Hacking Means Taking a Shortcut
The original meaning of hack is: “to cut or shape with.” (Merriam-Webster online dictionary). However hack has been redefined; hacking now means breaking into a computer network. As a result of that usage, “hack” has evolved to refer to any shortcut or time-saving measure. You exercise because you want results; here are 6 exercise hacks for the way your muscles actually work. In other words, these are 6 exercise hacks that produce RESULTS!
The Best Strength Exercises for over 40
The BEST part of these hacks is that they are GREAT strength training exercises if you are over the age of 40 and are looking for exercises that can deliver results while reducing the risk of injuries. I’m 48 and do all of these on a regular basis AND I’ve had back surgery and multiple shoulder separations; hey – that’s the danger of being a hooker (it’s a position in rugby).
More Results in Less Time
There ARE NO simple shortcuts to get results from exercise but there are creative ways to hack certain exercises that can help them be more effective for reaching your goals. The good news is that changing how you use your muscles could help to reduce the risk of injury from overuse.
The common mistake to exercise anatomy is thinking that muscles only work one at a time. HA, nothing could be further from the truth. The best way to describe anatomy is that all muscles work together to accomplish a specific task.
Exercise is a function of movements created by many muscles working together simultaneously, not a series of separate, isolated muscle actions. This means that the best hacks involve using multiple muscles, not trying to isolate a single one.
The best hacks feature movements that require multiple muscles function as an integrated unit. The foundational pattern of human movement is walking; therefore muscles are designed to work most efficiently when you’re standing upright and moving over the ground, not lying on the floor or sitting on a bench.
The inner thigh machine creates the perception that it is targeting this muscle group; however the adductor and hamstring muscles of the inner thigh are used to help move the legs forward and backwards when walking or running, not squeezing the legs together. For best results use exercises that mimic these actions. The best hacks for the inner thighs are Romanian Deadlifts and Single-leg Romanian Deadlifts, both exercises use the muscles the way they are designed to work and because you’re standing you’ll be using many more muscles than sitting in a machine which helps to burn more calories.
Start with 2 sets of 10 Reps of Romanian Deadlifts and progress to doing the Single-leg version for 3 sets of 12-15 reps.
This Medicine Ball workout is PERFECT for all of the inner thigh (and butt) muscles:
Glute (Butt) Muscles
The butt is a series of muscles, the gluteus minimus, gluteus medius and gluteus maximus; commonly called the gluteal complex. Most glute exercises move your leg straight behind your body, but these muscles move the hips in all three planes; for best results do exercises that use these muscles in a variety of movements. A creative hack for the hips is to do a Reverse Crossover lunge (also known as a Curtsey lunge, but I use the former term when working with my male clients because, well, men don’t curtsey).
Start with 2 sets of 10 reps on each leg and progress to doing 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps on each holding medium-to-heavy weight
dumbbells in your hands.
Continuing education course for fitness professionals; Pete McCall teaches the lecture, Abbie Appel teaches the exercises! You will learn how to design killer workouts for your glutes while earning ACE, NASM or AFAA CECS.
The deep muscles of the core, specifically the transverse abdominus, pelvic floor and posterior fibers of the internal oblique,
stabilize the spine and, when strong, create the appearance of a flatter stomach. When holding a plank we are often told to ‘tighten’ or contract the core, however the best hack for engaging these muscles is to focus on what your hands, shoulders, glutes and feet are doing. The technical reasons are too long for this post, however the point is that properly using your hands and feet will automatically cause the deep muscles to contract.
For the High Plank focus on pressing your hands into ground, pushing your upper back up into your shoulder blades and squeezing your butt muscles while pushing your feet and toes into the ground (like doing a toe raise). Do this and you’ll immediately feel much stronger, do it on a regular basis and you’ll find that not only will you enhance your ability to do the plank but you’ll be much stronger in other exercises that require engaging the core when standing on your feet.
When standing on your feet, engage your core by pushing your feet into the ground while squeezing your glutes – this will cause a reflexive contraction of the muscles that stabilize the spine helping you to increase your overall levels of strength.
Start with holding the High plank for 30 seconds for 2 sets and progress to doing 4 sets for 45-60 seconds. A great option is to do a High plank for 45-60 seconds as an active rest between sets of your normal strength training exercises.
The glenohumeral joints of the shoulder are a ball-and-socket where the ball (created by the head of the humerus of the upper arm) glides through the socket (the glenoid fossa of the scapula aka shoulder blade). In a healthy shoulder the socket of the scapula points in an angle that is pitched approximately thirty-five degrees forward from the side of the body.
Many shoulder exercises like overhead presses use the arms in a position that has the elbows sticking straight out to each side of the body; from this position when the arm goes all of the way up to full extension it could cause an injury to the long head of the biceps or the supraspinatus of the rotator cuff.
The hack for shoulder training is that when doing overhead presses it is best to keep the arms in a position approximately thirty-to-forty-five degrees towards the front of the body (to use this path of motion if the front of your body is 12 o’clock, keep your elbows pointing in the ten o’clock and two o’clock positions when pressing overhead).
To create really strong shoulders do a one-arm shoulder press with a heavy weight (dumbbell or kettlebell). Using one limb at a time allows you to focus all of your energy into those muscles, which in-of-itself is an important hack (follow this link to learn the benefits of unilateral training). When doing this exercise focus on pushing from the floor up; start with a lighter weight to learn the movement and as your skill improves you’ll find that it will be easy to go up in pounds.
Start with 2 sets of 5-6 reps and work your way up to 4 sets of 8-10 reps.
This dumbbell strength circuit includes one-arm shoulder presses – they’ll make your shoulder (and core) extremely strong!
Doing too much bench press could stress the joint structures of the shoulder because the stiffness of the bench restricts motion of the scapulae. The good news is that this doesn’t mean stop doing bench presses all together, but, in order to save your shoulders, it is a good idea to step away from the bench for a few weeks and do other movements that not only blast the pecs but engage your core muscles too. Push-ups are an old stand-by for strengthening the chest and can help reduce joint stress because they allow more freedom of motion through shoulder complex.
If you really want to blast your chest then push-ups with the TRX Suspension Trainer is the hack for you. When using the TRX, the closer to the ground you are, the more of your bodyweight you will be using. For best results, as mentioned above during the High Plank, squeezing your glutes and thighs while pressing your toes into the ground will help engage the core while doing the pressing motion. Without a stiff bench pressed into your upper-back your shoulders will be happy and you’ll find that once you get back on the bench your strength will go up because you are engaging more of your core while pressing. For best results take 3-4 weeks of the bench every 3 or 4 months and focus on the TRX. There’s a reason why many NFL players and military special forces use the TRX, it works!
Start with 2 sets of 10 reps and work up to doing 4-5 sets of reps to fatigue (with excellent form, as soon as you can’t maintain good form, end the set).
TRX Creator Randy Hetrick has me do a few different types of push-ups on the TRX Suspension Trainer
The biceps brachii muscle of the upper arm perform a few different functions: elbow flexion- bringing your wrist closer to your shoulder, shoulder flexion-raising your arm in front of your body (like a front raise) and rotating the wrist so the palm faces upwards.
To hack the biceps – train it with multiple pulling exercises like rows or chin-ups with your palms facing up, this will use more of the biceps in each movement while reducing the strain on the wrists and forearms.
Another hack is to do supinating curls where you start with your palm facing the midline of your body and you end with your palm facing your body. When the sun is out, you’ll be happy to show off your guns with the results you’ll get.
When doing Bent-over Rows with a palms-up (supinated) grip start with 2 sets of 8-10 and work up to 4 sets of 10-12 reps.
Because these movements use your muscles differently than they may be used to, be careful, because if you do too many the first time you WILL feel it the next day. Unfortunately I’ve had one or two clients get carried away when doing these, especially for the glutes, and have sent texts say that walking is so uncomfortable that they are taking the day off and staying in bed. That is certainly not the goal of ANY exercise, so for best results and to minimize any muscle soreness start with only one or two sets and work your way up from there.
LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR MUSCLES
This course will teach you how your muscles function and the best exercises for the way they designed to work. Approved for continuing education credits for fitness professionals; meaning personal trainers and group fitness instructors – earn your ACE, NASM or AFAA CECs while learning how your body moves!