The 5 best exercises you’re probably not doing
From time to time we all need to add some variety into our weekly routines to keep things interesting and challenging. If you’re a keen gym goer, or have been working hard since the New Year, these are five of my favorite exercises that will do just that…
1. Hollow holds and hollow rocks
Hollow holds and rocks are one of my favorite core exercises. They are great for developing core strength and control, and they are harder than they look!
Start with the hollow hold, and as you get stronger and more confident, progress to a hollow rock.
- Start by lying on your back, arms and legs pointing straight out with hands and toes pointed. In this position, contract your abs and flatten your lower back against the floor.
- Slowly raise your shoulders, head, and legs from the ground, making sure to keep the lower back in contact with the ground. You must maintain pointed toes and hands, and the arms should be pinned either side of your ears.
- Aim to find the lowest position you can with your arms and legs without them touching the ground BUT keeping the lower back in contact with the ground at all times
- The lower your arms and legs go, the harder the exercise. Make sure you keep the abs engaged at all times. Don’t hold your breathe!
- Aim for 4 sets of 45-60 second holds
- Get into your hollow hold position
- Start rocking back and forth without allowing the shape to break at any point
- If the shape breaks, go back and practice the hollow holds
- Aim for 4 sets of 15-20 hollow rocks with perfect form
This is one of my favorite high intensity cardio finishers. All you need is a treadmill and the guts to give it a go! Throw these in at the end of your workout for a fat-blasting cardio finisher that will get your metabolism firing for hours afterwards.
- Get on a treadmill but do not turn it on. Instead of the motor turning the belt, you are going to do the hard work!
- Place your hands on the front bar, and lean into it, starting to drive the belt with your feet.
- Steadily increase the pace until you are at full speed. Keep full speed for between 10-20 seconds.
- Slowly lower the pace until the belt has come to a stop and step off. Rest for 40-50 seconds and repeat.
- The key with these is to make sure you hit top speed and really throw everything into each sprint interval
- Start with 10-second sprints with 50 seconds rest, and aim to complete 6-8 sprints. As you get fitter, increase the sprint duration, decrease the rest time, and/or increase the number of sprints.
3. Renegade rows
A fantastic exercise to develop all over upper body strength and core control. This exercise hits all the major muscle groups in the upper body, as well as blasting the abdominals and core.
- Place two dumbbells shoulder width apart on the floor and get into a press-up position with your hands on the handles
- Leaning onto the right arm (keeping your elbow locked), lift the other weight off the ground so your elbow and upper arm is parallel to your body
- Lower the weight back to the ground under control
- Repeat on the other side
- Each side counts as one repetition
- The key point with this exercise is to avoid the rotation that wants to occur as you lift each weight off the ground. You do this by engaging the core and tightening your abs throughout the exercise.
- Widening the feet will make the exercise easier, and narrowing will make it harder
Start with a weight that is more than comfortable. This might be as light as 1kg dumbbells – and that’s okay. Once you are able to perform more than three sets of 12 repetitions with perfect form, you can increase the weight.
4. Single leg Romanian deadlift
This is by no means as scary as it sounds. You can start with no weights and as you become more confident with the move, you can use two light dumbbells or a barbell, steadily increasing the weight over time.
It is an amazing exercise for developing balance, coordination, hamstring flexibility and core stability. This is also my go-to exercise for developing strong glutes.
- Begin in a standing position with your weight shifted to your right leg
- Squeezing the glute of your left leg, lock it into position so as you hinge forwards during the exercise, the left leg continues to rise so it stays perfectly in line with your body.
- Hinging at the hips, lower the weight (or just your arms) towards the floor while keeping the bar or two dumbbells close to your body. As you lower, the left leg should be raising up behind you, helping you to maintain a perfectly straight back.
- Lower the weight to below the knee (which should be slightly bent), then raise slowly back up by squeezing the glute on the right side. As you stand up, the left leg slowly lowers in line with your body.
- Repeat for desired number of reps, and then swap sides
- Keep your back leg in line with your body as your hinge forwards
- When the weight gets to just below the knees, your body and back leg should be in a straight line, parallel to the floor
- Keep your core braced throughout
- Keep any weight used close to your body
- Once you can perform three sets of 12 repetitions with perfect form each side, add or increase the weight used
This is one of my favorite kettle bell moves for full-body strength and conditioning, but I rarely see used. One of the reasons is the high level of technique required to perform with a kettle bell, putting people off learning this fantastic exercise.
However, we can get round that by substituting the kettle bell with a medicine ball. This simplifies the exercise without losing any of the benefits.
- Start with the medicine ball in between your feet, which should be just wider than shoulder width apart
- With a straight back, hinge at your hips and reach down with straight arms for the medicine ball. Your shins should remain vertical, knees slightly bent
- From this position, squeeze your glutes and stand up whilst curling the medicine ball at the same time
- The medicine ball should now be close to your chest, arms bent
- Now squat down keeping the medicine ball at chest height
- From the bottom squat position, stand straight back up and in one smooth, continued movement, press the medicine ball overhead. Under control, lower the medicine ball down to the start position.
Start with a weight you are more than comfortable with and work on your technique. Increase the weight of the medicine ball as you get more confident with the exercise.
For a fat blasting conditioning circuit, try pairing this up with the renegade rows and hollow rocks in the following order:
- Headcutters x 5
- Renegade rows x 10
- Hollow rocks x15
Aim for five rounds with minimal rest, but maintaining good form throughout. Always consult a fitness expert or personal trainer if you are unsure about weights or exercise moves.