For a large portion of my life, whenever I exercised or went to the gym, I always had a problem with either doing too little or too much. Like most aspects of health and exercise, finding the balance between what areas of my body to focus on while I exercise and the duration of the time I spent while exercising has always been tricky. What I have had a habit of doing was to divide my focus between every part of my body, trying to get work done on each section. This plan sounds pretty fool-proof, right? Not necessarily.
Our culture today seems to have gained a tendency to rush through things, hoping to finish as quickly as possible and hoping to still obtain the same results as when we work more diligently. I think this is where my habit of trying to do exercises for every part of my body accomplished through a single trip to the gym derived from. A plan like this won’t provide you the level of results you want, and it definitely won’t be as consistent and reliable as you’d hope for it to be. There’s also the potential for harm to be done on your body in trying to target all sections of your body at once, especially if you routinely exercise at the gym and continue the same pattern. If you don’t allow different sections of your body to have intervals of rest, your muscles won’t have time to expand and grow, theoretically reducing your time spent exercising to nothing but time wasted.
A better plan that does help you target different areas at once, without the risk of both wasting your time and setting your muscle growth back is to 1) set a workout routine that allows you to focus on a different part of your body each day (or however often you plan to exercise), allowing you to give rest to the section you worked with the previous day and 2) if you are pressed for time, look for an exercise that can cross over into different sections of your body, as long as the exercise stays within the boundaries of your routine!
An exercise that has the ability to cross over between sections of your body, through making small modifications, is the Overhead Bridge:
Begin the exercise by lying down on your back in bridge position (your feet planted on the ground, hips raised and your arms lying flat behind your head).
Keep your abdomen engaged and begin raising your arms up, forward and over your head, stopping them right at a 90 degree angle above your chest.
Lower your arms back down, without letting your hands reach the floor.
Repeat again, doing 10 to 12 reps of the move 3 to 5 times.
Modifying the move: This exercise is great because it has the
potential to target your abdomens, your arms and your glutes. As the exercise is described now, the only area being targeted is your abdomen. In order to engage the other to areas, there are a few minor adjustments you will have to make. To engage your arms, all you will need to add is a weight you’re comfortable with (I recommend staying within the 5 to 12 lb. range, but if you think you are able to increase that weight, then by all means! Just remember to be careful!). Grab a weight and hold it between both of your hands as you raise your arms over your head. The instruction to not let your hands touch the floor as you lower your arms back down really comes into play here, as now allowing your arms to do this creates more resistance to tone your arms. In order to engage yourglutes, the only adjustment you need to make is to shift your weight from your entire foot to only your heels. This adjustment will take a little practice getting used to, but will really benefit you in the end!
Important tip: While in the bridge position, be mindful of not letting your hips droop down. If you decide to apply the modification that engages your butt, be careful not to adjust the position of your footing. You’ll want to, especially if you body isn’t used to shifts in weight like that, but stay put! Adjusting your footing beyond the weight shift will decrease level of how effective the modification has the potential to be.
Freshwoman Erika Bareng shows us her best Overhead Bridge! Top: Bareng begins in the starting bridge position with her feet steady and flat on the floor, her hips held high, her abs held tight and her arms lying flat behind her head. Bottom: Bareng continues the exercise by slowly rasing her arms up and over her head, stopping at a 90 degree angle above her chest (her hips are still aligned properly and held a high, level position and her feet haven’t shifted their position!).
Top: Bareng shows the finishing move, bringing her arms back down toward the ground, without letting her hands making contact with the floor (try to bring your hands as close to the floor as possible without letting them touch!). Bottom: The modifying move: Bareng is using a 5 l.b weight, mindful of keeping it held tightly between her hands to prevent dropping it and her weight is centered on her heels.