Fitness: Buck trends for the four best exercises

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Exercise trends are called trends for a reason. They last about as long as a head of lettuce and offer about as many benefits. But some have been around since the birth of weight lifting, and that’s because they work.

But which are the best of the best, and how can you maximize them?

Push-ups
imageWhat’s great about pushups is that you can do them even though you may be weaker than a pick up line. You can start with a few, and over time increase repetitions at a good, even pace that builds muscle in the chest, shoulders and triceps. Different variations of the exercise can work the abdominals as well.

The one-arm pushup: It’s the pushup that impresses, the one that only the strongest and bravest should attempt. That’s right I’m talking about you.

Widen your feet and place your hand on the floor beneath the middle of your chest. Tuck your other arm behind your back. As you lower yourself, you’ll realize that this isn’t a straight-up-and-down movement like a regular pushup.

You’ll twist on the ball of your foot and untwist as you push yourself back up–if you can. You’ll feel muscles working all up and down the side of your body that corresponds to which hand is on the floor.

Do an equal number with each arm, and don’t even try one-arm pushups unless you can bench-press your own body weight eight to 10 times.

imageThe Arm-Blaster Curl
The arm blaster hangs from your shoulders and prevents your elbows from moving forward and back during a curl.

This forces your biceps to work much harder than they would if allowed to swing a little.

Consequently, this curl is the best single exercise for working all parts of the biceps with maximum intensity.

The Squat
image If you aren’t doing squats in your workout, then you don’t have a workout. Squats shape the body and develop performance power.

It’s the easiest power move to learn, and you’ll see the fastest results in both strength and muscle size.

To get more out of the squat: Focus on squatting deeper, rather than heavier. The key is to descend until your thighs are parallel to the floor, while still keeping your heels on the floor and maintaining the natural arch in your lower back.

Use a light weight until you develop the correct form.

This deeper squat builds muscle faster and is safer for your knees than a squat in which you stop before your thighs are parallel to the floor. When you cut a squat short, you turn your knees into brakes. And you know what happens to brakes. They wear out.

The Clean and Jerk
imageThe clean and jerk used to be a staple move in hard-core gyms where guys would throw around weights the size of small cars.

But it’s making a big comeback in collegiate training rooms and with the popularity of its champion, Ivan Stoitsov (photo). It requires a combination of speed, strength, skill and balance that few exercises can match.

Place your feet hip-width apart with the bar directly over the balls of your feet. Set the bar right above the point where your toes meet the rest of your foot. Place your hands just about shoulder width apart.

Begin to lift the bar by pushing your feet through the floor. Keep your shoulders, hips and the bar all moving at the same rate of speed. The bar will get to about mid-thigh.

Give your shoulders a big “shrug” and jump your feet out to the sides as you raise the bar to your shoulders. Catch the bar across your shoulders with your elbows held high. You’ll be in a squat position with bar slightly under your chin.

Slowly rise up out of the squat until you’re standing straight with the bar on your chest. Take a deep breath and dip down before you raise the bar overhead.

When complete, split your feet with one leg forward, the other one back and hold. Get steady then bring your legs even with each other again.

So go ahead and jerk. Get a spotter, and start with light weights. Focus on building speed more than building strength. Add weight only when your form is fluid and the move feels natural.

If you’re not ready, use dumbbells instead of a barbell.

image Contributing blogger Troy Meyers is a certified personal trainer and sports conditioner with more than 10 years of experience. He owns Atlanta-based JockBoyLocker.com and contributes to the site’s Lockerroom Blog.

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