Strong Body Exercises

By TJ Watkins

Many people are under the impression that exercise is just about staying physically fit and healthy, but this is just a few of the benefits of exercise. To me, the primary benefit around choosing an exercise program is the mental strength it unveils in the individual and how that translates into that individual becoming more confident in their ability to take on more challenges.

Medical evidence proves that whenever leg strength is loss, the quality of life for the individual reduces drastically, and on a bigger scale, the loss of lean muscle is the primary cause for a slowing metabolism and speeding up the aging process. So as a strength coach, I encourage strengthening the body through resistance training with a specific focus on leg and back strength. My challenge to anyone out there is to try these exercises for the next four weeks and watch as their increase in leg, back and core strength changes their entire outlook on life.

Deep wide leg squats

LAURA: NOW we're having fun... ROBIN: Praying mantis or praying for the pain to end?

This exercise is performed without any weight. Start with your legs as far apart as is comfortable for you. Slowly drop your body weight down until your buttocks reach about 15 – 20 inches from the ground. Once you get to that position, slowly explode your legs into a full extension and squeeze your buttocks at the top of the movement slightly tilting your hips forward. I suggest doing 45 seconds for 3 sets. In the picture you can see all of us in the down position of the wide leg squat. The value in doing this exercise is the overall leg strength benefits along with firming the buttocks that are exclusively used when the knees break the 90-degree angle on the down movement.

Butt blaster routine

BECKY: This may look easy, but our legs felt like jello after! ROBIN: TJ conveniently lost count on this exercise – 1 minute somehow turned into 2… He’s tricky like that.

Straight leg lifts followed by leg kickbacks – the straight leg lift exercise is designed to isolate the upper part of the buttocks and to strengthen the lower back and the kickbacks work the entire buttock muscle along with the lower back. This exercise starts in the all four position both hands and both knees on the ground. Extend your right leg, feel the contraction in your lower back and buttocks. Slowly drop your pointed toes to a few inches from the floor and explode it back up until it aligns with the rest of your body. Continue doing this for about 30 repetitions.

Leg kickbacks

This exercise is done to develop the overall buttock strength and firmness and it starts from the same all four posture with both hands and knees on the mat. This time we want to move one leg in an explosive movement 45 degrees into the air, just breaking your body’s line that is created by the straight back. Slowly release the knee back into the chest area. Continue doing this for about 30 repetitions.

Both these exercises can be performed on the same side first before switching sides to create maximum intensity but if you are just starting just do them one at a time.

High rope pulley

BECKY: 104...105...106...107 ROBIN: Nice arms Becky!

This exercise is to develop upper back strength and conditioning that translates into a back that looks firm for those open back dresses. The combination of using a cable and your own body weight create a natural powerful feeling.  This exercise starts by taking a shoulder width stance in front of a cable pulley machine that is set half a foot above your head. Attach a rope extension to the cable pulley. Take the rope at both ends, lean back so you feel the weight counter balancing with your own body weight. Slowly pull the rope ends to your upper chest area, creating a 90-degree break in the elbow than slowly feel the negative pull of the weight dropping down. Continue doing this for about 20 repetitions and pick a weight that is between 20 – 40 lbs.

Seated row with v-grip

This exercise is focused on developing the middle and upper back region. It creates a strong stabilizing effect by using the rhomboids. This exercise has a powerful effect on the mind because it offers protection to our spinal column. Becki in the all black outfit at the far end of the picture is demonstrating this exercise for us.  The first step is to sit on the machine with a slight bend in the knees. Reach and take the v-grip simultaneously pulling the weight until your body is in an erected sitting position. Slowly arch your back and push your chest out thus creating a c-shape in your lower back. Slowly pull the v-grip to your belly button while pushing out your chest while keeping your back straight and not leaning back.  Do this exercise for 20 repetitions using a medium to light weight.

Lat pull-down to the front

This exercise is designed to develop the latisssimus dorsi muscle or simply the lats and is known to be the broadest muscle of the back.  Developing this muscle is critical to creating a strong back and because it stimulates smaller interlinking muscle groups it contributes greatly to firming all parts of the back. This exercise is performed on a lat-pull down machine and is being demonstrated by our own Robin wearing the bright pink top at the nearest end of the picture.

ROBIN: Notice that Becky is the only one smiling...

We start this exercise by gripping the pull-down bar about shoulder width apart, dragging it down while hooking your legs under the cushion pads.  Straighten your arms completely with your body in a complete erect seated position. Slowly arch your back, push your chest out and lean back just enough to expose your upper chest. Start pulling the bar down to you chin on a slight angle until it stops on your upper chest and slowly release it. Do this for 20 repetitions with a medium to light load. You should feel a very positive contraction in your back. If you lean to far forward your shoulders will do most of the work thus defeating the purpose of the exercise.

Reverse crunch on bench

LAURA: TJ is laughing at my pain. Although from South Africa, he has the EXACT SAME voice/accent as Gov. Schwarzenegger. Which strangely seemed to help motivate us.

This exercise is directed at building the strength in the hip flexes and lower abdominals.  It will also stimulate the lower back if the abdominals or lower back is on the weaker side. This exercise starts with getting in a seated position at the edge of a flat bench. Place your hands on the bench behind your buttocks or under your back which ever is comfortable. Lift your feet off the ground and keep your upper body at a 45-degree angle. Slowly retract your legs into stomach, bend the knees on the retracting action and slowly release. In the picture you can see Laura in the contracted position with her knees into her chest. In the second part of the motion she will straighten her legs towards the floor. I suggest doing 30 -40 repetitions for 3 to 4 sets.

90-degree crunches

This is a great exercise to build upper and overall abdominal strength. This exercise begins in a lying position close to a wall, chair or any solid frame. Place your feet against the solid object, move your body closer so that your knees create a 90-degre angle. Test this angle by pushing against the object it should push your lower back deep into the floor. Place your hands under your head and slowly crunch forward until your elbows reach the side of your chest and release slowly until everything is aligned back on the floor. Continue doing this for 40 -50 repetitions for 3-4 sets.

These are only a few exercises that we explored during our evening of working out. I trust these exercises will be helpful  and look forward to bringing more information to this site. Remember a strong body creates a strong mind.

Guest blogger TJ Watkins co-founded The Next Level Coaching and is trying to get several of Girls on the Grid writers and editors in shape.

Other posts by TJ include:

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  1. Robin says

    Ha – as TJ would say: “Let’s Do This…”

  2. Caroline says

    Yes, I just experienced several a TJ’s favorite mind-tricks today. “We’re just warming you up, this is easy.” (Heaviest weight I’d ever lifted.) “Five more, Five more, now five more, slower.” (Yes, “five more” happened 3 times after 10!) So, I told TJ he looks like he’s getting too small. Honestly, TJ’s awesome.

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