting out.
The correct technique for a good pull up is clenching your glutes and abs so you don’t swing too much, keep your shoulder blades pinched, and focus on pulling the bar down with your awms. Once you’ve mastered this technique, you can vary your pull ups by doing more reps, using a wide grip, or adding weight with a weight belt. The benefit of doing pull ups is that they’re the quickest way to get a strong and defined back and shoulders.
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How to squat
To avoid knee and back pain that can be associated with poor squat form, the proper technique for a squat is to stand with your legs shoulder width apart, and squat down until your hips are below your knees. You should keep your knees pointed 30 degrees outwards. If you’re using a bar to add weight, rest it between your traps and rear shoulders and grip with your hands.
Squats are great because they work the entire body – your legs, abs, lower back and shoulders are all moving. If you want to change it up a bit, try deep squatting by going all the way down until your backside touches your ankles. This technique works your muscles through more motions, but make sure you decrease the weight when using this technique.
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How to deadlift
The deadlift targets the quads, buttocks, hamstrings, lats, upper back and forearms. Here’s how you deadlift: start with the weight on the ground, and your feet under the bar and hip width apart. Bend over without bending your legs and grip the bar at shoulder width apart, bending your knees. Then straighten your back until you’re standing, pulling the bar to your mid-thighs and locking your hips and knees. Return the weight back to the ground by moving your hips backwards and bending your legs. It’s important to keep your lower back neutral to avoid getting injured. You can vary this workout by increasing the number of reps you do and adding weight.
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How to do a push up
To do a traditional push up, start lying on the ground with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width and your feet set up in whichever way is most comfortable for you. Lift yourself onto your hands and toes, keeping your body in a straight line, with your head looking slightly ahead. Lower yourself steadily until your elbows are at a 90 degree angle, keeping your buttocks clenched and abs braced. Once your chest touches the floor, pause, then explode back up into the starting position. If you’re just starting out, do as many as possible until you feel your form slipping. Doing five push ups with good form is a lot better than 10 bad ones.
A good push up will work your pecs, triceps, biceps, traps and lats. Once you’ve mastered that, try variations to challenge yourself – like the wide grip push up, clap push ups and one leg push ups.
How to bench press
To do a bench press, lie flat on the bench with your eyes under the bar and feet flat on the floor. Hold the bar in your palms and unrack the bar by straightening your arms and moving it over your shoulders, elbows locked. Lower the bar towards your mid-chest by tucking your elbows 75 degrees and keeping your forearms vertical. Then press the bar from your chest to above your shoulders, breathing out. Continue adding more weight and doing more reps as you get stronger.
The bench press is considered a full body exercise because it works your chest, shoulders and triceps and is the best way to gain upper body strength and muscle mass, particularly in your chest. You can also try dumbbell bench presses to work your pecs and lats more, or try using a stability ball and dumbells instead of lying on a bench for an added challenge.
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How to do a lat pull down
A lat pull down is what’s known as a compound exercise – it works several joints at once. You’ll feel the burn of a lat pull down mainly in your lats, biceps and forearms.
When attempting this exercise make sure you keep your chest tall and bring it to the bar. Keeping your elbows pointed straight down, squeeze your lats and imagine pulling from your armpits. You should pull the bar to your chin. A common error to avoid is pulling the bar down behind your neck. This is a big no no as it shortens the range of motion of your lats, defeating the purpose of the exercise.
To vary up this exercise try holding the bar wider than your shoulders, or using a ‘V-grip’ handle instead. You should also add more weight and increase the number of reps you do as your get more confident and stronger.
How to do lunges
Lunges are a really handy exercise because they can be done anywhere at any time, without equipment. Of course, adding weights and resistance bands are a great way to vary this simple exercise and add a challenge.
To do a forward lunge, start standing with your feet hip width apart. Keep your spine straight by flexing your abs and take a big step forward with one leg, leaning forward so that most of your weight is on your front foot and hold this position. Lower your body towards the ground until your knee is 90 degrees, with your thigh parallel to the ground. Then push yourself back up and return to the starting position. You should swap feet now and do the other leg. You can also try doing a backward lunge by stepping backwards instead but keeping the same technique.
You’ll feel this one in your glutes, hips, buttocks, hamstrings and quads, so it’s a really great exercise if you’re looking to train your legs. The calves and abs also get a bit of a work out too.
How to do a tricep push down
To set up for a tricep push down, attach a straight bar to a high pulley and – standing up – grab hold of it with a overhand grip at shoulder width apart and your upper arms close to your body. Using your triceps, pull the bar down until it touches your thighs and your arms are fully extended, perpendicular to the floor. Your upper arms should remain stationary next to your torso with only your forearms moving. Hold the position, then bring the bar back to the starting position. Obviously, this exercise targets the triceps, but it also works the muscles across your elbow joint. You can change up this exercise by using an E-Z bar or a V-angled bar, or why not try attaching a rope to the pulley.
How to do bicep curls
Bicep curls are an oldy but a goodie. They work your biceps, deltoid muscle, wrist extensors and flexors. To master the art of the bicep curl, start by standing with a dumbbell in each hand. The weight will depend on whether you’re a beginner or not, but you can keep adding weights as you improve. Keep your elbows close to your body and face your palms forward. Curl the weights until your biceps are fully contracted and the dumbbells are at your shoulders (your upper arms should remain stationary). Hold, then return to the starting position, squeezing your biceps as you do so. And there you have it, one bicep curl. To mix things up, you could do this routine sitting down, or you can try alternating arms.
How to start running
Although running is a form of cardio, it helps out so many muscles including your hamstrings, quads, glutes, hip flexors, abs, calves and more. Before running your need to be properly warmed up to avoid injury. You should be avoiding static stretches and instead, loosen up your muscles with some dynamic stretching. A good running technique is another way to avoid injury. If you’re just beginning running, start out slow and try running up hills – you will naturally shorten your stride and land on the balls of your feet to get up the hill, which is the style you want when running. You also want to be landing with your knee already bent to absorb shock, rather than transferring it through your body. You also need to cool down properly by slowing down to a jog in order to bring your heart rate down.