Secondary Muscles: Glutes, Lower Back, Hip Flexors
How many of you have that big, blue dust-collecting prop in the corner of your room? You’ve nearly broken your neck tripping over it and you’re constantly kicking it out of the way, only to have it rebound off the corner of your bed and take out your legs in retaliation. Well, dust it off and give this one a try. Here is a great exercise for the hamstring muscles. Deceptively difficult and extremely effective. I love this one for the guys because it looks so easy, yet it gets them crying in only a couple of repetitions. The hamstrings are an underutilized muscle. For those that have sedentary occupations, the hamstring muscles spend a great deal of time being sat upon. Being in a shortened position for long periods of time leave these muscles weak and tight. Give the hamstrings a jolt with the Stability Ball Hamstring Curl. Here’s how it goes:
Lie on your back with your feet propped up on a stability ball, feet together just over the apex of the ball. Hands should be at your sides, palms down for support. From this position, pushing through the backs of the legs, lift the hips off of the ground until you’ve achieved a straight-line position with the body, with heels, knees, hips, and shoulders in line. This is the starting position for the exercise. From here, exhale as you pull the ball towards your glutes by lifting your hips and driving the heels back. Make sure to pick the hips up as your heels come towards the glutes, maximizing the work in the hamstring muscles and minimizing the work in the hip flexors. Once you have pulled the legs in as far as you can, inhale as you slowly bring the legs back out to starting position, dropping the hips back down as the legs extend. You should feel a significant amount of work in the backs of the legs. Start with as many repetitions as you feel comfortable. Work your way up from there. As always, if you have any questions feel fee to leave a question in the comments section. Enjoy!
The Side Push-off Lunge is another great exercise working in the frontal plane (side to side or lateral). Like the Speedskaters, it works the muscles of the hips by bringing the legs out away from the body. This makes the exercise effective for strengthening the muscles of the outside of the hips, as well as loosening up the muscles of the inner thigh. Done correctly, this exercise is very effective for counteracting the tightening effects of walking, running, cycling and sitting, all done with legs close to the midline of the body. It is also a great exercise for those who enjoy activities such as tennis, soccer, basketball, and dancing, which involve lateral movement of the lower body. Here’s how it goes:
Starting in an upright position with hands at your sides (empty or holding dumbbells) and feet together, step out to the side with one leg and shift the body weight over that leg, keeping the other leg planted on the ground. Bend the outside knee and bring the body down towards the ground, reaching the hips back behind you and hinging forward at the waist, keeping the back in a neutral position and bringing the hands or dumbbells down, one on each side of the bent knee. The planted leg should remain straight or nearly straight. The bulk of the weight should be on the bent leg out to the side. You should feel a slight stretch in the glutes of the bent leg side. Using the muscles of the glutes, push off the ground and back towards the planted leg, returning to standing position. Switch sides and complete the same instructions on the other side. Only bend the outside knee as far as you feel comfortable, and keep the knee behind the toe so as to eliminate excessive forces at the knee. The key to this exercise is the lateral movement. You should be stepping out to the side, and then pushing yourself back to the middle, forcing the muscles of the outside of the hips to engage. This one may take a little practice, but give it a shot. Be safe and enjoy!
Primary Muscle Groups: Gluteus Medius (Hip Abductors), Gluteus Maximus
Secondary Muscle Groups: Hamstrings, Quads
How about something that will get your heart rate up? The Speedskater exercise is a great combination exercise. Not only does it strengthen the muscles of the glutes, but it provides anaerobic cardiovascular conditioning. It also works the body in the frontal plane, getting the body moving side to side. We spend so much time with the limbs close to the body (especially the hips), that is great to improve flexibility by working the muscles out away from the body. Always keep the movement under control and adjust the exercise for your level of conditioning. Start with 30 seconds of continual movement and work your way up from there. Have fun!