There’s a principle called Pareto’s Principle, more commonly known as the 80/20 rule. What it means in a nutshell is that 80% of your results comes from just 20% of your work. So for instance if you only had a few minutes a day to devote to your fitness, there would be a few exercises that could accomplish most of your workout. I’m not saying you should stop your full length routine for this one. But if you were pressed for time, these would be the best workout routine to do. By varying these three exercises, you can hit nearly every muscle group in your body.
Push ups have been around for over 100 years, They have been used by the military since after World War II. It seems like Push ups are one of the first exercises people learn, but then they quickly forget.
What push ups work.
Push ups can effectively work the Chest, Triceps, Shoulders, and Abs.
How to do a standard push up.
Start on your hands and knees. Put your hands palms down on the floor directly under your shoulders. Extend your legs out with your feet together and your toes touching the ground. Keep your body as straight as possible. Bend your elbows and go down till your chest is an inch from the ground and push back up. This is a standard push up. It works both your chest and your triceps.
There seem to be countless variations of the push up. I’ll just list a few here, but if you search you can find many many more.
1. Elevated push up. This is just like a normal push up but your feet are resting on a something raising them off the floor. The more you raise your feet the more weight you will lift. Elevated push ups also shift the focus to your upper chest and shoulders.
2. Wide grip push up. This is the same as a standard push up except you move your hand out wider than shoulder width apart. The wider grip puts more stress on your chest and less on your triceps.
3. Diamond push up. This time take your hands and put them together so your index fingers and your thumbs form a diamond. (I’ve also heard this called a heart to heart push up because you can take your fingers and make an upside down heart). Put your hands directly under your chest and put your feet about shoulder width apart. These will work your triceps more than your chest.
4. Tucked elbow push up. This is done the same as a standard push up except you keep your elbows as close to your body as possible. Normally you would have your elbows go straight out perpendicular to your body. With this variation you keep your elbows parallel with your body. This also focuses on your triceps.
5. Dive bomber push up. This exercise is difficult to explain in words, so I’ll add a video. Basally you start in a position that looks like the downward dog. You move your body down and forward so that your shoulders and in front of your hands, and then you lift up so that it looks like your are squeezing under an imaginary bar. Then you reverse the movement and push yourself back up to the start position. This works nearly everything, chest, shoulders, triceps, and abs.
If push ups are too difficult.
1. Get on your knees. When I was in jr. high school these were called girls push ups (i’m sure they aren’t called that anymore). Basically its the same movement as a push up but with your knees touching the ground. You can increase the difficulty by moving your knees out further from under your waist.
2. Elevate your upper body. this is the opposite of the elevated push up. Keep your feet on the floor and put your upper body on a bench. The more you elevate your upper body the easier it becomes. You can even do this against a wall if you need to.
Raising the Intensity.
1. Plyometrics. You can raise the intensity of any of the variations of push up by exploding off the ground as hard as you can. Try throwing your upper body off the ground every time you push up.
2. Hand stand push ups. This is done by doing a hand stand next to a wall (about a foot away). Then with your feet touching the wall for stability going down till your head touches the floor and pushing back up. This works mostly your shoulders and triceps.
3. Spiderman push ups. This is like a standard push up but as you go down you pull one knee up to touch your elbow without your leg touching the ground your knee doesn’t have to actually touch yoru elbow. As you push up you return your leg to the starting position. The next rep do the same with the other leg. This works chest and triceps, but also works your abs much more than a standard push up.
4. One arm raised push ups. This requires a platform around 4 – 10 inches tall. Place one hand on the platform and do a push up normally. Alternate which hand is elevated.
Pull ups have always been one of my favorite exercises to do. I remember in school, I wasn’t the biggest or strongest kid by far, but I could do the most pull ups (i was a skinny kid), and I was very proud of that.
What pull ups work.
Pull ups are the best Upper Back Exercise around, they also work the biceps and forearms pretty well.
How to do a standard pull up.
You need a bar for this. Grab the bar with your palms facing away from you. Your hands should be shoulder width or just a little further apart. Hang from the bar with your arms straight or very slightly bent. Then pull yourself up till your chin is above the bar. Then slowly lower yourself back to the start position.
Again there are a ton of variations of the pull up, but i will only go over a few.
1. Chin up. Chin ups are like pull ups but you grab the bar with your palms facing towards you. You generally use a closer grip than a standard pull up. Chin ups work your biceps more than standard pull ups.
2. Close grip pull ups. The same as a standard pull up except your palms will be very close to each other. This will work your biceps more than your back.
3. Wide grip pull ups. This is exactly the same as a standard pull up, except you grab the bar about 6 inches wider than your shoulder width. Wide grip pull ups work your upper back more than a standard pull up.
If pull ups are too difficult.
1. Assisted pull up machine. If you go to a gym it likely has one of these machines. These machines provide a push to help you do pull ups. The more weight you add the easier it is. So for example if you are 200 lbs and you select 50 lbs of weight on the machine. You will be pulling up 150 lbs of your bodyweight.
2. Use a chair. place a chair or step under your pull up bar. Hang from the bar and just place your feet on the chair. Pull as hard as you can and if you cannot get all the way up push slightly with your feet to help. Only use your legs when you need to (otherwise this turns more into a leg workout).
3. Lateral pull downs. This is not a pull up, but it is something you can do to increase your strength in your upper back. This either requires a lat pull down machine, or can be done with resistance bands. The motion is very similar to pull ups and works your upper back and biceps as well.
Raising the intensity.
1. Weighted pull ups. Add weight to your pull ups to increase the difficulty.
2. Muscle ups. To do a muscle up you must pull up hard and fast and bring your upper body over the bar. When you finish the bar should rest near your hips.
I don’t mind push ups, and I really enjoy pull ups, but I despise squats. However they are the definitive lower body exercise. I hate them because they are so effective. After I finish doing an intense set of squats I feel like I cant walk.
What squats work.
Squats work your lower back, your butt, and the rest of your legs (hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves).
How to do a standard squat.
Stand with your feel shoulder width apart and put your arms straight out in front of you. Squat down bend at the knees and hips. Keep your weight on your heels only use the rest of your feet for balance. Squat down to at where your thighs are parallel with the ground, then press back up so that your legs are straight. For safety always do weighted squats in a power rack.
When Starting out use very little or no weight until you feel comfortable with the motion.
1. Front Squat. This is very similar to the standard squat except you hold the barbell on the front of your shoulders. This Is more difficult and you will need to reduce the weight. It will also allow you to go down more than a standard squat.
2. Sumo Squat. This is done the same as a standard squat except your legs are spaced wider apart and your toes are pointed outwards.
If squats are too difficult.
1. Reduce the weight. If you are doing weighted squats try reducing or eliminating the weight all together. Body weight Squats are still effective.
2. Place a chair or bench under you. If you feel unstable place a chair or bench so that when you get to your lowest position your butt just touches the chair and press back up.
3. Leg Press. If squats are too difficult you can start out doing leg presses with a nautilus machine.
Stepping up the intensity.
1. Overhead squat. This is similar to a standard squat but you hold the bar straight over your head. This will require you to greatly reduce the weight, but this exercise engages your entire body.
2. Add Plyometrics. I don’t suggest doing this with a weighted barbell, but you could use a kettle bell or light dumb bells. Squat normally but press up fast and jump, when you land go right back down into your next squat.
3. One leg squat. These are difficult because they require a lot of stability and balance. Stand on one leg with your other leg lifted and slightly in front of you. Squat down on one leg and press back up.
Some final thoughts.
There is another exercise out there called a burpie demonstrated here by Mike Rowe
So there you have it, a push up, squat, and a little plyo jump all in one exercise, if you could jump up and grab a pull up bar you could hit everything in one rep talk about best workout routine.