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Sameer Shaikh on squats, leg lifts and circuits

Just when you thought it was safe to flop on your couch, the TV remote, potato chips and whiskey in hand, along comes a fitness freak who wants you to break into a sweat, even at home. Not a bad thing actually, if you want muscle definition, a toned body and maybe some wolf whistles / cat calls on the streets of Bangalore. So here are five exercises you can do at home that will make a difference.

Why Exercise? I think we all know the answer to that. But ask what should you exercise for? And now you’re thinking goals, specific goals that will eventually lead to you being faster, fitter, stronger. Period.

Over the years that I’ve been a fitness instructor, people have come to me with all sorts of goals. Weight gain, fat loss, increased endurance and yada yada. The list goes on. All these are specific and healthy goals to accomplish. But in order to do so, whatever the regimen may be, inevitably ‘functionality’ will improve.

I say let's focus on functionality and the rest will all fall into place. I'm presenting you with five simple exercises, easy to do and quick to learn that will 100% improve your physical well-being. The abdominal exercises are add-ons and free of charge.

Now, the reason I’ve picked these specific exercises is because they are movements performed on an everyday basis. One should learn to perform these movements effortlessly and without an iota of risk of injury.

First off, compound movements and not isolated ones are definitely more beneficial. They use more joints, means that more muscles kick into gear, in turn meaning that more work is being done, while you spend less time working out creating less pressure on your joints. Create a circuit for yourself with these classics and you’ll get a workout that can be intense, challenging and fun.

It will keep your Heart Rate (HR) high, sky-rocket your metabolism, keep body temperature high, burn more calories and save you lots of time. And keep you out of risk of injury. Just stay focused and train hard - it’ll come to you. Enjoy.

1. The Squat, 15 reps
Use a chair, stool or anything else sturdy enough to carry your body-weight, sit down. Sit upright and plant your feet in front of you, shoulder width apart, and pointed forward. Now, without swaying or bending forward using only momentum, stand up. Sit back down slowly without leaning forward. To make sure you’re doing it right, place your hands on opposite shoulders with your elbows pointing forward or just plainly hold your arms out in front of you while you perform the exercise.

If you can perform this movement fairly easily, add a progression. When squatting, don’t sit completely – drop down till the point you feel the chair and stand back up again. You can hold weights if you like to increase intensity.

Muscles: Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Gluteal, Calves, Core Stabilizers.

2. The Dead Lift, 15 reps
Stand upright, place your palms on the front of your thighs. Now lean over, keeping your back straight, and stick your butt out backwards, focusing on your lower back, and let your hands slide down the length of your legs, till they get to your shins. Once here, squeeze your feet into the ground, and come back to an upright position while focusing on getting your hips all the way forward for a slight extension.

For a progression, add some weights.

Muscles: Gluteal, Hamstrings, Quadriceps, Lower Back (erectors), Upper Back (lats), Shoulders and Trapezius, Forearms and Calves.

3. The Pushup, 12-15 reps
Lay face down, place your hands next to your chest and push yourself up into a full push-up stand. Drop down slowly and repeat. Focus on accomplishing the motion with your body taut and in a straight line. Don’t let your hips drop or get an excessive curve in your lower back. Maintain core activation.

Muscles: Pectorals, Deltoids, Triceps, Core.

4. Bent Over Rows, 15 reps
Grab a dumbbell or a kettlebell, or two at a time. Lean over, stick your butt out keeping your back straight, and core active. Let the weights hang in front of you, arms extended. Slowly, pull the weights up to your chest keeping your elbows close to your body. And extend your arms back down toward the ground steadily.

Muscles: Latissimus Dorsi, Lower Back, Gluteal, Hamstrings, Core, Deltoids, Biceps.

5. Shoulder Press with Rotation, 12-15 reps
Using weights that you are fairly comfortable with, hold them in front of you or to the side of your body and press up towards the sky. Bring them down back to starting position, again with control and at a slow pace. I can’t reiterate this point enough. A progression – every time you start to press the weight up, twist. That is rotate to the left as you press the right arm up, come back to the middle, rotate to the right as you press the left arm up

Muscles: Deltoids, Triceps, Core, Abdominals, Erectors.

If you haven’t broken a sweat yet, Sameer has a few other exercises. "A bonus," he grins.

Crunched an Leg Raises: 20 reps each
Lay down face up and pull your knees back. You may keep your feet on the ground or raise them in the air if you prefer. Get your hands behind your head and crunch forward and towards the ceiling. Come up and hold for just a second before lying back down. Alternatively for your lower abs, place your hands down and squeeze into the ground and extend your legs out sharp and straight. Raise them together and then lower them. Try alternating your legs one at a time, simultaneously.

Muscles: Abs

Tips on Maintaining Proper Form:
Stay upright, activate the core (suck your stomach in), steady movements focusing on stability and control. Breathing patterns for increased oxygen uptake (breathe in deeply and breathe out during exertion or when performing motion against gravity), and always protect your lower back.

Perform the entire circuit (all these exercises, according to the number of reps I’ve mentioned) That will count as 1. Do the entire circuit 3 times.
Transition from one exercise to the next smoothly and spend no more than 30 seconds in between. If you can do this fairly easily, then either go heavier, or do more repetitions per set or repeat the circuit.

Remember to focus and stay safe, steady, stabilized and controlled.

Until next time, be well.

Sameer Sheikh is available for one-on-ones. sameer_79@yahoo.com, +91-95353-67125.