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home : health : health July 21, 2017

2/21/2017 2:18:00 PM
Which four exercises?
By Andrew Loscutoff

Recent banter between a colleague and a fitness enthusiast led to the question: If you could only do four exercises, which ones would be chosen? Interesting question.

Some local experts in the field were asked this question to get a variety perspectives.

Jason Gully, DPT, Green Ridge Physical Therapy:

• Squats: They use a large amount of lower extremity muscles and functional movement patterns.

• Single-leg exercise on an unstable surface: Whether you are a high-level athlete or a sedentary individual, we can always improve balance.

• Seated row: Too many people tend to overuse the anterior muscles, causing a rounding of the thorax and shoulders.

• Running or walking: This is a very efficient way to improve lower-extremity strength and cardiovascular health.

Seth Wilkie, DPT, Step & Spine Physical Therapy:

• Single-leg squat: Promotes balance and stability on a single leg, excellent for knee health.

• Prone shoulder exercises: In a world where our posture is always being affected by sitting, these reverse those effects. This is a sequence of exercises from a face-down lying position. The arms are raised from above the head, to the side, and from above the head to pulled-down position by bending the elbows.

• Side plank: Core stability is essential to back health, this exercise asks the lumbar area to brace itself in a stable position, which strengthens the back more effectively than common core exercises.

• Scapular stability push-up: Commonly, people lack functionality of the scapula, this exercise builds strength from the mid-back and allows mobility of the scapula. This exercise is performed with the shoulder blade being pushed forward at the end of a push-up, think of pressing your chest into a rounded concave position.

Daniel Ketchum, CSCS, Sisters Athletic Club:

Squats: One of the most effective and efficient ways to build strength in the lower body.

• Romanian deadlift: Squats focus mainly on the front of the thighs, whereas deadlifts are working on the reverse, this helps with low-back health, and balances the squatting. The Romanian deadlift is performed as a hip hinge, the knees stay fixed and the exerciser grabs the weight in front of the body from a shin level, keeping their back straight, they use hips and hamstring muscles on the back of the thigh to stand up straight, all the while the back is held in a neutral flat position without being rounded.

• Pull-up: This exercise works on all the muscles of the back, in a very efficient way. There are many variations to perform this exercise for any ability.

• Push-up: Requires a bit of core/shoulder stability. It works on the opposing muscles of the pull-up. It's an important movement for many day-to-day activities.

• • • •

If a person starting exercise took after learning and mastery of the above exercises, they would have an exercise program to build strength and live day-to-day with better fitness. However, we don't often see gym-goers using these movements. In the age of "more-is-better" and making simple things complicated, people often think they need an engineered machine, technical exercise manual, and the latest and greatest secrets to blasting belly fat. If "simple and effective" means anything, the above would be a good place to start.

Note that all three agreed that lower-body muscles are important to train from a squatting position. Another common thread is the balance between muscle groups. The shoulders, back, hips, and thighs were included in each of the examples. Both of these are essential to foundational fitness, and an unbalanced musculature leads to dysfunctional movement patterns and injury.

Before embarking solo on a crusade to adopt these exercises, seek the knowledge of proper form and technique. There is a certain amount of competency that people need to have before beginning a strength training program. The proper muscle engagement with the right movement pattern will prevent injury as well as improve other movements outside of the gym. There are several ways to do this, and many local experts to help.

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