Strong Back and Great Legs

Strong Back and Great Legs

Welcome to the second in a three part series designed to help you keep those New Year’s fitness resolutions. If you followed last month’s program for the arms and shoulders (if you haven’t, go out and get it!), then you should be ready to add to it with these exercises for legs and back!

This is your program, designed for safety and busy schedules; the program is based on the most recent work of Dr Michael Colgan, Paul Chek and Constantine Darling.

Team-up to double the fun, or ask a qualified trainer in your gym for assistance.

Legs

Leg extension: Use the isolation machine. Make sure you’re sitting straight. Keep your abdominal muscles engaged by sucking them up and pressing your back into the back rest. Lower the weight slowly.

Leg curls: Use the isolation machine. Starting with the legs extended, lower the weight slowly. Bend the knees past 90°. Again, keep pressed tightly against the back rest.

Squats: Stand, tummy firm, as shown. Squat and make sure your knees track over your big toe. Go down slow, and straighten up quickly.

Lunges: Stand as above, and take a large step forward, and kneel–knee to the floor, now–and step back up, exhale as you do. Keep your abs engaged the whole time, sucking them up and in.

Reverse back extension: Rest the hips on a support, as shown, let the legs hang over the side. Lift the legs in line with the body, and then lower them slowly. For an extra challenge, squeeze a ball the size of your head tightly between your ankles during the exercise. This will work your inner thigh muscles (stabilizers).

Plunges: Stand, tummy tight, and step out to the side. Step the other leg behind, and kneel. Keep your back straight, and your front knee should track over your big toe.

Back

Kneeling dumbbell rows: Kneel on the bench as shown. Reach forward as though you are sawing a plank of wood. Pull back quick, extend slow. Keep the tummy firm, and back flat!

Isolation pull-down: Sit on the cable machine as shown. Push the shoulder blades together as you pull the bar down. As you slooowwly let the bar rise, push your shoulder blades apart.

Jockey rows: This one will work your legs as much as your back! Squat with legs slightly more than shoulder-width apart, as though you are sitting in a chair. Pull the lower pulley to the chest, and then slowly lower it.

Assisted or negative pull-ups: Sit up straight! Ye trusty classic. Yes–it’s all right to cheat. You can use your legs to get up-but go down by yourself (as much as possible) with control. The more adventurous can hook a weight belt to your waist.

Teres rhomboid: Grasp the top pulleys on your cross-cable machine and kneel as shown. Pull your elbows straight to your sides. Slowly let the weight out to the sides.

Woodchop: (This is a favorite of Paul Chek, an American training expert.) Grasp the pulley with both hands, arm straight, and as though yielding an axe, pull on a diagonally downward angle. Great for golf.

To recap from the arms and shoulders program: begin with a warm-up: A short jog will do–just enough to break a sweat, get the blood flowing, and joints oiled. And then, articulation of the deep core stabilizers. Lie on your back, knees bent, and as though you have a weighty golf ball on your spine, press one vertebrae at a time into the floor, from the base of the spine to the base of your neck. By placing your hands on your chest, you’ll be able to track the ball’s path. Do not miss a spot. Why? It benefits your vertebral disks, stimulates the deep lymphatic channels and increases mobilization (the neural warm-up and systems check) of the deep back and abdominal muscles.

The exercises are numbered in pairs. Do the first exercise for 10-12 repetitions, followed by the second exercise, again for 10-12 reps. You’ve done two exercises back to back, and that is called a superset. You’ll need to rest for half a minute, then do the same superset again, with an added 2.5-5 kilograms, but only for eight to 10 reps. So, you do the same pair twice, lifting more weight for fewer repetitions the second time around. If you are a novice just do the first two supersets–then go back to the arms and shoulders program and do the first two pairs of those workouts. Exercise each body part only once a week. No more.

Before you touch that weight: articulate! Mimic the motion of the exercise in slow motion. Concentrate on breathing naturally with the motion and on abdominal control.

The next step is to find a stretch chart, adopt a position you enjoy and–that’s right–articulate! At the extremity of a back stretch roll the imaginary ball up the spine; or, with every breath, let your body inflate and deflate like a balloon. At the extremity of the leg stretch, circle the foot, or draw a circle with your sitting bone. See you next time with Abs and Chest.

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