Four Functional Exercises for Lifelong Fitness

Learning to handle your own body weight is the first step to improving the way you move in daily life. These functional "4 for Life" exercises work the major muscle groups of the legs, upper body and core in an integrated way. Together they create a mini full-body conditioning workout that can be done in a few minutes, anytime, anywhere using just your own body weight. Use them as the building blocks of your program and the baseline to which you return if you are short of time.  When life becomes hectic, they are the ideal "active rest" from your full program.


1. The Squat

The Squat works the large muscles of the legs and is the most functional of all exercises. By working the muscles of the buttocks, thighs and lower legs, as well as using the abdominal and back muscles to stabilize the torso, the squat is the closest we can get to a full-body exercise.  It is the same movement that we need to rise from a seated position or to lower ourselves down to the floor, so it is a very functional exercise that helps to keep us independent as we advance in years.  It is also one of the best shaping exercises for the glutes and hamstrings, improving the bottom line!  


2.  The Back Extension

The Back Extension is a primary exercise for good posture since it strengthens and lengthens the muscles that run the length of your spine so you stand taller and straighter.  It also improves mobility in the upper and middle back, reversing the forward slump that we typically develop from our everyday activities of housework, deskwork, childrearing, driving, etc.   As you lift your chest and arch your upper back, you open the front of the shoulders to create an open, confident posture.  The total effect is more youthful and slenderizing.


3. The Push Up

The Push-Up helps firm the chest, shoulder and triceps in one move. While all three muscles are involved in the movement, the position of your hands determines which muscle you emphasize: wide for the chest, narrow for the shoulders.  All variations help firm the triceps in the back of the upper arm and are weight-bearing through the arms and wrists.  The core muscles of the abdominals and back are active in stabilizing the torso.  The level of difficulty is determined by how much weight you shift onto your upper body.


4. The Pelvic Tilt

The Pelvic Tilt flattens the belly, strengthens the abdomen and stretches the low back.  This simple movement combines a pattern of belly breaths with abdominal compression and a slight rotation of the hips.  Breathe in, fill the belly with air, then exhale forcefully as your draw the belly button in towards the spine and press the curve out of the lower back.  Strengthening this muscle provides a corset-like effect of flattening the belly, narrowing the waist and supporting the low back.

Use these 4 exercises as the building blocks of your fitness program and the baseline to which you return to when life gets hectic.

You can easily squeeze in the "4 for Life" during the course of your day – first thing in the morning, at your desk, or watching TV.  They require no equipment and take only a few minutes to perform. These fundamental movements never go out of style, strengthen the major muscle groups and provide a basis for good body mechanics.  This small investment in time will serve your body for life.  You'll look and feel better!

 Want more?

Strength Training Exercises for Women

This book demonstrates more than 200 exercises to rev up the metabolism, build healthy bones, and tone the overall body.