If you're wavering between skipping a workout and doing a ten minute routine, choose the ten minute routine! You need to be strength training 2-3 times / week to maintain/build muscle, keep your metabolism supported and keep your joints protected. You really don't want to risk losing muscle and depleting your system (leading to more fat storage, more load hitting and damaging the joints and general strength loss).I'm going to provide a short program of six exercises that are sure to hit all your muscle groups when done properly. It's important to do something more thorough at least once / twice a week in my opinion, that includes more core exercises (because the core needs to be trained isometrically, rotationally, and in a stable manner that recruits the difficult-to-train transverse abdominis). But, this program will bridge the gap well between your more intensive training sessions.
Once again, I apologize for not yet having photos to post, but I should have more of these components in the coming months of my blog.
SPLIT SQUATS: Begin in a static lunge position (split stance), with your weight deposited into the front heel and your back foot resting on the ball of the foot, with the heel elevated. The goal of any kind of lunge is to reach two 90 degree angles in the legs at the bottom, where your back knee hovers over the floor (weight still in the front heel). Keep the shoulders back, chest lifted, and core tight. Inhale as you lower to the position with both legs at 90 degree angles, exhale and dig through the front heel to straighten back up to start. Knees will always be a little bit bent at the top. Repeat all repetitions on one leg (12-15 for most people) before switching sides. The feet never change their position. Split Squats work the glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves and core.
WALL SQUAT: A wall squat is an isometric contraction, meaning that you hold the position still to build a really rooted and enduring strength. You will be seated against the wall, with heels of the feet directly under the knees (make sure that your feet are parallel to one another - particularly the outsides of the shoes following two parallel lines, perpendicular with the wall). Also be sure that your knees are not splayed outward, you want a slight closure in through the adductors as you hold. You can lift your toes entirely in this exercises, to keep the emphasis through the heel (and therefore through the glute). Make sure you are just slightly above a 90 degree angle in the knees (if you are too low, you will overload the knees instead of the quads and glutes). Press your lower back tightly into the wall so that the abdominals are recruited and building as well. Now, hang out! Hold the position for as long as you can. You will feel a sharp burn within a few seconds usually - work up to one minute.
HAMSTRING BRIDGE: Begin lying on your back, with your feet elevated on a chair or table. Your heels will be pressed into the chair, but the achilles and calves must not be resting / touching. We want to emphasize the glutes as much as possible - always! Your legs will be just slightly more open than a 90 degree angle. Your arms will be rested by your sides for balance support (though try not to depend on them). Inhale before you begin, and as you exhale, contract the hamstring and glutes to lift the hips up to where they are nearly in a straight line between your feet and your shoulders. Remember not to lock the knees at the top, and don't overextend your lower back. Keep the focus on the muscles you're working. Inahle to bend the knees back to your starting position, except you will simply hover over the floor, rather than deposit your weight on the floor. Exhale and repeat 15-20 times.
PUSH-UPS: Push-ups are a chest exercise, yes. But they also serve as a core exercise, and if you lower slowly and protract your shoulder blades on the way down, you can train the muscles in the back on your eccentric contraction. Hand position is key in push-ups: Begin with hands directly under the shoulders. Belly button is pinned up at the spine (you must NEVER lose this core foundation - and your core must be at its MOST contracted when you are at the bottom, about to push yourself back up). Look slightly forward to make sure you don't dive down headfirst. You want to get a nice expansion through the chest while keeping the core isometrically contracted. Inhale as you lower, and make sure that your elbows fold slightly back toward the wall behind you, instead of straight out to the walls on either side of you. This ensures that the load doesn't hit the shoulders too heavily, rather stays on the core, chest and triceps (anterior delts are at the stitch of the contraction inevitably). If your hips swoop at the bottom, meaning you've lost your core contraction, then you need to begin on your knees. You must be in a straight line from your knees to your shoulders, with your abs pinned up toward the spine. As you get stronger with this method, you can move onto push-ups on the toes.
PLANK: Here we have another isometric contraction to strengthen the core. Again, (I'm a bit core-obsessed) ideally you will have a more thorough core program that you will follow regularly that recruits the obliques a bit more deeply. But the plank contributes to a great amount of balance between the strength in the lower back, keeps the transverse abdominis contracted when done properly and really aids the enduring strength of the core as a unit. You are going to be in the same position as the top of a push-up, however on your elbows instead of your hands. Elbows still sit directly under the shoulders (if they are too far back, your shoulders will be overloaded). Your forearms will be tracked in parallel lines toward the wall ahead of you. I like to have clients keep their palms faced up, so that all tension / exertion is focused right on the core and doesn't get lost or distracted in the grip of the hands. Keep your hips in line with shoulders and heels, and then hold that structure. Within that solid, unmoving structure of your skeletal system, close your muscles (abs) by pinning the belly button up toward the spine. If you know how to tilt your pelvis in (shortening the abs and lengthening the spine, or "cat tilt" in yoga), do this. You will get an extra 10-15 seconds out of your plank. Hold for as long as you can. If your abs begin to quit despite your best efforts, and you feel the load re-distribute to the lower back, it is time to quit. But keep pressing your abs inward (and upward) without moving the hips and fight for more time!
LOWER BACK EXTENSIONS: The lower back needs to be trained in isolation. I would say about 90% of my hundreds of clients over the years have complained of some lower back discomfort or tightness. We don't strengthen the erector spinae reguarly in everyday life, yet it bear the load of what we carry (without a strong core) and remains stretched out as we sit at a desk or hover over a laptop! By staying on top of your BALANCE in your core, with lower back extensions, most back problems should go away within 3-4 weeks. Begin lying facedown, legs extended, feet slightly apart with the top of the foot resting or sinking into the floor. From the hips down will be dead weight, heavily pressed into the floor throughout the exercise. This is used for our stability, so that the range of motion in the lower spine can really be exercised in isolation (as much as possible). Your hamstrings and glutes will shorten by default inevitably, because they are attached to the erector spinae. Have your hands directly under your shoulders, with elbows tucked in at your sides and lifted off the floor. Your arms will be used only to SUPPORT the range of motion that your lower back comes up with itself. Keep your head neutral, so that the closure of the spine stays concentrated on the lower end near the tailbone. Your chin will be slightly tucked in throughout. Exhale, contract the lower back to lift the chest off the floor to your own degree. Make sure you are not pushing through the arms and shoulders. Inhale to lower back down. Pay attention to your muscle and how cranky it's becoming... You want it to be a building tightness (most people reach between 12-20 repetitions). It can become sharp, but when it does it is time to quit. The lower back is sensitive, and you need to stretch it out after each set. Do this by contracting your abs (for immediate support to the now-vulnerable lower back), and use upper body to push your hips back onto the heels. This is a shell stretch. Hold for twenty seconds.
So - a very thorough account of my recommended 6 exercises to do to replace a bigger strength workout, that doesn't require any equipment. They will strengthen and tone your whole body. Do 2-3 sets of each exercise (I would do the whole thing through, then repeat 2-3 times).
I hope it isn't too difficult to follow without photos! Soon, friends... soon.