Some people – like yours truly – consider the gym a second home. It’s a new day, meaning more reps to bang out! What could be better?!
(okay, maybe many things)
Some others may see it as more akin to a prison – somewhere they never want to go.
And yet others feel a strange cocktail of guilt and fear whenever their mind drifts to the gym. They know they should go. They don’t want to go. But they know they should! The dichotomic struggle…
If you’d previously worked up your courage to go for a workout and get rid of that muffin top, only to promptly get spooked by the rows of bizarre machine contraptions and dumbbells (shake weight?)… You ended up loping along on the elliptical, watching people’s veins pop out with fascinated trepidation… and called it a day after an hour of cardio and no weight training…
If that sounds familiar…
Here’re three carefully curated weight training exercises that’ll give you the most bang for your buck.
First, let’s make sure you know all the various muscle groups that comprise your magnificent machine of a body:
- triceps (backs of the upper arms)
- biceps (also referred to as the “gun show”)
- inner core muscles
- quads (fronts of thighs)
- hamstrings (backs of thighs)
- glutes (butt)
Now that you have a general idea of what’s going on beneath your skin, let me tell you something important about weight training.
Despite all the slick Youtube personalities touting short ‘n snappy workouts that target specific areas to LOSE FAT from those specific areas…
Reality does not work that way.
That’s the Spot Reduction MYTH at work.
It’s human nature to prefer the solutions that seemingly specifically target the problem.
We like to think that we can crunch our way away from belly fat, and pump out tricep extensions until our dangly arms firm up and no longer resemble our grandmother’s. All you want is to feel comfortable with wearing tank tops again, goddammit!
Coach Tom Kelso explains the myth very succinctly in his article for Breaking Muscle.
Vain hope and clever marketing keep this myth alive.
Alas, fat loss cannot be localized. The fat you’re working off is being lost from – some scientists argue – the last place in which it was deposited.
This means that if you recently gained a double chin, then that will be the first to go.
So what does this mean for us?
This means that we need to be smart about our workouts.
We need to spend our time and energy at the gym being efficient and effective.
You know what kills those two birds with one stone?
Total Body Multi-Joint Compound Exercises
Consider these the Batmobile of the fitness kingdom (yes my metaphors are all over the place).
The Batmobile can drive on land, fly in the sky, swim underwater, shoot missiles, launch grenades, and look incredibly sexy while doing all of the above. Aka. it accomplishes a lot more than that Hyundai across the street.
So, why total body multi-joint compounds?
Simple: because they use multiple muscle groups.
That means more muscles activated and torn, only to get bigger after cell repair. More joints and ligaments strengthened. Higher heart rate in less time.
Not to mention the coordination, mobility, balance and other key ingredients of fitness that doing these exercises helps to improve.
Let’s get down to it – I know you’re rarin’ to burn some fat Smartypants!
- soft-ish mat
- heavy-ish kettlebell
- pair of 8-15 lb dumbbells
Exercise 1 – Kettlebell Switch-Arm Swing
Make sure you select a heavy-ish kettlebell, one that makes you feel a bit nervous.
How to do: With the kettlebell in one hand that is straight down in between your knees, squat down by pushing your hips back and down. Your weight should be settling on your heels, not the balls of your feet.
Now, thrust the hips forward and stand up straight WHILE swinging the kettlebell up.
Use the momentum from thrusting your hips to swing the kettlebell to face level. Switch it over to your other hand when the kettlebell is at its highest point midair. Repeat for a total of 20-30 reps.
NOTE: Before you attempt this exercise, practice your squat technique. Make sure you can keep your low back slightly arched and spine straight. My article on the low back arch explains this further.
Check out Diverse Health and Fitness from Liverpool’s 36-second video for a demonstration.
This exercise works your:
- quads (from the squat)
- glutes (from the squat)
- low back (from the squat and hip thrust)
- hamstrings (from the hip thrust)
- inner core muscles (well… that’s IF you brace your core)
- shoulders (from raising the kettlebell)
- forearms (from gripping the kettlebell)
- hand grip
Exercise 2 – Renegade Row Pushups
You’ll need a pair of dumbbells between 8 to 15 lbs, depending on how strong your arms, core and back muscles are.
How to do: Get into the high plank position – on your hands and toes – with your hands holding each dumbbell. Suck up your core muscles and stiffen up your torso. Pull one dumbbell up without letting your elbow flail out to the side. Congrats, you just did a row.
Now, do a pushup.
Repeat on your other side. Do this at least 20 times.
NOTE: If this is too advanced for you, do this exercise on your knees and slowly work your way up to balancing on your toes.
This exercise works your:
- inner core muscles (from holding the high plank)
- back (from the rows)
- biceps (from the rows)
- triceps (from the pushups)
- chest (from the pushups)
- shoulders (from both the rows and the pushups, GREAT SUCCESS)
- quads (from isometrically holding the high plank)
Exercise 3 – Superman Burpees
The word “burpee” makes many people’s skin crawl, maybe in an attempt to protect the muscles underneath from inevitable pain. Very few souls look forward to doing burpees – those that do may be missing a soul themselves.
But they are HELLA effective at making you fit. Incredible for conditioning, cardiovascular endurance and burning fat.
I’d been pondering burpees for a while. They’re touted as full-body, but that didn’t sit right with me. After some time, it became clear that this complex, explosive exercise was still lacking a key ingredient, one especially neglected in today’s chair-happy society…
So I came up with Superman Burpees.
Here we go.
How to do: On your belly, lift your arms, legs and neck simultaneously. You should be balancing on your core. Squeeze your butt cheeks and shoulder blades together as hard as you can. Visualize yourself soaring through the air. This is the Superman.
Now, get into the high plank and do a pushup.
Quickly tuck your knees forward under your chest. You should resemble the Asian squat pose. Then, jump up with your hands high. Reach for the stars!
Flop back onto your belly and do the Superman again. Repeat 19 times.
NOTE: If regular pushups aren’t possible yet, do them on your knees until you feel confident performing them on your toes.
This exercise works your:
- quads (from the jumping)
- calves (from the jumping)
- chest (from the pushup)
- triceps (from the pushup)
- shoulders (from everything)
- glutes (from the Superman)
- hamstrings (from the hop-back)
- back (from the Superman)
Isn’t it fantastic how many muscle groups just THREE exercises can strengthen? Your entire body benefits from total body multi-joint compounds. Go get some sun and try these out!