Burpees, Planks, Squats: How to Do These 3 Key Exercises & Why You Should Add Them to Your Fitness Workout by Johnson Fitness & Wellness
Looking for some impactful exercises to add to your fitness workout? If you’re looking for a powerful way to boost your overall fitness and get some serious results fast, look no further than squats. Squats are relatively simple to perform, require no equipment and can be done just about anywhere. Although most people associate squats as being a leg exercises, they actually offer many benefits that make them one of the best total-body exercises. Another exercise to consider are burpees. Burpees add a challenge to any fitness routine! And, challenging most of the major muscle groups and requiring no equipment, planks are one exercise that can benefit nearly any body. Here's how to perform each of these fitness moves!
Burpees: Interestingly enough, burpees have been around since the late 1930s when Royal H. Burpee (no kidding!) invented the first version as part of a fitness test. The original version was what we would consider a “basic” burpee today:
- Squat down and place both hands on the floor in front of you.
- Jump the feet back into a plank position.
- Jump the feet forward.
- Return to the standing position.
Mr. Burpee had his clients perform only four reps and measured their heart rate before and after. Since then, burpees have obviously become more challenging and have become a great total body exercise that can work the legs, the upper body, the cardio system, all while torching some calories! A more modern version of the burpee might look something like this:
- Squat down and place both hands on the floor in front of you just outside your feet.
- Jump both feet back into the plank position.
- Drop down into a push-up with the chest touching the floor before pushing yourself back up.
- Jump both feet back toward the hands.
- Explosively jump up into the air while reaching your arms overhead.
There are also many other versions that can incorporate a step or a bench to jump onto or over, substituting the push up for a t-plank, performing a high knee running motion at the top, etc. Burpees are great for overall conditioning, agility, strength, coordination and burning fat!
Squats: Squats have long been blamed for being destructive to the knees, but research shows that when done properly, squats actually improve knee stability and strengthen connective tissue. Here’s a quick step-by step approach to a proper squat:
- Warm up.
- Stand with your feet just over shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your back in a neutral position, and keep your knees centered over your feet.
- Be sure to keep your head up and chest out.
- Slowly bend your knees, hips and ankles, lowering until you reach a 90-degree angle.
- Imagine pushing your hips and butt back while keeping your weight loaded into the heels and outer foot.
- Return to starting position using the heels to push into the floor – repeat 15-20 times, for three to four sets for beginners (do this two or three times a week).
- Breathe in as you lower, breathe out as you return to starting position.
It’s recommended that beginners start out with body-weight squats, but there are may variations and challenging ways to make squats one of the best exercises for all fitness levels.
Planks: How do you know whether you’re doing a plank correctly and which variation is right for you? Here are the basics on planking:
- To come into a plank position, start on all fours with your hands beneath your shoulders and lift your knees while keeping your hips low.
- For beginners, coming into the position while your head is (gently!) resting against a wall is an effective way to teach the activation of the middle back and abdominal muscles that benefit from this training position.
- Focus on lifting the portion of your spine that is between your shoulder blades, as well as drawing your belly muscles in towards your spine. You should also keep your hips low to activate the glutes and low abdominal muscles.
Variations: If you have wrist or elbow pain, you can also do plank on your forearms. Altering the hand position by bringing your hands forward slightly can also be used. This will make the position easier, while helping you to eventually strengthen and stabilize the wrist, elbow and shoulder joints. Another variation is to drop one or both knees for some period of time during the posture, while keeping the activation of the abdominals and glutes.
Advanced options: For a greater challenge, try lifting one leg for half of your hold time followed by the other leg. You can also perform a side plank, with or without one knee down. This position specifically strengthens the quadratus lumborum (a muscle in your lower back), which can be hard to target and may help you avoid lower back pain. You also can lift your upper leg during the side plank, adding an additional challenge to your balance and core stability.
This post is sponsored by Johnson Fitness & Wellness.
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